Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 win against Tottenham U21s in EFL Trophy
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur’s Under-21s 2-1 in the Leasing.com Trophy at Portman Road tonight. STUART WATSON reports.
Yes, it's only the Leasing.com Trophy (do we really have to call it that?), but winning is a good habit to have. That's now four victories on the spin in all competitions.
Town trailed to an early Armando Shashoua finish underneath keeper Will Norris (8), but a fairly senior side were always on top against Tottenham's kids.
Jordan Roberts - who failed to hit the target with three good first half chances - scored with two simple finishes after the break (47 and 66) following fine assists by Armando Dobra.
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Tottenham had rarely threatened, but did go close twice in the dying moments as Shilow Tracey and Enock Asante fired wide.
A crowd of 5,377 represented the lowest attendance for a competitive game at Portman Road since an Anglo-Italian Cup clash with Port Vale in 1996.
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Those that did attend - including pop star Ed Sheeran and returning keeper Bartosz Bialkowski - will have enjoyed what they saw though.
Victory leaves Town with one foot in the knockout stages of a competition that provides an opportunity to play at Wembley. Ipswich, as if you need reminding, are one of only a handful of teams still yet to play at the new version of the national stadium.
Group games against Gillingham (h) and Colchester (a) are to come.
With Saturday's scheduled League One game at Rochdale postponed due to international call-ups, Town now have a 10-day break until they host Doncaster at Portman Road.
MAKING A CASE
Armando Dobra caught the eye on his senior debut when Town exited the Carabao Cup at Championship club Luton last month.
The 18-year-old, who was given special dispensation to join up with the Albania U19 squad late in order to play in this game, once again impressed.
At Kenilworth Road he played wide left. On this occasion he played in a front two.
Diminutive, he has a lovely low centre of gravity and can make the ball appear glued to his feet. He's quick and always willing to put pressure on the ball when Town are out of possession.
His two assists were superb. Both times he showed tenacity, strength, pace and vision to get down the right channel and put the ball on a plate for his strike partner.
Late on he stung the keeper's hands with a shot. A goal would have been the icing on the cake of a very good performance.
First team coach Matt Gill revealed in the build-up that the Blues would be using this as a game to 'try one or two things' away from the pressure of the league. That turned out to be taking a little look at a 3-5-2 system.
Janoi Donacien and Gwion Edwards played as wing-backs, Myles Kenlock moved inside to play on the left of a back three alongside James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden, while Jon Nolan and Emyr Huws anchored midfield.
That left Idris El Mizouni playing just off of a front two of Roberts and Dobra.
If you think about it, this system could solve a number of selection headaches for Paul Lambert going forwards.
It would allow him to accommodate Toto Nsiala when fit again. It would allow him to use three central midfielders - of which he now has a plethora. And it would also allow him to stick with two up top - something he'll be keen to do given the form of James Norwood and Kayden Jackson.
Before the issue was a lack of players suitable to the wing-back roles. Now Lambert has some ideal candidates in Kane Vincent-Young, Anthony Georgiou and Luke Garbutt. Edwards' work-rate and tenacity makes him very much a viable option too.
DEMO OF DEPTH
Lambert has made no attempt to hide his disdain for this competition and the strain it could place on his squad as they chase League One promotion.
The fact he was able to make nine changes to his team - Kenlock and Luke Woolfenden the only two players to keep their place from the team that started Saturday's 3-0 home win against Shrewsbury - and still have a pretty senior side on the field was a demonstration of what depth he now has in his squad.
Jon Nolan and Emyr Huws started in central midfield as they continue their recoveries from injury.
For Nolan, it was his first competitive start since injuring his calf in the 2-0 home loss to Hull at the end of March. For Huws, it was only his fourth competitive outing since December 2017.
There was some understandable signs of ring-rust at times. There were also moments where they looked a standard above.
This was a valuable 90 minutes in the bank for both.
We wondered whether this might be the game in which Will Keane made his second Ipswich debut. In the end he wasn't even on the bench.
Hopefully, that's just Town staff being cautious following his recovery from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the summer.
There was interest in Roberts leading up to deadline day though and the fact Ipswich turned it down might suggest the wait to see Keane in action again could be a little longer than hoped.
How did Roberts look? He was a willing runner, but did spurn several good first half chances. Credit to him though, he kept getting in good positions and was rewarded with two goals.
Lambert then replaced him with 17-year-old scholar Tyreece Simpson. A former rugby player, he's a big unit who can barrel his way beyond markers. He had the crowd on their feet with one well-struck effort from range.