Ipswich Town’s on-loan central defender Mark McGuinness believes it isn’t the time in the season for fans to “point the finger” and “apportion blame” for the Blues’ lacklustre form at the door of boss Paul Lambert. Fans have grown increasingly frustrated at their team’s inability to overcome their promotion rivals, with Lambert yet to defeat a side positioned in the League One top six since Ipswich were relegated from the Championship.
Flat track bullies
Some pundits and fans have grown increasingly concerned that Lambert is merely drilling the team to become flat track bullies, brushing aside the bottom half teams with relative ease but showing little to no game plan to overcome the teams in and around the playoffs. Of their 25 League One fixtures against teams in the top ten since relegation from the Championship, Ipswich have mustered only 18 points from a possible 75.
Dismal recent home losses to Charlton, Hull and Portsmouth saw Ipswich once again fail to lay a glove on any of their rivals, registering blanks in all three of those recent defeats. This appears to have been the final straw for some supporters, who believe Lambert’s time to build a consistent and cohesive winning unit has run its course.
However, Irish Under-21 international and Arsenal loanee Mark McGuinness insists that although it’s “easy for everyone to blame the manager”, the onus is on the players to “make sure [they] do better”. The 19-year-old, who displays a maturity beyond his years with the media, says that now is not the time for a blame game and to “get on with the games”.
The Tractor Boys are now priced as long as 22/1 to win League 1 in 2021. Those lengthened odds are available with Paddy Power, who are currently dishing out risk-free wagers for new customers that still think the Suffolk side have the ability to climb back into the automatic promotion places. A scrappy 2-1 home victory over League One’s bottom club Burton Albion will have done little to improve those odds this week. Lambert’s men laboured to their narrow win, with Emyr Huws’ late header giving Town the edge in a contest desperately lacking quality and composure on the ball.
McGuinness admits that Ipswich would be “in a much better place” if they could “beat at least some” of their promotion rivals. Another team with aspirations for automatic promotion loom large on the horizon next, with Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United likely to prove another stiff test. Posh have been free-scoring of late, with summer signing Jonson Clarke-Harris getting back into the goalscoring habit with a hat-trick against Rochdale. Ipswich were humbled 4-1 at home to Posh last season, a defeat which all but ended Town’s automatic promotion hopes. Lambert and his under-fire coaching staff will have everything crossed that they can avoid defeat at the very least to build some momentum.
Injuries take their toll
It has to be said that the Suffolk side are experiencing a remarkable injury crisis of late. Although question marks have been raised by fans regarding Lambert’s training methods and his regard for sports science, the Scotsman has been without more than ten senior first-team players for much of the season so far.
Striker James Norwood, who was Town’s marquee signing last season, has struggled for fitness in 2020, with hamstring and groin complaints keeping him sidelined. Meanwhile homegrown midfielders like Flynn Downes and Teddy Bishop have been in and out of the action, with the former not expected to return until the New Year. Free-scoring winger Gwion Edwards started the season in red-hot form, but the Welshman too has succumbed to the injury list. Lambert is also having to play two veterans as attack-minded full backs, with Luke Chambers filling in at right back for the injured Kane Vincent-Young, although the former Tottenham academy product is now back in first-team training.
Some may question the frustrations of the Ipswich fans based on the above injury list. However, there is a sense that the issues run much, much deeper at Portman Road. Reclusive owner, Marcus Evans continues to irk loyal supporters after back-tracking from recent comments made in a statement to fans. While Lambert himself has annoyed fans with his recommendation that a certain fan be banned from press conferences.
But it’s the general lack of strategy that leaves many in Suffolk wondering just how well-equipped Town would be to stay up and thrive in the Championship were they to defy the odds and return to the second tier at the second attempt.