Mark Heath: Five Town players who should get a chance before season ends
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town's season is effectively over with five games left. Mark Heath names five fringe players he'd like to see get some first team action before the final kick of the 2021/22 campaign....
No surprise here, and the argument that is easiest to make, in my opinion.
Ipswich Town's strikers can't hit a barn door with a banjo right now. Kayden Jackson could, but then he got injured, leaving the underwhelming trio of Macauley Bonne (one goal in 25 games), James Norwood (one in 13) and Joe Pigott (one in 21) as Town's 'hitmen' for the final stretch.
Indeed, it's feasible that none of the above will be at the club come the big kick-off in August.
In Simpson though, the Blues have a striker who was scoring at a decent level earlier this season - the powerful 20-year-old bagged 11 in 30 games for League Two play-off chasers Swindon Town before being surprisingly recalled to Portman Road amid a contract dispute.
Now, we're not privy to the behind the scenes beef between the club, agent and player - other than the fact CEO Mark Ashton alluded to it last week - but one fact is undeniable.
By not playing, after such a successful loan spell, Simpson is losing out - and a club asset is depreciating.
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Whatever the issue, Simpson deserves an opportunity in these last five games - let's see him come off the bench and show us what he can do in the third tier.
It's not like anyone else is staking a claim, after all.
The 18-year-old midfielder has played three times for the Blues' first team this season - one start in the EFL Cup and two sub appearances, including his league debut late in that miserable 2-0 defeat at Charlton back in December.
According to recently-departed U23 boss Kieron Dyer though, Humphreys should have seen a lot more action - the Town icon stating that Humphreys is the second-best midfielder at the entire club behind super skipper Sam Morsy.
Dyer added: "Cameron Humphreys has played 10 minutes against Charlton in the league and played in the League Cup against Newport when, by the way, he was the best player on the pitch.
"Paul Cook didn't see that and neither has Kieran McKenna. Maybe I'm the one who's wrong? But if I was manager then Cameron Humphreys would be in my team with Sam Morsy.
"I take that stuff to heart. I think you are potentially brilliant, I'm meant to be getting you in the first team and that's not happening."
Clearly, when everyone is fit and there's all to play for, Morsy and Lee Evans are the nailed-on starters. But depth is an issue in the middle of the park - Tyreeq Bakinson is on loan, Tom Carroll has struggled and Rekeem Harper is out on loan at Crewe with a question mark over his future.
Surely now is the time to have a look at Humphreys in the fire of competitive third tier football, ahead of a summer of coaching and further improvements?
The towering young centre-back has been in and around the first team picture for a while, making his debut in the EFL Trophy last season before a loan spell at King's Lynn.
This season he's made his international debut - and scored his first international goal - for Indonesia, while continuing to impress at U23 level.
Clearly, Town's defence has been a major success story under Kieran McKenna, and no-one is under any illusions that Baggott's going to take over from any of Luke Woolfenden, George Edmundson, Janoi Donacien or Cameron Burgess in the near future.
But let's see if the 6ft 4ins prospect can play at this level and provide serious back-up next season. Remember, Town have Corrie Ndaba returning from a successful loan spell at Salford this summer too.
Those two could be key to the Blue wall in the future.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder hasn't played at all for the Blues' first team this season, having made his debut against Colchester in the EFL Trophy back in 2019.
But he's been ripping it up at U23 level for Town and, of all those in that side yet to be seriously involved in senior football, he seems to be the one who stands out as deserving of a shot in these last five games.
Obviously, Town have an embarrassment of riches in his position, but let's see what he might be capable of at a senior level before the end of the season, shall we?
Certainly, Dyer would agree.
"Tawanda is a goal machine," he enthused. "He's so self driven. Yet he's not played a single minute in the Papa John's Trophy this season.
"That's not me saying Paul Cook or Kieran McKenna don't know what they are doing, because I've just given them praise, but in my opinion so many of those academy players are brilliant."
Now, this last one is a bit left-field, given livewire Dobra is technically still on loan at Town veterans' outfit Colchester United down the A12.
But let's be honest - that loan has been a disaster for Dobra, once seen as a star of Town's fairly near future.
The plan was clearly for him to go out, rip League Two a new one with the U's and return triumphant to Town this summer.
In reality, Dobra's only played 20 games for Colchester, scoring twice - and hasn't featured since January 4.
Bizarrely, he turned out for the U's U23 side against Town - which seems a totally pointless exercise - before coming off the bench for Town's U23s against Hull City earlier this week.
There seems little point him staying at Colchester for the last few games. He might not have a future at Town as it stands, but let's get him back and see what he can do behind the striker or on the flanks in a half or two of football before the season ends.