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North Stander: We’re all still behind you, Paul – but here’s why we’re worried

16 December, 2019 - 06:00
Cole Skuse gets the better of Lucas Tomlinson to cross into the box.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.com

Cole Skuse gets the better of Lucas Tomlinson to cross into the box. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

The honeymoon is over for Paul Lambert. He still has the support of Town fans, but the unquestioning belief in everything he does or says has been replaced by a more challenging attitude, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.

Town manager Paul Lambert giving skipper Cole Skuse instructions during a break in play.
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comTown manager Paul Lambert giving skipper Cole Skuse instructions during a break in play. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

That's fair enough - especially given our recent form and results, and in particular Lambert's infuriating insistence on tinkering with the line-up and formation with just about every game.

Of course, Lambert doesn't like the criticism, and has been pretty spiky in recent media conferences. He says he doesn't understand what he calls the "negativity."

MORE: Stu Says - Five observations following Town's loss to Bristol

I don't think negativity is the right word. Of course, there are always a few hot-heads who go to extremes. But, as far as I can see, the vast majority of Town supporters remain right behind Lambert - although of course we are concerned about what's happening at the moment.

Why wouldn't we be? After a barnstorming start to the campaign, in which we won 10 of our first 14 games, the last 14 have seen just three victories - and that includes the penalty shoot-out at Peterborough.

Leaders Wycombe are disappearing over the horizon, and we're in danger of being swallowed up by the chasing pack. Suddenly, seventh place is worryingly close.

More than anything, we seem to be nowhere near settling on our best starting 11. I understand the wholesale changes in cup games - but surely in the all-important league we should be seeing pretty much the same team, barring injuries and suspensions, week in, week out?

Town fans celebrate after James Norwood had pulled a goal back.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comTown fans celebrate after James Norwood had pulled a goal back. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

So, Mr. Lambert, that's why we're worried. Expressing our concerns isn't negativity - it's called realism. What are we expected to do? Simply shrug our shoulders and keep smiling, whatever comes our way? We love our club, and we want the team to be successful.

In my view, we have the strongest squad in the whole division. The quality of the teams we've faced has been really poor, and that includes those going for promotion. Wycombe Wanderers, the runaway leaders, were very ordinary at Portman Road. The same goes for Bristol Rovers this weekend.

MORE: 'Stick with it... There's still a long way to go' - Lambert on Town's 2-1 home defeat to Bristol Rovers

Make no mistake, these are not good teams - and yet we are failing to beat them. We play far better football than all of them, but for a variety of reasons the results - and especially the goals - aren't coming.

With the squad he has at his disposal, Lambert really should get us back into the Championship at the first time of asking. Failure to do so will be a really big negative on his managerial CV.

As he rightly points out, there is still loads of time. We're not yet halfway through the season. I still believe we should go up. But Lambert needs to get the team firing on all cylinders again, and especially we need to start scoring goals again.

I keep coming back to what I consider the most important issue - what has become known as Lambert's "rotation policy." It simply needs to stop. We're putting out a load of strangers each week.

Town manager Paul Lambert (left) and Bristol Rovers team manager Graham Coughlan (right) pictured immediately after James Norwood had pulled a goal back for the home side. 
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comTown manager Paul Lambert (left) and Bristol Rovers team manager Graham Coughlan (right) pictured immediately after James Norwood had pulled a goal back for the home side. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Look at the game against Bristol Rovers. I know it's unfair to single out emergency right-back Cole Skuse, but twice in the first half Kayden Jackson made intelligent runs, only for Skuse to pass the ball the other way.

Then there was the dreadful, game-defining mix-up between Will Keane and Jon Nolan. As the ball came across the penalty area, they got in each other's way. It would have been a tap-in, and if we'd scored then, the game could well have gone very differently.

They are just a few examples which are blatantly obvious to people like me, paying customers in the stands. I bet if you analyse our games with an expert, there will be lots of other situations where the lack of familiarity with a team-mate's game costs us.

So, please, Mr. Lambert, let's see a settled side, where partnerships can grow and blossom all over the pitch. Surely that has to be the way we recover our form, and start getting results again?

MORE: Ratings: How the Ipswich Town players performed in their 2-1 home loss to Bristol Rovers

As I said right at the beginning of this piece, sensible Ipswich fans remain steadfastly behind Paul Lambert. He has worked wonders to get supporters back on board after the toxic McCarthy years.

We want Lambert to be the man to take us back to the Championship. We believe he is capable of doing that, with a very strong League One squad at his disposal.

We will support him, and the team, with a passion. But we will also question, and we will challenge. That's not being negative - it's called loving your club.


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