Sears, Jackson or both? And is it time for Jack the lad? Town’s in-house striker options
PUBLISHED: 13:05 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:05 11 October 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Injuries to Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison have diminished Ipswich Town’s striker options. In part two of this feature, STUART WATSON looks at Paul Hurst’s in-house options if he opts not to sign a free agent.
Get Freddie firing
Not so long ago it looked like Freddie Sears had one foot out of the Portman Road door.
The 28-year-old, who is in the last year of his contract, didn’t even make the bench for four games in succession. For the home game against Brentford, when the Blues operated with two up top, Paul Hurst still left him out altogether.
Injuries to both Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison have opened the door again though. Sears had a positive impact as a half-time substitute in the 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough last Tuesday night, then led the line on his own superbly in Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Swansea.
Ever selfless when asked to graft out of position on the wing and always ready to step in following spells in the cold. Town are lucky to have someone with such a professional attitude.
It seems a long time ago now, but the former West Ham youngster was a prolific goalscorer in his early days at the club following a £100k switch from Colchester. A proper run of games up top may just see him rediscover that confidence and form.
Stick with Jackson
The £1.6m fee spent on Kayden Jackson this summer represented Town’s biggest outlay on a player in almost a decade (Grant Leadbitter, 2009).
Hurst was obviously desperate to be reunited with the 24-year-old, whom he worked with briefly at Grimsby Town, following his 16-goal season for League Two champions Accrington Stanley.
His on-running transfer saga was not resolved until after the season opener. Of the 12 games Town have played since then he has started seven and come off the bench in five.
There have been signs of gradual improvement. He presses high and forces mistakes, there have been glimpses of him using his lightning pace to run in behind, while his angled headed finish against Brentford was expertly taken.
Overall, it’s fair to say he’s still finding his feet in the Championship.
Play them together
Ok, so neither of them fit the mould of target man, but could Sears and Jackson actually work as a strike partnership?
With games coming up against fellow strugglers QPR, Millwall and Preston, manager Hurst may consider taking out one of his holding midfielders, dropping Andre Dozzell or Jon Nolan into a deeper role and introducing another forward player.
Sears could play in the No.10 slot, the position in which he excelled in for Colchester to earn a move back up the pyramid, while Jackson could play on the last shoulder. With Grant Ward and Gwion Edwards on the wings it would be a dynamic front four.
The thought of Dozzell and/or Trevoh Chalobah providing the threaded through balls from deep is a mouth-watering one. Town would certainly have to keep the ball on the deck.
Jack the lad
Have the stars aligned for 18-year-old academy prospect Jack Lankester?
A whole host of young strikers appeared to be ahead of him in the pecking order, but several are now off the scene and the teenager, by all accounts a confident and likeable lad, was included on the bench for the first time at Swansea last weekend.
Recent England Under-19 international Ben Morris is on loan at Forest Green and, though he is not getting a lot of game time there, cannot be recalled until January.
Ben Folami made a good impression when brought into the first team towards the back of last season and has been scoring goals for the Under-23s, but he has now linked up with the Australia squad ahead of the Asian Football Confederation U19 Championships in Indonesia which run until November 4.
Aaron Drinan was talked up when he arrived from Irish side Waterford back in January, with comparisons made to countryman Daryl Murphy, but the 20-year-old is currently on loan at National League side Sutton United where he is yet to find the net in six starts and eight sub appearances.
In their absence, Lankester, who signed a two-year pro deal this summer after spending some time on loan at Bury Town last season, has impressed for the U23s. A direct and tricky player, he can play wide or through the middle.
“He’s certainly been bright since I joined and every time I’ve watched him he’s done something,” said Hurst. “It’s not always been throughout the course of the game but he’s always had moments.”
Could be a secret weapon off the bench in the coming weeks.