Andy’s Angles: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 victory over Gillingham
PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 October 2020
Ipswich Town beat Gilllingham last night to get back to winning ways. Andy Warren gives his thoughts on the game.
Better late than never
This game was drifting towards a goalless draw when a moment of brilliance from Teddy Bishop finally saw Ipswich unpick Gillingham’s lock.
In the 85 minutes before the midfielder curled the ball home with his left foot from the edge of the box, Town had dominated large spells of the game and had a succession of chances without being able convert.
Jack Lankester hit the bar, Freddie Sears had a trio of openings snuffed out and Gwion Edwards would have tapped into an empty net had he arrived to meet Oli Hawkins’ low cross a fraction of a second earlier than Ryan Jackson.
That’s not to say they were battering the door down throughout, though. As has been the case in the last two games, there were periods when Ipswich’s possession didn’t result in any kind of end product and others where the visitors posed a real danger, especially when breaking through Dominic Samuel, John Akinde and Jordan Graham.
But a sturdy defensive effort maintained a clean sheet, meaning Ipswich ultimately only needed one big moment to take three big points.
Thankfully, Bishop was able to provide it.
Working from home
Plenty of us have had to get used to working from home over the last few months. Now it was Paul Lambert’s turn.
The Ipswich boss is waiting for the results of a coronavirus test after reporting symptoms early on gameday morning, with the result not expected until later today.
So, following government guidance, he watched the game from home like thousands of Town fans around the world. Also watching from home was first-team coach Matt Gill, who himself tested positive for the virus having also missed the weekend loss at Lincoln.
Lambert was able to play a full part in the preparation for the game, picked the team and spoke to his players at full-time, all while remaining in communication with his bench throughout as assistant Stuart Taylor and goalkeeping coach Jimmy Walker led the side.
The duo were always going to play a bigger-than-usual role in this game, given Lambert was serving a touchline ban in any case following his red card at Sincil Bank. They will both be delighted to have come away with the win.
Lambert made three changes to his side for this game, with the stand-out switches coming in the heart of defence as the absent Scot turned the page on a partnership which had served him well up until a week ago.
Gone were Toto Nsiala and James Wilson – the former giving away penalties in two successive games and the latter likely feeling extrmely hard done by following a consistent start to the season – with Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness coming in in their places.
It was a big night for McGuinness in particular as he made his first Ipswich appearance and his first start for a senior side of any description, with his prior experience restricted to Arsenal’s U21s in the EFL Trophy.
On the whole, this has to go down as a success. Sure, there were some moments where he misjudged balls, allows others to bounce and made some questionable decisions but, given the fact he was playing against physical strikers Samuel and Akinde, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
There were neat touches, clever challenges and good positional sense, while he also offered a real goal threat from set plays as he got his head on balls in the opposition box. That’s something Town have been lacking.
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Woolfenden, a nailed-on starter last season, also had up-and-down moments but the two young centre-halves were comfortable on the ball and were able to move possession into the midfield quicker than Ipswich have been able to in recent weeks.
They’re likely to start again this weekend.
Sooner or later, Ipswich are going to need a goal from a central striker.
That’s 13 games now this season without one, at a time when Ipswich have, admittedly, had real injury troubles in that area thanks to the absences of James Norwood, Kayden Jackson and Aaron Drinan.
Oli Hawkins is shouldering the burden at the moment, with no shortage of effort coming from the former Portsmouth man once again in this game. He had some neat touches and a couple of clever moves to bring others into play, but never looked like scoring himself.
What he did do well, though, is occupy Gillingham defenders to enable the Town midfield room to work.
But while that’s admirable, if Ipswich are to move to the next level then they need a real, sustained threat to come from their centre-forward position.
Jackon is the next player scheduled to return, having come back to training following his own positive virus test, and could potentially be involved on Saturday when Crewe visit.
More to come
Victory moves Lambert’s men back up the League One table, into third, and was certainly welcome given what had gone before.
Two successive defeats had reopened the wounds of last season and had provoked fears of another slide down the table following a promising start. But, while certainly not banishing those fears, this win does alleviate them a little.
To grumble following three points and a clean sheet is perhaps a little ungrateful but there is definitely a feeling that Ipswich still need to do better, with three more points expected when Crewe visit at the weekend.
Then it’s a trip to Sunderland, a game in which we’ll truly know where Town are at. Lambert’s men couldn’t beat promotion rivals last season and, if they are to do so in their first meeting with one this season, you feel they will need to move up a gear.
This was a decent display, including a healthy dose of character to get the job done. But Ipswich will need to be more than decent as bigger tests come around if they are to seriously challenge for promotion.
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