Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 3-1 win at Southend United
PUBLISHED: 18:51 26 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:59 26 October 2019
Pagepix Ltd 07976 935738
Ipswich Town returned to the top of the League One table with a 3-1 win at Southend United this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
BACK TO BASICS
This had potential banana skin written all over it for Ipswich Town.
They came into it off the back of quickfire defeats to Accrington Stanley and Rotherham.
Meanwhile, Southend, fresh from a 7-1 home thrashing by Doncaster, had Sol Campbell in charge for the first time. Beware the wounded animal and 'new manager bounce' etc etc.
Oh, and the conditions at Roots Hall were wet and windy.
Ipswich didn't let any of that affect them though. This was a highly professional performance. Far from vintage or swashbuckling, but satisfyingly solid and disciplined and focussed.
Paul Lambert reverted to the comforting 4-4-2 system that had provided his players with the platform to blow away the relegation hangover. Everyone knew their jobs. Everyone worried, first and foremost, about winning their battles. This was back to basics stuff.
FRONT TWO FIRING
James Norwood underwent groin surgery in Germany less than a fortnight ago. He returned to the starting line-up today and provided a timely reminder of just how much he brings to the party.
The front man took his two goals with aplomb. The first was a poked finish past a flat-footed keeper after Kayden Jackson's dink into space. His second was a cool first time finish across the keeper following Jackson's burst and pull-back.
No doubt about it, Norwood brings the best out of Jackson. The latter needs a physical strike partner. It allows him to run channels, drag defenders out of position and sniff out rebound chances.
That's exactly what Jackson did when netting the third. After Jon Nolan's shot was palmed away by keeper Mark Oxley, he was there to convert. That's becoming a bit of a trademark now.
Both are now on seven goals each for the season.
While we're talking about the attack, it was good to see Alan Judge looking a lot more like his old self during a late cameo. Gwion Edwards and Danny Rowe had offered little on the flanks, but when Judge replaced Rowe he was really lively on the right. It was his quickly taken corner which led to the third, there was a teasing cross which was begging to be attacked, while he went close himself with a long-range effort.
It was a surprise to see Will Norris replace Tomas Holy in goal.
Town's big Czech custodian may be his own biggest self-critic, but he had done little wrong in the previous matches.
Wolves loanee Norris has a big reputation though. They see him as a Premier League keeper in the making. Holy himself has dubbed him the 'wolf from Wolves' on the prowl. Lambert decided it was now time for some squad rotation between the sticks too.
Norris did well when called upon. There was one fine save with his legs in the second half. He was well protected by the back four though.
Town might have just got away with one when Rob Kiernan's towering header at a crossed free-kick was disallowed for offside in the fourth minute. If that had stood then who knows how things might have panned out. It didn't though and, after that, Town defended resolutely.
Luke Chambers won countless headers, while Luke Woolfenden read danger and swept up effortlessly. Those two complement each other nicely.
It was a shame that Emile Acquah was able to stab home a late consolation for Southend following a deep cross from the left because this felt like a display which deserved a clean sheet.
Flynn Downes picked up a booking for a rash recovery tackle in the 11th minute. It was a moment which had the potential to lead to a subsequent red card or completely blunt his tenacious game.
Instead, the 20-year-old produced a performance of real maturity. He was here, there and everywhere.
That energy in midfield is exactly what Town lacked during the previous two defeats. It's all very well having nice footballers and all-out interceptors in the middle of the park, but you also need someone to fuel the engine room.
A coincidence that the Blues lost twice when both Downes and Norwood - two real fighters - were absent? I think not.
It's a real shame he'll now be forced to sit out the game at Rochdale through suspension after reaching five cautions for the campaign.
The big downside to today was the sight of both Cole Skuse and Kane Vincent-Young limping off.
Skuse, the last remaining ever-present league starter, had looked a little leggy in the midweek loss to Rotherham and again seemed off the pace in the early exchanges here.
The 33-year-old had to be replaced by Jon Nolan just before the half hour mark with what Lambert believes to be a groin problem.
Talking of groin problems, Vincent-Young hasn't looked right since his speedy return from one. The full-back was nowhere near his dynamic self against Rotherham and again looked reluctant to turn on the afterburners when the opportunity presented itself here today.
The 23-year-old ended up tweaking the injury when over-stretching for a ball near the touchline and had to be replaced by James Wilson on the hour. That saw Woolfenden move to right-back.
The worry is that Lambert has no other right-back quite like Vincent-Young. The good thing is that, following three games in six days, there is now a 10-day break until the rearranged trip to Rochdale due to the fact Town were scheduled to face expelled club Bury next weekend.