North Stander: No passion, inventiveness or guile – and taking a pop at McGavin - all very strange...
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
North Stander TERRY HUNT casts his eye over Town’s late win against Shrewsbury and he’s not impressed.
Whatever Paul Lambert says, that was absolutely awful.
No passion, no inventiveness, no guile. Nothing - just a great big dollop of luck, which was definitely overdue!
If we play like that against Hull and Charlton, we will get absolutely hammered, although for some unaccountable reason Lambert got rather snappy when that was quite reasonably suggested to him after the game on Saturday.
Lambert has just passed his two-year anniversary at Portman Road, and there are still many more questions than answers about his performance. For me, he still makes weird selections, doesn’t get the best out of a strong squad - and says daft things to the media after games.
Certain players seem to be automatic picks, even though their performances don’t justify it. Alan Judge is the prime example.
I was excited when we signed Judge and delighted when we rebuffed QPR’s attempts to sign him.
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He’ll be a superstar in League One, we said. But, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. There’s no lack of effort, but he doesn’t make a difference in games. The Shrewsbury match was another example, until his late, late shot was messed up by the visiting keeper.
So why does Lambert keep picking Judge? What does he see in him that the rest of us can’t?
The same goes for Toto Nsiala. Early in the season, playing alongside James Wilson, it looked as though Nsiala had sorted out his game. He looked solid, instead of an accident waiting to happen.
But, sadly, the old mistakes are back.
On Saturday, it looked like he got away with yet another clumsy, ill-advised challenge in the penalty area.
Both he and Mark McGuinness look extremely jittery. The way we play means the centre-backs are on the ball a lot, and neither Nsiala or McGuinness seem well equipped for that.
With Toto, there’s always at least one occasion when an attempt at a long, raking crossfield pass sails into touch, yards from its intended target.
I’m sure McGuinness is a good player in the making, but he’s a young defender who makes mistakes. We can’t afford to have him learning from his errors on our watch.
The irony here, of course, is that the centre-back who is most comfortable on the ball is Luke Woolfenden - our own player. And yet Lambert always seems to find reasons not to pick him. I would pick Woolfenden and Wilson, when fit.
Then there’s Freddie Sears. Mick McCarthy started playing him wide left and Lambert has carried on with it.
Sears runs up and down, puts in a shift, but is another one who just doesn’t really contribute enough.
For goodness sake, Sears is a striker. Always has been, always will be. Play him up front, alongside a big man, and he will score goals. We’re not exactly scoring for fun at the moment, so isn’t it worth a go? Otherwise, leave him out.
As for the strength of the squad, I’ve always maintained that ours is the biggest and one of the best in League One. But we are still underperforming, despite the way the league table looks at the moment.
We still can’t beat the better teams, and we’re squeezing out results against the strugglers. Make no mistake, Shrewsbury will be delighted to avoid relegation come May. They’re awful – and yet we were lucky to beat them.
Why Lambert cannot get the best from this squad remains a mystery to me. On Saturday, we just looked a mess. Who played well? Maybe Brett McGavin, who I’ll come back to in a moment. No-one else can hold their head high.
Or maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe I’ve been giving the players too much credit. Maybe we just have a load of mediocre performers, and maybe Lambert is doing a great job keeping them in the top six.
Finally, we come to the things our manager says after games. Take Saturday’s dreadful performance. Why can’t he just admit we were poor? Everyone who watched it knows it was an absolutely horrendous display. What on earth is the harm in the manager saying that?
Why does he get all defensive when someone says we’ll need to play better against Hull and Charlton? It’s stating the ruddy obvious, isn’t it?
And, most perplexing of all, why did he choose to criticise Brett McGavin when given the opportunity to praise the youngster’s promising performance? All very strange...
So, as the cliche goes, we take the three points and move on.
We will need to play a whole lot better if we are going to get anything from the next two, very tough games.
Oops - I’m not allowed to say that, am I, Mr. Lambert?