Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Football God keeps smiting Ipswich Town – but Lambert and co are showing great mental resilience

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town conceded a last-gasp goal to draw 1-1 at Wigan Athletic yesterday having played for more than an hour with 10 men. STUART WATSON has his final say of the weekend.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Zap. Referee Lee Probert’s arm sprung up brandishing a red card within a split second of Jonas Knudsen’s tug at Leon Clarke’s shoulder.

Zap. Will Keane pulled up clutching his left hamstring.

Zap. Joe Garner (who else?) scores a stoppage-time equaliser just when Town looked to have ridden the storm.

It’s not hard to imagine a football God chuckling as they continually smite Ipswich Town from above.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd


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It’s the beautiful game. It can be so very cruel too.

MORE: ‘Flynn’s definitely got to do better to stop the cross’ - Lambert frustrated as Ipswich let two points slip

Paul Lambert would roll up and his sleeves and fight the game’s callous deity if he could. Instead, he’s channelling that fight into the club’s players and supporters.

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You either feel sorry for yourselves or you confront the notion of fate and take responsibility.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Once the gut-wrenching disappointment of that late leveller eased slightly, there were – once again – many things to sit back and reflect upon positively.

MORE: Sunday Snap: Keane matches a record, Lambert watch and Garner’s muted celebration

That’s three games unbeaten now. Yes, draws are not good enough at this stage if we’re talking about beating the drop. But were we really, seriously, talking about that? Let’s be honest, the damage was done a while back.

As opined in this column a few weeks back, I’m more interested in performances than points in the dying embers of this most bruising of campaigns.

Here’s my acid test after each game: Did I see spirit and fight? Did I see chances created? Ultimately, did I enjoy it as an overall spectacle?

MORE: Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic

For four games in succession now the answer to all of the aforementioned has been yes.

Town have shown great mental strength after going behind inside two minutes against both Norwich and Derby, trailing to a calamitous goal against Stoke and then going down to 10 men against Wigan.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

These are all games Town would have comfortably lost not so long ago. Now they look more resilient and carry a greater goal threat. That’s progress.

MORE: North Stander: Sadly, it was all just so predictable in this dreadful season

We’ve seen several formations under Lambert already – variations of 4-3-3, a diamond midfield and now wing-backs. Whatever the system, there has always been an identity to the style of play.

Play out from the back. Be bold on the ball. Express yourselves. Take risks. Make them worry about us.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Before Knudsen’s dismissal Town played some lovely one-touch football; sharp little triangles in the final third which carved open Wigan. Slowly but surely some of the jabs are beginning to land after all the neat footwork. Now it’s just about executing that big right hook finish when opponents are on the ropes.

MORE: Ratings: Pennington’s a man mountain at the back but Blues are hit by a sucker punch

A final word on Lambert singling out Flynn Downes for criticism. Unprompted he brought up the youngster’s role in Wigan’s goal and then went back to it again after the conversation had moved on.

That came a week after he refused to pick the bones out of the defensive shambles involving recent World Cup players Bartosz Bialkowski and Knudsen for the Stoke goal, insisting ‘I’m never really into blame culture’.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It seemed harsh. A little bit like one rule for some and one for another. Perhaps, understandably, raw emotions were a lot different given the last-gasp goal had gone against rather than for his team.

MORE: Wigan Athletic 1-1 Ipswich Town: Former Blue Garner denies Lambert’s 10-men with heartbreaking late goal

Or maybe Lambert just feels now is the right moment to start introducing some tough love? Perhaps, both in his team and in Downes as an individual, he sees players psychologically conditioned to be pushed again.

If this season is a test of character assigned from a higher power then take solace from the fact that management, players and supporters alike are meeting the challenge head on together.

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix

Will Keane is out with a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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