Calm down, I’m not about to get all Shirley Bassey on you, I’m just going to wax lyrical about Paul Jewell’s latest tactical masterstroke.
Ipswich Town have gone from defensive clowns to rigid midfield generals during September. Jimmy Bullard, Keith Andrews, Lee Bowyer and Grant Leadbitter have been instrumental in a month that’s seen two wins, a draw and a defeat, but more significantly, three clean sheets in a row.
While you might read those four names together and question why they are all occupying the same team sheet, worry not. Their four-pronged partnership has lifted spirits both on and off the field, as well as lifting the side up the table.
Added to this, the central defensive partnership of Ibrahima Sonko and Danny Collins has given Town another sheet of steel. It’s a far cry from the horror week in August when 12 goals were shipped in the space of two games against Southampton and Peterborough.
Personally I had my doubts when Bullard, Bowyer, Andrews and Leadbitter lined up alongside each other for the first time, but the level of understanding between them in the midfield diamond appeared almost telepathic at times away to West Ham this week. What’s even more impressive is how full backs Aaron Cresswell and Carlos Edwards bomb on and push forward into the wide spaces ahead of them, even away from home.
Lets not forget that the midfield four have also chipped in with goals. Andrews has three to his name and Bowyer has now silenced the critics in the perfect way, by netting a thoroughly deserved late winner against his old club West Ham to cap off a stellar individual performance.
Perhaps the biggest task on Paul Jewell’s hands now is keeping everyone in his squad happy. The likes of Lee Martin and Josh Carson are surplus to requirements in the current system, but need time on the pitch to keep on their toes and feel part of the bigger picture. Sometimes the diamond won’t work, some sides will come up against us, home and away, and have the capacity to counter our system. Brighton this coming Saturday could well be one of those, so what’s Paul Jewell’s plan B you might ask?
Also, how likely is it that the experienced heads (and legs) of Bullard and Bowyer will last the pace of three games in a week? At times during the West Ham win, we looked a little leggy, but eventually weathered the storm. Sharper, hungrier players could pick apart those lethargic moments and lapses in concentration.
The only other issue which niggles at the back of my mind and most likely, many other Town supporters, is the fear on-loan keeper David Stockdale could return to Fulham at the drop of a hat.
The highly-rated number 1 has impressed so far between the sticks, but Mark Schwarzer’s age and fragility means Martin Jol could trigger the 24-hour recall clause in his contract and draft Stockdale back into his Craven Cottage squad. Hopefully, that won’t have to happen and Stocko can continue to enhance his growing reputation in an Ipswich shirt rather than a Fulham one.
Fingers crossed, Steve Kean and Tony Pulis won’t be dialling Paul Jewell’s mobile to beg for Keith Andrews and Danny Collins to return amidst an injury crisis.
But, enough worrying about uncontrollable variables and time to reflect on a job well done in September. It’s important the momentum continues into October, starting at home to a Brighton side who will be desperate to respond to their shock home defeat to Palace this week.
The weeks ahead include tricky trips to Cardiff and Millwall, but also very winnable home games against Palace and Portsmouth.
My hopes for October include more goals for a hard-working Michael Chopra, a continued resurgence in form from Jason Scotland and another set of strong away performances.
A few more clean sheets wouldn’t go amiss either.
Up The Town!
Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town Blogger
Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams