Lambert has plenty of unresolved issues as Town head to Meadow Lane for penultimate pre-season test
PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 July 2019
Ipswich Town travel to Meadow Lane this evening to take on Notts County in their penultimate pre-season game. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the contest.
After tonight, Paul Lambert will have just one more chance to run the rule over his Ipswich Town players ahead of the League One season.
It's at this point that managers generally begin to taper things off towards a preferred starting XI but, with the Blues' ever-growing injury list now including eight players who could potentially have started at Burton, it's not been so easy for the Town boss.
When asked if he is close to knowing his side for the opening day, Lambert said: "No, because we have eight first-team guys injured.
(Jack) Lankester, (Teddy) Bishop, (Alan) Judge, (Jon) Nolan, (Gwion) Edwards, Toto (Nsiala) - seven or eight of them - are all first-team guys so we need to get them back.
"We need to get one or two of them back, although some are a few months, and I still think we need that strength and a few lads to come in and give us a hand.
"It's difficult because we can't go and spend anything silly, but that's where the club is at the minute."
Cole Skuse could return at Notts County this evening after missing the win at Colchester with a minor hip complaint, while Edwards is also closing in on a return from his groin issue.
Judge is waiting for clearance to play after breaking his wrist last month but has been training with the squad, while Nolan (calf), Nsiala (hamstring), Lankester (back), Bishop and Freddie Sears (both knee) could all miss out on opening day.
If you then factor in that Luke Chambers is suspended for the visit to the Pirelli Stadium, Lambert has a real headache.
"Lads will play 90 minutes in that one who have never really played (at Colchester) so that's where pre-season is," Lambert added.
"They all get game time. Then we play Cambridge (on Saturday) and that's it."
Under the microscope
Young defenders Luke Woolfenden and Corrie Ndaba were both unused substitutes at Colchester, with Lambert suggesting post-match that they might not be ready to start for the Blues on opening day.
But as things stand, with Chambers and Nsiala both ruled out, they are the only central defensive specialists at Lambert's disposal.
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Myles Kenlock was given 45 minutes in the middle of defence against the U's, while trialist James Wilson was given the second 45, but Lambert will surely want to look at the academy graduates as a duo at some point this evening.
Both have got the tools but Woolfenden's senior experience is almost entirely confined to League Two, during a loan spell at Swindon, while Ndaba is yet to make his professional debut.
Josh Emmanuel was another who sat on the bench throughout Friday night's 5-0 win, but will almost certainly get time to impress at right-back tonight as he battles for a start with Janoi Donacien.
Tonight's game will give Lambert another opportunity to cast an eye over former Lincoln defender Wilson.
He had little to do defensively on Friday night but looked solid enough and was comfortable with the ball at his feet.
He has good pedigree, having previously played for Sheffield United and capped once by Wales, but has been restricted by an ankle injury in recent months.
He's well short of match fitness but has every chance of winning a deal with the Blues.
Between the sticks
Bartosz Bialkowski is likely to play 90 minutes tonight, against the club he spent two years with between 2012 and 2014.
While a possible departure still can't be discounted, the Pole has a battle on his hands to start against Burton following the arrival of Tomas Holy.
The Czech goalkeeper had little to do but didn't put a foot wrong against Colchester, while Bialkowski's last outing saw him make a mistake for Fortuna Dusseldorf's second goal in the Blues' 4-1 loss at the Interwetten Cup.
Whoever starts against Cambridge next weekend will surely be the man trusted to begin the season between the sticks for Lambert's men.
Two up top?
Ipswich Town scored four goals in the 30 minutes James Norwood and Kayden Jackson were partnered together against Colchester.
Lambert has favoured using one central striker during much of his Town tenure, with Norwood operating in that role so successfully for Tranmere last season as he struck 32 goals.
While watching the pair in tandem will certainly have given the Scot food for thought, it remains to be seen whether the Town boss would consider adapting his system from the start or use Jackson as an option off the bench.