Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 4-1 home win against Tranmere
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town remain top of the League One table following this afternoon’s 4-1 home win against Tranmere Rovers. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Not one, but two Ipswich Town goal-of-the-season contenders.
Luke Garbutt whipped a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner to break the deadlock in the 35th minute. The ball was still bending and accelerating as it found the back of the net via the very upper corner. Set-piece goals don't come much better than that. It was sheer perfection.
Kane Vincent-Young's fabulous solo effort - which put the game to bed with 20 minutes to go - was equally as breathtaking.
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He controlled Tomas Holy's long kick wide on the right and then set off inside, bamboozling the first defender with an array of stepovers, tricking the second man with a feint and them firing across the keeper with his weaker left foot.
Those goals book-ended alert rebound finishes from Kayden Jackson and Jon Nolan as Town scored four goals at Portman Road for the first time since December 2017.
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Two goals from wing-backs, one from a midfielder and one from a striker. The Blues now pose a threat from all over the pitch - something we've not been able to say for a long time.
RECORD CHASE OVER
Town toiled in the first half. They couldn't connect with the front three and looked vulnerable to Tranmere's direct counter-attack game. In truth, they were rather fortunate to be level come the interval.
Garbutt's breathtaking strike was the home team's only real moment of quality in the opening 45 minutes. They soon found themselves pegged back thanks to a catalogue of errors.
First Luke Chambers mis-controlled a long ball over the top straight into the path of a Tranmere player. Town then allowed the ball to be worked all the way from left to right along the edge of the box. Finally, Jake Caprice's cross squirmed under Tomas Holy at the near post before scruffily finding the back of the net off of Stefan Payne.
The Blues had fallen just short in their pursuit of a club-record sixth successive league clean sheet. It was a shame it had to end that way.
Nevertheless, 538 minutes without the goal being breached is not to be sniffed at.
Why the second half improvement?
First of all, it certainly helped scoring within three minutes of the restart. Garbutt had no right to take aim at goal from this free-kick - a full 35-yards from goal - and so proved to be the case when he slipped at the point of contact. Fortunately for him the low effort was poorly spilled by keeper Scott Davies (not his only butterfingers moment) and Jackson was quickest to the rebound.
Talking of Jackson, the way Town used him after the restart was much better. The Blues started to put balls into the channels for him to chase. His pace and movement started to drag immobile defenders into areas they didn't want to go. It was his run and run and shot that looped up off a defender for Nolan to head home.
Then there was the tactical reshuffle. Lambert started with a 3-5-2 system, but changed it to a 4-4-2 diamond towards the end of the first half. Cole Skuse started at the heart of a back three, but became far more effective when stepping forwards into midfield.
Tranmere players running out of steam after an adrenaline-fuelled start might have played its part too. Credit to Town for staying patient and trusting their class would show. Having a supportive set of fans behind them certainly helps with that.
NO RETURN OF THE EX
All the talk in the build-up was about James Norwood facing the club he fired to successive promotions for the first time. He insisted there would be no room for sentiment against his 'band of brothers' and that showed as he engaged in physical and verbal battles.
Tranmere responded in kind. Often Norwood was double marked. Man-mountain defender Manny Monthe clattered through the back of him in the early exchanges. This was game on.
Ultimately tough, this was to be a day of frustration for the front man. In the latter stages he saw a header at a corner clawed over the bar and, not for the first time this season, an attempted one-on-one dink over the keeper kept out (when a square pass to Jackson was the better option).
It was a similar sort of afternoon for Alan Judge. The Irishman was finally given an opportunity to play in his preferred No.10 role and did provide some moments of quality - most notably the pass that set Jackson away ahead of goal number three.
When his own two big openings arrived just before the hour mark he fluffed his lines though. First he failed to control a dangerous Jackson cross in space on the penalty spot, then moments later he fired straight at the keeper inside the box having done the hard part of dancing his way inside. That's 40 games without a goal for him now.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
It's not quite the 'perfect 10', but W7 D3 is a remarkable start for a Town team that had developed a nasty losing habit on the way to relegation.
The Blues - whose players once again celebrated hand-in-hand in front of the fans at the final whistle - remain two points clear of Wycombe (with a game in hand) at the top of the League One table.
They are four points ahead of third-place Fleetwood ahead of the long trip to Highbury next weekend.