Stu says: Six observations as Sears and Ward feature in Under-23s win against Palace
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in an Under-23s game at Playford Road yesterday afternoon. STUART WATSON reports.
BOOMER FROM BARRY
Barry Cotter's goal was one worthy of winning any game.
The Irishman met Idris El Mizouni's corner on the run in the box and slammed a first time volley into the top corner (72).
Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg's young guns had trailed to an early low strike from Jason Lokilo, only to equalise through Armando Dobra's alert 14th minute finish and subsequently spend long periods of the game on the front foot.
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It was a strong team that faced a young Palace outfit at Playford Road. Of the starting XI, only one - Corrie Ndaba - haven't yet featured for the first team.
TOWN (4-3-3): Przybek; Ward, McGavin, Ndaba, Cotter; Hughes (Brown); El Mizouni, Dobra; Morris, Folami, Sears (Smith).
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ANOTHER STEP FOR SEARS
This match was another step towards a first team return for Freddie Sears.
Having made his long-awaited comeback with a 45 minute outing at Millwall last Monday, the front man was given just over an hour here.
Playing on the left side of a front three, the 30-year-old was often on the periphery. There were some neat touches and movement though, including a crowd-pleasing nutmeg.
At the very end of the first half he saw a golden one-on-one chance saved by the legs of the keeper, while soon after the restart he saw an angled effort slam into the side-netting.
Sears also provided a cross which El Mizouni headed against the crossbar before being replaced by Tommy Smith.
WARD AT RIGHT-BACK
Grant Ward was again given an outing as a trialist.
Blues boss Paul Lambert insists the club are simply honouring their duty to get the 25-year-old fit again following his release back in the summer.
Nevertheless, his involvement as a right-back was interesting given Kane Vincent-Young's injury has left the first team a little short of options in that area.
Approaching the one-year anniversary of the knee ligament injury he suffered in a Boxing Day defeat at QPR, the former Tottenham youngster played the full match.
After an assured opening period he started to press on more after the break and provided a couple of really dangerous crosses on the overlap.
Brett McGavin did his growing reputation no harm with another understatedly classy display.
Asked to play centre-back, he read the game well to make several important interventions in the box and used the ball intelligently before eventually moving back into his natural role as sitting midfielder. The Cole Skuse comparisons continue.
Goalkeeper Adam Przybek, the star of Town's recent penalty shootout triumph at Peterborough in the EFL Trophy, made a couple of smart stops and was quickly off his line on several occasions.
Sears and Ward were not the only two coming back from long-term injuries.
Ben Folami (ruptured Achilles), Ben Morris (cruciate knee ligament) and Tommy Hughes (broken leg) are all at different stages of their recoveries from the set-backs which virtually wiped out their 2018/19 campaigns.
Folami was a willing runner playing as the central striker in a 4-3-3 system. It was his pass which led to Dobra's opener, his towering flick-on which led to Sears' big chance, while the young Australian international also forced the keeper into a smart save with a rising shot.
Morris, who has clearly spent plenty of time in the gym during his time off the grass, provided a threat with some direct running down the right. It was his fantastic low cross which led to Sears second opening.
Hughes showed his versatility. The 18-year-old, always busy, played most of the game as the holding midfielder before having a spell as the central striker.
El Mizouni and Armando Dobra operated as Town's livewire advanced central midfield pair.
Both possess close ball control and the ability to beat a man. Both, you would imagine, would benefit from a loan spell in the New Year - especially if Ipswich exit the EFL Trophy before the end of January.
Dobra was in the right place at the right time to tuck home the equaliser after a neat interchange ended with a kind ricochet into his path.
The diminutive Albanian youth international dragged Town up the field with some driving runs and, again showing his competitive edge, picked up a booking for a tug.
El Mizouni has a more upright running style. The French-born Tunisian youth player twists and turns before looking to play a positive pass. It was his corner which was converted, while a carbon copy delivery created another Cotter chance.