Stu says: Five observations as Ipswich Town U23s put five goals past Crystal Palace
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town’s Under-23s beat their Crystal Palace counterparts 5-2 at Playford Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his observations.
This was a table-topping clash, but Ipswich eased to victory as the goals once again flowed for Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg’s young guns at a cold and wet Playford Road.
The Blues broke the deadlock when Shane McLoughlin gobbled up a close-range rebound after Conor McKendry’s free-kick was fumbled (8). McLoughlin then turned provider when providing a fine deep cross for Ben Folami to finish (20).
McKendry’s neat side-footed finish from just inside the area made it three (41) before Kian Flanagan pulled one back from the spot, following a Corrie Ndaba handball, right on half-time.
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Town restored their three-goal advantage when Kai Brown poked past the advancing keeper following a strong run by Idris El Mizouni (56).
And although Nick Tavares headed in for Palace (86), Town had the last say thanks to Folami’s fine footwork and clever finish (90).
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TOWN: Wright, Cotter, C Smith, Ndaba, Kenlock (Clements 61); McGavin, El Mizouni (Dobra 72); McKendry, McLoughlin, Folami; K Brown. Unused: Ware, Marshall.
Forgotten fringe men
Several young players made their senior debuts or were on the fringes of the first team towards the back end of the 2017/18 campaign, but have been nowhere near since.
None of them did their chances any harm here, but whether it’s enough to force their way into Paul Lambert’s plans remains to be seen.
Folami took his two goals well, especially the second, controlling the ball dead out the sky before finishing expertly on the angle. The Australian has a match sharpness about him following his recent exploits at the AFC U19 Championships in Indonesia.
Shane McLoughlin, captaining the side from a free-roaming No.10 role, provided plenty of energy and clever movement.
It was Conor McKendry who really caught the eye though. The Northern Irishman constantly cut inside from the right onto his favoured left foot and was at the heart of most things. His set-piece delivery was dangerous too.
Style of play
As has been the case all season, the system and style mirrored that of the first team.
You could see the Lambert influence already. The two full-backs, Barry Cotter and Myles Kenlock, took up incredibly high starting positions. That allowed the inverted wingers, McKendry and Folami, to drift inside onto their favoured feet.
The two centre-backs, Ndaba and Chris Smith, split down the sides of the box to provide short options at every goal kick.
In terms of the high press, there was a notable five seconds of fury every time the Blues lost possession in the final third. The attacking players hunted in packs and forced mistakes.
Lambert was not in attendance, but his assistant Stuart Taylor, first team coach Matt Gill and fitness coach Jim Henry were.
Teddy Bishop, who played an hour of a behind-closed-doors 5-1 win against QPR last Wednesday afternoon, was not involved. The hope is that his absence was precautionary as Town carefully manage this latest comeback.
Teenage attacker Jack Lankester, who has been impressing in these games, watched from the sidelines. That would suggest he will have some role to play in Friday night’s game against West Brom at Portman Road.
Cole Skuse, Matt Pennington and Danny Rowe all took it upon themselves to take a watching brief on what was a day off for the senior squad.
Town are five points adrift at the foot of the Championship, but their Under-23s are now five points clear at the top of the Professional Development League South Division.
Their record reads P13 W7 D5 L1 F35 A14.
You can never read too much into these fixtures. They are a million miles away from what first team football is like and, especially the ones played at training grounds, lack intensity. It’s easy to see why most managers favour loan spells away for younger players.
No-one should look at these results alone and suggest that suddenly promoting a swathe of youngsters is going to be the answer to all Lambert’s problems.
A winning habit can be infectious though. And this season, for the first time in a long time, you can see the transition from youth to senior football being a lot smoother.