Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 win at Tranmere Rovers
Ipswich Town came from behind to secure an important 2-1 win at Tranmere Rivers this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
FIGHT THEM ON THE BEACHES
Ipswich Town are unlikely to play back-to-back games in such bad conditions again for quite some time. Following on from Tuesday night's goalless draw on the Oxford swamp, the Blues had to battle away on the Tranmere beach.
Large areas of the field were pure mud, while both flanks were covered in sand. It was, to put it bluntly, a Sunday League standard surface.
Ipswich, to their credit, still managed to play some decent football. After a scrappy start they were beginning to really get on top when Manny Monthe put the hosts in front against the run of play. It was a towering header from a dangerous free-kick delivery, but wind the play back and Tranmere had committed a foul throw prior to Luke Garbutt's foul. The referee spotted it, but ordered them to retake it rather than over-turn the ball to the Blues. Will Norris was furious and booked for his protests.
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At that moment you began to wonder if it could be one of those days. Tranmere are a team not short of spirit, but one that has struggled to score first in games. Finally, they had a lead to protect.
Paul Lambert's men, whose greater quality had shown, stuck to their task after the restart though and refused to get dragged into a scrap. Their patience paid off.
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Will Keane drove into space prior to Garbutt whipping in a pin-point cross for Flynn Downes to head home (55) - it was fitting he got the leveller after an influential display. Then Kayden Jackson coolly lobbed on-rushing keeper Scott Davies following James Norwood's perfect lofted pass (79). Several of the 1,000+ travelling supporters behind that goal spilled onto the pitch to celebrate.
Town confidently saw the game out. This was a big three points. It was a deserved three points.
Town really moved up a gear when Teddy Bishop replaced Alan Judge in the 66th minute.
Just like at Exeter a fortnight ago, the twinkle-toed midfielder had the opposition backpedaling every time he got on the ball in dangerous pockets of space.
Playing in the No.10 role, he broke the lines and won free-kicks in the final third. Whisper it quietly, but after all those injuries he's looking like the classy player of old.
The same can be said of Emyr Huws. That's four successive league starts for him now. The last time he managed that was in the memorable Easter Monday win against Newcastle back in April 2017. He seems to be getting stronger by the game.
Kayden Jackson will have felt 10 feet tall hearing his name sung for a prolonged period in the closing stages.
The No.9 is really beginning to become the team's talisman. This latest finish was cool as you like. With the keeper bearing down on him, the front man remained focussed to lift the ball up and over.
That's nine goals (and six assists) for the season now. His contribution is much more than just that too. His speed and non-stop running scares defences. It provides an outlet and turns defences towards their own goal.
Lambert had decided that Jackson, available again after a tight hamstring, and Will Keane were the form front two. That meant James Norwood dropped to the bench on his return to the club he fired to successive promotions.
When Norwood was introduced for Keane in the 72nd minute there were, surprisingly, a few boos from the fans who used to adore him. He looked like a coiled spring, charging about the pitch and battling for fight balls. His assist was superb. He then played an important role in helping the team see out the win.
If sitting out the majority of this one inspires the striker to take his game to a new level over the coming weeks then it could prove a masterstroke.
BRILLIANT AT THE BACK
Town looked rock solid at the start of the season. During that worrying 12-game winless run, they started to ship a few soft goals.
A settled back three of Luke Chambers, James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden has seen the steeliness return. Wilson, at the heart of the defence, is no-nonsene. He heads it, he kicks it and he lets others around him play. Meanwhile, Chambers and Woolfenden have really bought into Lambert's instructions to get forwards more.
After leaking five at Sincil Bank on December 29, the Blues have let in just three in four league games. That, combined with likes of Huws, Judge, Bishop and Gwion Edwards starting to rediscover form, is an exciting combination.
BACK IN BUSINESS
The Lincoln lock-in obviously had the desired effect. A disappointing EFL Trophy defeat at Exeter aside, it's been a very encouraging start to 2020.
Town got their intensity back in the 1-1 draw at Wycombe, they blew Accrington away (4-1) with a swashbuckling first half home display and have showed plenty of spirit in testing conditions at both Oxford and Tranmere.
It's probably no coincidence that the Blues have started to look a lot more cohesive since Lambert has stuck with a 3-5-2 system and stopped the constant rotation. The players themselves have all said as much.
Relationships are starting to build all over the pitch, the energy has returned and confidence is visibly growing. If Town can beat Lincoln at Portman Road next weekend then they'd take some powerful momentum into a tough run of fixtures against Rotherham (a), Peterborough (h) and Sunderland (a).