Ipswich currently find themselves second in the League One table trailing Wycombe Wanderers by four points and, although they have a game in hand, the points tally doesn’t look nearly as attractive as it did a few weeks ago.
That said, if you had asked the Tractor Boy fan base in August if they’d take this position at this time then 99% would have torn your arm off. The question is will Town maintain their place in the automatic promotion spots or will they drift into mid-table as many bigger clubs have done in the past?
A good start to the season but falling form worries fans
Last season, the form on the pitch was nothing short of appalling as Ipswich plummeted into the third tier for the first time in over 60 years without so much as a whimper. The summer window brought some decent signings into Portman Road though with James Norwood, a free transfer from Tranmere Rovers, perhaps the best piece of business and the 2019/20 campaign got under way with Paul Lambert’s men going undefeated in 11 games.
Recently though their form has been on the slide, not dramatically but drawing games they would have previously won. It now looks like they might have a fight to win promotion rather than rampantly returning to the Championship, which is how it looked early on in the season.
The key players
If Ipswich are to bounce back up at the first time of asking then there are a handful of players through the spine of their team that will need to be on top of their game. At the heart of the defence is skipper Luke Chambers; the ex-Nottingham Forest man has made over 300 appearances for the Blues and is one of two players, along with Cole Skuse, who are widely credited with holding the club together whilst Paul Hurst was at the helm. His leadership will be key in any promotion battle.
At the front end of the pitch James Norwood and Kayden Jackson are charged with finding the net. Jackson was signed by Hurst for £1.7m but only contributed four goals in 39 games last year, meanwhile Norwood was scoring at ease to fire Tranmere out of League Two. This season the duo has struck up a partnership that has already yielded 14 goals – seven each – and they’ll need to keep banging the goals in to stand a chance of going up.
In addition to that trio is a double act that has come through the ranks at the club in defender Luke Woolfenden and England youth midfielder Flynn Downes. Downes, aged 20, has perhaps been the most impressive of Ipswich’s players this season and has started to look like the teams answer to a NFL Super Bowl winning quarterback as he’s added offensive ambition and improved patterns of play to his ever combative style.
Woolfenden, 21, has been solid defensively and more than competent on the ball regardless of who has played alongside him. If rumours are to believed, Championship clubs could come sniffing for the youngsters in January and Marcus Evans will need to stand firm if he truly harnesses ambition of moving forwards.
In the dugout for the Tractor Boys is ex-Norwich manager Lambert. He’s done a terrific job of reconnecting the club with it’s fans since arriving to replace Hurst in October 2018. Of course, in typical fickle fan behaviour, a few question marks have arisen off the back of the recent wobble.
They’ve sacrificed leads in four of the last six games in all competitions and whilst Lambert has an open philosophy on the game, which can see games become end to end, a more pragmatic approach – like that offered by former boss Mick McCarthy – would perhaps help turn these draws into wins.
Promotion of bust?
The fans that turn up to Portman Road – and on away days – have been phenomenal and with the quality Lambert has at his disposal you have to fancy Town to win more than they lose, which gives them a good chance of going up. They’ll need to rebuff any interest in their players in January, but Evans has proven in the past that he won’t sell his assets easy and, come May, we still wouldn’t be surprised to see Ipswich go up as Champions. They currently lead the odds like a favourite horse in the Kentucky Derby, so we are keen to see if they will follow the bookmakers predictions.