Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-0 win against Lincoln
PUBLISHED: 19:09 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 22:33 25 January 2020
Ipswich Town moved back to the top of the League One table with a 1-0 home win against Lincoln City. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
CONTROL AND FOCUS
This may not have been as swashbuckling as the 4-1 demolition of Accrington Stanley last time out at Portman Road, but it was equally as impressive.
Ipswich, beginning to look like a well-oiled machine at the start of 2020 now that the rotation policy has stopped, played with control and focus throughout.
The in-form visitors (four wins from six heading into this one) were pinned back from the off as the Blues committed plenty of bodies to the attack. Town forced several corners. They pressed and probed in the final third. Will Keane burst into the box and rifled a low shot wide after a patient move.
Reward came right on half-time when Alan Judge, whose perpetual motion allowed Town to tick, won a free-kick wide right. Luke Garbutt swung in a pin-point dead ball delivery to the far post and Luke Woolfenden rose highest to squeeze a header home.
Lincoln often posed a threat on the counter, but Ipswich defended well at the crucial moments. Will Norris made a fine arching save from Tyler Walker on the one occasion he'd been called into action first half. After the break, there was always a player in a blue shirt there to make timely interventions when needed.
Gwion Edwards made a vital sliding block in the box before the Blues built some pressure again. Josh Vickers was forced into a smart stop from Garbutt during a dominant home spell, then James Wilson glanced narrowly wide at a corner.
Wilson, again rock-solid between two attack-minded centre-halves, stepped in to make a perfectly-timed tackle as Lincoln made a late push for a leveller. As 1-0 wins go, this one felt pretty comfortable.
Rotherham lost 2-1 at Peterborough. That means Ipswich Town are back at the top of the League One table for the first time since the middle of November.
It's five league games undefeated at the start of 2020, with three wins and two draws.
Form has been rediscovered at just the right time heading into games against fellow promotion chasers Rotherham (away, Tuesday night), Peterborough (home next Saturday) and Sunderland (a).
BEST PLAYERS BACK AT IT
You may also want to watch:
It's no coincidence that Ipswich Town are back at it now their best players at back at it.
Alan Judge, finally playing regularly in his favoured No.10, has the freedom to float without the responsibility of covering a full-back. He's finally looking like the attacking fulcrum we hoped he'd be.
Emyr Huws is growing in confidence by the game. He is beginning to help Town boss possession and look like the player of old once again.
Will Keane, following several injury set-backs of his own, is also starting to show his pedigree again. Some of his control and link-up play today was outstanding.
Those three players are better than third-tier standard. The only reason Ipswich have them is because of their injuries. Town took a gamble on getting them fit and firing again. That gamble is starting to pay off.
The most improved player award has to go to Gwion Edwards though.
For a while he was looking like a weak link. To be fair, coming in and out the team in a variety of different roles probably didn't help. Now, as part of a settled side, his performances have gone up several notches of late.
Today he looked like a proper wing-back. He got at his marker when possible, dragging Town up the pitch. More impressively, he defended really well. You can't underestimate how important his goal saving block was at the start of the second half.
The need to get Kane Vincent-Young fit again doesn't seem quite so desperate now the Welsh winger is in form again.
MY, HAVEN'T THEY GROWN?
Some young players would be affected by talk of Premier League interest. Luke Woolfenden and Flynn Downes have just got better and better.
With dozens of scouts in attendance at Portman Road today, the 21-year-old duo played with real maturity.
Woolfenden scored, got forward and was his usual cool self in possession. Downes was quietly excellent. Earlier in the season, when it was 4-4-2, he was all-action. Now, playing in a midfield three without Cole Skuse, you don't notice him as much - and in a good way. He was hit by a nasty late tackle in the second half, but, unlike in the past, didn't see the red mist.
It's a joy watching these two Tractor Boys grow as people and players.