Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win at MK Dons
Ipswich Town won 1-0 at League Two side MK Dons in their penultimate pre-season friendly tonight. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.
1-0 TO THE IPSWICH
For the third successive game, Town won by a single goal to nil. It was a scoreline that Shrewsbury Town produced on 12 occasions under Paul Hurst’s management last season.
Just like against Crawley and Barnet, the Blues controlled large spells of the game without ever really banging the door down.
A Freddie Sears penalty, confidently converted in the 57th minute, secured the victory. The referee pointed to the spot after Grant Ward had seized on a loose ball in the box before being taken out.
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Bartosz Bialkowski only had to make one save of note, down low to his right, in the second period. Aside from a couple of moments, the organisation and concentration levels were good.
Town’s full-backs tried to push on, the centre-backs played some defence-splitting passes and there were flashes of excitement from winger Gwion Edwards. Yet the final ball was never quite there. The style change remains a work in progress.
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THE NEW BOY
Ellis Harrison went straight into the starting line-up a day after completing his £750k switch from League One team Bristol Rovers.
Playing as the focal point of the attack, the 24-year-old caught the eye – and not just because his ankle high socks and high top afro hair style.
There was non-stop work ethic. Much like former Blues favourite Shefki Kuqi, you sense he will chase a crisp packet across the pitch.
Back to goal he was strong, while he also displayed the pace to get in behind when the opportunity presented itself.
The best thing of all though was his threat in the air. Twice he bulleted headers inches wide from positions/crosses he seemingly had no right to do so from. The neck power is sensational.
Martyn Waghorn remained an unused substitute amidst national reports that Frank Lampard’s Derby County are in ‘advanced negotiations’ for last season’s 16-goal top-scorer. It’s said that the Rams are ready to meet an £8m valuation and that the 28-year-old has expressed a desire to make the move.
If he does depart, then who will play in the No.10 role of Hurst’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system? Young prodigy Andre Dozzell has had plenty of game-time in that position in pre-season, but last night it was Sears who was tasked with the job.
He looked like he enjoyed it more than toiling on the wings, but in truth – penalty aside – still lacked a killer instinct at the vital moments.
There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding Jonas Knudsen at the moment.
Twenty-three days ago he started a World Cup last 16 tie for Denmark and announced himself to a bigger audience. And now he’s heading into the final year of his Blues contract.
In his absence, Myles Kenlock has produced some decent pre-season displays capped by a goal in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Barnet.
Hurst said after that game that Knudsen, who only returned to training on Monday, would have to ‘hit the ground running’ if he was to start the Championship opener against Blackburn Rovers, at Portman Road, in little under a fortnight.
It’s since emerged that Hurst has had a bid for Scunthorpe United left-back Conor Townsend rejected.
Hurst has said he might consider Knudsen as a centre-back option given his dearth of options in that department at present, but the 25-year-old started at left-back at stadium:mk.
There were a couple of good attacking moments, with forward-thinking full-backs clearly going to be key under Hurst, but also, understandably, a fair bit of ring-rust too.
WOOLFY’S GOT A CHANCE
Town need at least one, probably two, centre-backs. Two bids have been turned down for Blackpool’s Curtis Tilt and the two clubs get closer on valuation (somewhere between £600k and £1m). There’s a good chance Hurst may look to former club Shrewsbury Town for trusted servant Toto Nsiala still too.
For now though, skipper Luke Chambers is the only senior option in that position. New Chelsea loanee Trevoh Chalobah returns from England U19 duty this week and could feature in Saturday’s final warm-up game against West Ham at Portman Road. Time will tell if he’s been signed as a centre-back or midfielder.
One thing is for sure, homegrown teenager Luke Woolfenden has done himself no harm in recent weeks. The 19-year-old has started three of Town’s four friendlies. Just like in his games against Luton, Crystal Palace and Reading last season, he’s looked very composed. He’s quick, can step out from the back and pick a pass. He might just be in pole position for game one.