Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-0 home win against Rochdale
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town made it three wins from three at the start of the new League One season, seeing off Rochdale 2-0 at Portman Road yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
STICKING TO THE TASK
This is the sort of game where playing behind-closed-doors may just have helped Town.
Had fans been inside Portman Road the mood, quite possibly, may have started to get a little edgy the longer the score remained 0-0. And that sometimes translates to the pitch.
Just like at Bristol Rovers the previous weekend though, the Blues remained patient and stuck to the game plan.
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Just like at Bristol Rovers the previous weekend, two goals in a 10 minute spell wrapped up what was ultimately a very much deserved victory.
Teddy Bishop swept home in the 53rd minute, then Gwion Edwards pounced to add a killer second just before the hour. Two more goals from midfield/wide. Another clean sheet. Lovely.
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Two-nil to the Ipswich certainly has a nice ring to it. Three successive victories by that scoreline at the start of this strangest of seasons has Paul Lambert’s men sitting top of the League One table ahead of Hull on goal difference.
Was it slick throughout? No. Were there moments of danger? Yes. But, overall, was it a thoroughly professional performance worthy of all three points? You bet.
Oli Hawkins replacing James Norwood up front was the only change Lambert made to a winning side and the 6ft 5in striker enjoyed an impressive debut.
To label him a ‘target man’ would be lazy. Yes, he wins plenty of headers and is a handful physically, but he’s more than that. The neat touch and lay-off he produced to set-up Bishop’s opener, plus the fluid spin and half volley strike that left the woodwork rattled were evidence of that.
On the subject of that goal, don’t underestimate how well Bishop did to let the ball run across his body to create space for the shot. A clever decision in the heat of the moment.
Hawkins could have had a hat-trick on another day. As well as hitting the post, he had a firm close-range header clawed away by 18-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu (what a save!) and another looping header cleared off the line.
Like Aaron Drinan before, he plays the central striker role in this 4-3-3 system with discipline. Link play, occupy centre-halves and attack crosses. Norwood, by contrast, does things differently. He runs everywhere, drags defenders into areas they don’t want to be and plays more off the cuff.
Different strikers for different scenarios. There’s still Kayden Jackson’s searing pace to come back into the equation too. How nice that the Town attack has such variety.
BODIES ON THE LINE
Toto Nsiala and James Wilson are what they are – good old-fashioned defenders. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Nsiala didn’t have a great day on the ball, but he more than made up for that by dominating in the air, using his pace to get out of trouble and making some brave last-ditch tackles/blocks. It was a warrior’s display.
Wilson tends to look long with his passing. And to be fair, he did so with a great deal of accuracy.
Rochdale may not have had many clear cut chances, but Ipswich were certainly made to work hard for this latest clean sheet.
You get the feeling that Lambert is keen to get new boy Mark McGuinness in the team sooner rather than later. Luke Woolfenden, one of the team’s best players last season, is fit again now too.
Those two will make Town a better footballing team and that, ultimately, is what is going to bring the biggest rewards over the long-term.
Right now though, there’s very little reason to change things.
The addition of Stephen Ward looks inspired.
He looks every inch a player who has played Premier League and international football for the vast majority of his career.
The 35-year-old left-back had a hand in both goals, getting the ball into the box from an advanced position.
In an empty stadium, you could hear him talking his team-mates through the match. Everything about him seems focused and measured. Town no longer have just one captain on the field.
One player who was a little less cool was Flynn Downes. Perhaps a little frustrated to again be limited to the role of impact sub, he looked just a little bit too fired up when he came on. One late barge left him getting a long talking to from the referee.
BANANA SKINS NEGOTIATED
Let’s be honest, you couldn’t have picked a much better set of fixtures to start with.
Crisis club Wigan, a completely new-look Bristol Rovers, followed by Rochdale, a team who have been harder by COVID than most.
All three of these teams will, in all likelihood, finish mid-table or bottom half. That’s not to take anything away from this encouraging start to the campaign though.
The phrase ‘you can only beat what’s in front of you’ would certainly underplay the banana skin potential of the opponents faced thus far.
Wigan still have experienced players like Lee Evans and Joe Garner. Facing them wasn’t the gimme that facing Bolton’s kids was at the start of last season. The fact that the Latics have just beaten Portsmouth this weekend tells you that.
Bristol Rovers have recruited proven third-tier players like Max Ehmer, Zain Westbrooke and Brandon Hanlan. They held Sunderland to a draw prior to arriving in Suffolk.
And Rochdale, who held Portsmouth to a goalless draw prior to this game, look like they could bloody a few noses this season.