Lambert's left-side puzzle, what to do with Judge and a change of focus - talking points ahead of Peterborough clash
PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 August 2019
Ipswich Town will be backed by 4,000 fans when they travel to Peterborough United this weekend. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game at London Road
Eyes on the prize
It's back to the real business this weekend as Ipswich Town head to Peterborough.
The cup exit at Luton on Tuesday night was a disappointment, with the Blues never looking like getting back into the game after slipping behind after eight minutes. A team made up of youngsters and half-fit players were firmly second best.
But, as Paul Lambert rightly stated at full-time, it's League One and a promotion push that really matters this season.
For the first time in a long time we can genuinely call the cup 'a distraction' rather than offering opportunity for rare excitement in seasons where nothing more than a mid-table finish was really expected. This time the stakes are a lot higher in the league.
Unbeaten in the league and the better side in both games, the Blues now go to a Posh side who have lost all three of their opening contests.
Darren Ferguson's side is made up of good players following an impressive recruitment drive this summer but they've yet to click, using three different formations in their opening three games. History says they will find a groove at some point, though, and they're likely to be in the promotion shake-up when all's said and done.
So is this a 'must-win game'? Well that depends on your definition of that well-worn football cliché.
Does anything but three points derail Ipswich's season? No. But it would ramp up the pressure on eminently winnable games against AFC Wimbledon, Bolton and Shrewsbury before the month is out.
Seven points from the opening three games would represent a good start for Lambert's men, while five would be a decent enough return from a three-game start widely labelled 'tough'.
Defeat at London Road, in front of 4,000 travelling fans, wouldn't be terminal, either, but the Blues really do need to start building a winning mentality sooner rather than later.
Lambert made 10 changes at Kenilworth Road and could easily make the same number again this weekend.
The likes of Myles Kenlock, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes, Danny Rowe and James Norwood are almost certain to return, but the big question mark is over who will take on Luke Garbutt's left-sided role.
It remains to be seen whether Lambert sticks with the 4-4-2 he has used in the league or reverts to the 4-2-3-1 fielded at Luton on Tuesday night, but either way a new left-sider is needed given the Everton loanee is out for a month.
Left-footer Danny Rowe could play there, of course, although Lambert has preferred using him on the right, but there are a few other candidates for the role.
Gwion Edwards returned at Luton but is the Welshman fit to start against his former club, given he didn't feature at all in pre-season?
Jordan Roberts has been used as a makeshift striker but is a natural winger, while teenager Armando Dobra did his cause no harm during a goal-scoring debut in the cup. Idris El Mizouni, Andre Dozzell and Alan Judge all prefer central roles but have been used wide.
It remains to be seen which way Lambert turns.
When to Judge Alan
Keeping hold of Judge amid serious interest from QPR (and indeed convincing him to sign a new deal in the first place) was something of a coup this summer, with the Irishman set to be a central figure in Lambert's plans.
But it's been a tough start to the campaign for the 30-year-old, who has yet to truly get going.
His pre-season was restricted to just 45 minutes at Cambridge due to the broken wrist he suffered on international duty with Ireland and it's fair to say he's looking a little rusty. He struggled off the bench against Sunderland and had few opportunities to shine during an off-night for the Blues at Luton.
But we know he possesses quality and he showed flashes of it at Cambridge as he linked up with Norwood for the first time. The two helped Ipswich see out the game by keeping the ball in the final third at Burton, too.
That partnership will be key for Ipswich this season but would require Kayden Jackson, who has looked sharp this summer, to be sacrificed to enable him to be included as a No.10 this weekend.
It may just be that he needs to find his form from the bench for a while longer.
The teenage debutant offered a few moments of magic at Luton on Tuesday night, with his goal the highlight of an impressive first appearance.
He's tricky, has drive in his legs and is confident in his ability. He's gritty, too, with his admirable determination to win the ball back sometimes leading to him giving away silly free-kicks.
So is he ready to start a league game? He's made the leap from Under 18 football to the first team fringes in just a few short months.
Sound familiar? Jack Lankester made the exact same journey a year ago, holding his own from the off after being introduced by Paul Hurst.
Dobra may just benefit from being thrown in at the deep end.