The Verdict: Lambert and his players have brought the fun factor back... now imagine adding wins into this mix
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest in an entertaining clash at Portman Road. Andy Warren gives his take on the Blues’ current situation.
With about five minutes remaining in Saturday’s game Stuart Watson, your regular Verdict scribe, turned to me in the Portman Road press box and proclaimed ‘this is fun’.
That’s not an expression he uses lightly, particularly when it’s come to Ipswich Town matches during the 18 months we’ve been covering games together.
But fun is exactly what Ipswich Town have served up over the last week.
Paul Lambert’s Ipswich have produced an entertaining brand of football, if not good results, in the majority of their games following his appointment at the end of October. But, following the crushing loss at home to Reading a fortnight ago, things have gone up a gear.
That defeat by the Royals was surely the final blow to a survival bid which had looked extremely unlikely for many weeks, but the loss appears to have lifted a pressure which was pushing down on the Ipswich players.
They played with freedom in games against West Brom, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest, taking points from all three and arguably deserving maximum returns against a trio of sides in the thick of the promotion race.
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Let’s skip to the second half of Saturday’s game and also ignore the refereeing performance of Keith Stroud, which was baffling in so many ways.
That second half is why people pay to watch football matches.
Ipswich fans saw their team sending wave after wave of attack forward, taking risks, putting their bodies on the line, using their heads and pushing for a winner right until the final whistle.
And the crowd responded.
It’s both scary and exciting to imagine the noise had Jon Nolan’s header found the net, had Kayden Jackson converted a one-on-one, had Alan Judge’s free-kick found the top corner with the final kick of the game.
Just imagine if wins could be added to performances such as these.
It’s that hope that keeps fans going.
Lambert’s right to regularly praise a group of supporters he described as ‘unique’ at full-time. The way they have stuck with their team during arguably the worst season in club history must confuse the wider football public.
But, following that Reading result, we have now reached the stage where the debate over ‘who should lift who’ has tipped firmly towards the players.
They certainly fulfilled their side of the bargain this weekend, even if their inability to score more than once in a game (something they have achieved just three times in Lambert’s 24 games in charge and not since New Year’s Day) and keep clean sheets (just twice under Lambert) meant they couldn’t claim three points.
Those are the reasons Ipswich are going down. Those numbers won’t add up to victories, which ever way you spin them and however good the football has been between the boxes.
But you sense Ipswich fans have been at peace with that for some time.
They can see the bigger picture and are happy to allow excitement to be at the forefront of their thoughts when thinking about next season, even though there is surely a degree of trepidation at the back of their minds as their team head into the unknown.
Rewind to this time last season, heading into the final international break of the campaign, and Ipswich Town was a bubbling cauldron of uncertainty.
The future of Mick McCarthy was the only question in town, but it was a question that wasn’t ultimately answered for another two weeks, when a statement was released on March 29 ahead of the visit to Birmingham.
Twelve months on, though and Lambert has already committed his future for next season, a plan to build around young players has been openly discussed and captain Luke Chambers’ contract situation has been sorted before reaching ‘saga’ territory.
Sadly, though, another issue sorted early is that the Blues are heading to League One next season.
That can’t be ignored and it remains to be seen whether the Blues’ drop into the third tier proves to be a springboard for revival or a quagmire.
There will be a time when Lambert and his staff are judged purely on results and league position, they are fully aware of that, but that time is not now.
He and his players’ approach to football and the ever-growing relationship with the club’s supporters have made watching the Blues fun again.
Isn’t that what being a football fan is all about?