Andy's Angles: Keane and Nsiala back in action as wing back system gets another outing in U23s loss
PUBLISHED: 22:19 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 22:21 09 September 2019
Ipswich Town's Under 23s were beaten 3-1 by Nottingham Forest this evening. Andy Warren looks at the main talking points from the game.
Tale of the game
Ipswich Town's Under 23s went down to a 3-1 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest this evening.
The young Blues were behind early as Yassine En-Neyah's superb header from a fourth-minute corner beat Harry Wright, before Will Swan doubled the visitors' advantage.
Gerard Nash's side were back in it just before the break as Idris El Mizouni superbly finished following good work from Will Keane and Ben Folami, but that's as good as it got for the Blues before Zach Clough made it 3-1 Forest.
The game, watched by manager Paul Lambert, his staff and a host of first-team players, gave Keane and returning defender Toto Nsiala the chance to play an hour as they bid for full fitness following summer lay-offs, while Folami was playing his first game since suffering an Achilles problem at the turn of the year.
This was the young Blues' fourth successive defeat at the start of their Professional Development League Two South season. Next up is a visit to Burnley next Monday.
Shape of youth
The young Blues lined up with three central defenders, wing backs, two deep midfielders, a No.10 and two strikers.
That's how the first-team started the EFL Trophy victory over Tottenham's Under 21s, too.
As is often the case in Under 23s football the backline were given time on the ball, with the central three of Nsiala, Ndaba and trialist George Heaven, formerly of Leicester, having space to play amongst themselves and full-backs Dylan Crowe and Bailey Clements free to get high up the pitch.
This system relies on those full-backs to provide the width but the young duo were pushed back for much of the game, which offered the hosts little platform from which to play in the final third.
Defensively things were a little ragged at times, particularly during the first half, with trialist Heaven in particular having a difficult time of things.
Manager Lambert has mix-and-matched his systems this season as he searches for the right formula, despite a positive start, with this formation likely to be at least part of the conversation in the lead-up to Saturday's game with Doncaster.
Another week another 60 minutes in striker Keane's legs.
After re-signing for the club at the end of August the former Hull man suggested he would need a 'couple of games' to get himself in first-team contention once again. He's had those now but it remains to be seen if he's ready to return.
His touch is excellent but the fact the Blues struggled to produce chances during his time on the pitch will not have helped. He's had little sight of goal in his two games to date but did play an important role in El Mizouni's goal, combining with the midfielder and strike partner Folami superbly.
There was a worrying moment towards the end of the first period when Keane slumped to the Portman Road surface, holding the back of his left leg after looking to control the ball.
Fortunately, though, he 'only' took a stud to the foot.
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That's the worry with Keane, of course, but it's clear if he can get fit and stay fit Ipswich have signed a player capable of big things in this league.
This was the big defender's first appearance since he suffered a hamstring injury against Fortuna Dusseldorf and his return is certainly a welcome sight, given the impressive way in which he finished last season.
The former Shrewsbury man was deployed in the middle of the central defensive three and was comfortable all night against young opponents,
He made one superb headed block in the first period as he stuck his head in the way of a driven shot from Keith Asare before sticking his foot out on two further occasions to remove danger.
He was then unlucky as Heaven's touch on a tame cross denied him what would have been an easy clearance for Forest's second goal.
He was vocal throughout and encouraging of his junior team-mates, trying to push the full-backs forward and urging his fellow defenders to regain their shape and hold a line higher up the pitch.
He also picked up a yellow card for dissent and was perhaps lucky to avoid a second for further backchat before being replaced on 59 minutes.
There were fears his month-long absence at the start of the season may be tough to cover but Luke Woolfenden has looked assured whenever called upon while James Wilson has surpassed expectations since his arrival on the eve of the season.
Lambert has rotated his central defenders during the opening weeks of the season with all three rested, but it remains to be seen whether that policy continues and where Nsiala fits in the defensive equation.
All white on the night
There was a five minute delay before kick-off after the teams emerged from the tunnel.
The reason? Harry Wright was dressed head to go in Town's light grey goalkeeping strip, while Forest were clad in white.
He ran back to the changing room and later returned in green. Problem solved.
A familiar face
Lambert was joined by a familiar face as he watched the Blues' Under 23s in action against Nottingham Forest this evening.
The Scot and his staff were joined by former Norwich City striker Grant Holt, who of course played such a big role as Lambert's Canaries won back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League between 2009 and 2011.
The forward scored 53 goals during those two promotion seasons for Lambert, before adding 17 more following promotion to the top flight.
Since retiring from the professional game, Holt has been coaching in Norwich's youth set-up while he has also taken up wrestling. At 38 he still plays for Wroxham in non-league football.
Ipswich Town U23s: Wright, Crowe, Clements (c), Heaven, Nsiala (Cotter 58), Ndaba, El Mizouni, Scott, Keane (Simpson 62), McGavin, Folami (Brown 62).
Subs: Alley, Foudil.