North Stander: Lambert must avoid being like a kid in a sweet shop!
North Stander TERRY HUNT is back for another season. And what a great start to the new one he witnessed. Lots of positives.
Well, I have to say that was a surprisingly encouraging way to start the season.
It was weird, of course. Sitting at home on my sofa watching my team on an iPad really isn’t my preferred way of being a football supporter.
But what I saw was extremely impressive. I know, I know....it is ridiculously early to start drawing any conclusions. A single game in the Mickey Mouse Cup against poor opposition certainly isn’t a reason to get carried away.
But credit where credit is due. Ipswich played Bristol Rovers off the park with clever, intricate, attractive, passing football. We should have had four or five goals.
There were so many plus points. Aaron Drinan, making his debut at last, gave us a hard-working, dynamic focal point up front. His impressive display will give Paul Lambert food for thought when Kayden Jackson and James Norwood are fit.
The same goes for Freddie Sears, who has always been a natural goal scorer. Two goals will give his confidence a timely boost.
In midfield, it was great to see Teddy Bishop looking fit. If only twinkle-toed Teddy can stay free of his dreaded injuries, I can see him absolutely terrorising lumbering League One defences.
Andre Dozzell remains our enigma. He possesses the vision and ability to play defence-splitting passes which belong far above the rudimentary level which is League One. Look at the exquisite first-time ball which opened up the defence to play Stephen Ward in. It was nothing short of beautiful.
The problem is, those moments don’t happen often enough, which means he can be viewed as a luxury player. He also needs a “minder” to provide defensive muscle in this league.
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But, like Bishop but in a different way, he can give us that touch of class which will make a world of difference at this level. I think Lambert needs to find a way of keeping him in the team.
At the back against Bristol Rovers, we were rock solid. Luke Woolfenden and Toto Nsiala were faultless. I haven’t been a great Toto fan, in all honesty - he has always looked like an accident waiting to happen - but I can’t criticise his performance in the season’s curtain-raiser. He also provided possibly the game’s most surprising moment - a superb through ball to Drinan which led to the first goal.
Stephen Ward looks an astute signing. I know he’s hardly a spring chicken, but all that experience will be so important to the team, and he looks like he can still get up and down.
The enforced lengthy break seems to have rejuvenated Luke Chambers. Used as an emergency right-back, it brought back memories of him playing there in our 2014-15 play-off season. He looked lively. Good goal, too. He won’t stay there when Kane Vincent-Young is available, but it’s good to have that option.
So, as I said, a very encouraging opening game. But what will Lambert do now? We all know what happened last season. His endless tinkering with line-ups and formations saw us lose momentum and eventually finish in a frankly disgraceful mid-table position.
We have a large squad, with a decent amount of quality. At least two players for each position, with an embarrassment of riches in midfield.
Lambert must avoid being like a kid in a sweet shop, and stick to what works. So...when the team is announced to our first League game against Wigan, I want to see very few changes from the Bristol game.
If that means players like Norwood and Jackson starting on the bench, then that’s fine. Those who performed so well against Bristol Rovers deserve to keep the shirt, as they say.
I really hope that’s the way it will be this season. If you perform well, you stay in the team. Only injury or poor performances see you lose your place. (By the way, I accept there will be changes against Arsenal’s youngsters in the EFL Trophy. The sooner we get rid of that distraction of a competition, the better).
We are told we will play 4-3-3 system this season. I hope that’s true, and most of all I hope Lambert sticks with it. I still believe we have one of the strongest squads in this division. Last season was a massive underachievement, and the largest share of blame sits with the manager. He is under pressure this season.
Wouldn’t it be great if our team gives us entertaining, winning football after such a long break? One game in, there are encouraging signs.
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