Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win at Lincoln in FA Cup
Ipswich Town progressed in the FA Cup with a 1-0 first round replay win at Lincoln City last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
Ipswich Town have won an FA Cup game. I repeat, Ipswich Town have won an FA Cup game. This is not a drill.
It's only taken 16 games and 3,601 days. In the end, relegation, entering at the first round stage and a last-gasp goal in a replay at Lincoln finally lifted the curse.
It looked for all the world like we were heading for extra-time. Lincoln had the better of the first half but were simply not clinical enough. Ipswich played much better after the break without ever really creating any golden openings.
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Then, in the fourth and final minute of stoppage-time, Alan Judge was alert when tired opponents switched off at the death, ramming home the winner in front of 607 jubilant away fans.
It was his first goal in 46 games for club and country. It's a moment that will hopefully kick-start his season, the attacker having admitted recently that he's been well-below his self-set high standards.
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LONELY UP TOP
Why do Town's lone strikers always look so lonely?
When you play one up front, it helps if that striker is a bone fide target man. Will Keane is not that.
The former Hull City striker was lightweight and isolated against two big centre-backs. That didn't give the wingers anything to feed off. In the first half, the midfield was too deep.
By contrast, Lincoln's lone forward, John Akinde, was powerful and energetic. He won headers, ran deep to win possession and provided a focal point for his team-mates to work off.
Thankfully for Town, the lower league journeyman didn't have his shooting boots on. He dragged a gilt-edged chance wide in the 15th minute and saw a one-on-one opening saved by Tomas Holy's legs soon after the restart.
This was yet another curate's egg of a performance from Toto Nsiala.
He produced some strong tackles, brave headers and well-read interventions, but also some of those heart-in-mouth moments that always seem to blot his copy book.
Twice in the first half he presented attempted crossfield passes straight to Bruno Andrade, with the lively left-winger seeing a shot deflected behind following the second gift.
There was worse to come when, under pressure, he left a back pass short. Tomas Holy got there ahead of the on-rushing Ellis Chapman, but only just.
Holy, back in the side after a three-game stint for Will Norris, produced some solid stops when called upon. He produced smart reactions to keep out Jake Hesketh's close-range effort just before the winner.
Janoi Donacien had a solid game at right-back, Myles Kenlock less so at left-back.
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF
It was a shame to see Brett McGavin limp off in the 65th minute.
Following on from an impressive senior debut in last week's EFL Trophy loss at Colchester, the homegrown 19-year-old furthered his reputation with another mature display.
Sitting between midfield and defence, everything he does is calm and assured.
Town aren't exactly short of central midfielders, but he may well have forced his way into the first team picture just as his former Bury Town loanee team-mate Jack Lankester did last season.
Remember that League One thing that Ipswich play in? Seventeen days on from the 1-0 win at Rochdale, Town host Blackpool on Saturday.
Eight senior players - Will Norris, Luke Chambers, Luke Garbutt, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes, Jon Nolan, Kayden Jackson and James Norwood - were all left behind in Suffolk tonight with that significant second versus fifth fixture in mind.
So will the squad rotation gamble pay off? In a drive to keep fringe players sharp and happy, there is a serious danger of deconditioning key men.
Of the aforementioned seven outfield players, only Downes (90 minutes v Lincoln in game one) and Norwood (four minutes v Lincoln in game one) have played since victory at Spotland.
Let's hope they all looked rested rather than rusty because there's a big month ahead.
After Blackpool, it's league leaders Wycombe (h), an EFL trophy trip to Peterborough, then third-place Coventry (a) followed by Bristol Rovers (h) and Portsmouth (a).