North Stander: Tougher tests to come, but lots of positives - and seeing Jack back is superb
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North Stander Terry Hunt shares his thoughts on Ipswich Town’s win at Bristol Rovers, and the club’s promising start to the season...
Hang on, haven’t we been here before? I’m getting the strangest feeling of deja vu...
Yes, of course - it was this time last year, when Town made a storming start to the League One campaign, and lots of people (including me) got rather carried away. Then it all fell apart.
So, I suspect nobody will view this start as anything other than encouraging. Even if we get quite deep into the season still near the top of the pile, there will always be that nagging concern about when it’s all going to collapse.
But let’s be positive and recognise the good start we’ve made. Two games, two wins, four goals scored, none conceded, and top of the table. That is, undoubtedly, the perfect start in terms of stats.
Of course, the opposition hasn’t been great. Both Wigan and Bristol Rovers have already sunk into the bottom six, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they stay there all season.
But, as the well-worn footballing cliche goes, you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and I suspect there will be lots of very poor quality teams in this division. That was certainly the case last season, and I don’t think that’s changed dramatically.
As we all know, the big test will arrive when we come up against top six sides. It was a challenge we spectacularly failed to meet last season, and in the end was one of the reasons for our dramatic collapse.
That’s in the future. For now, let’s look at what has been a really good first week of the campaign. There are lots of positives.
Don’t forget that we’ve won two games while suffering lots of absences because of injuries and, in the case of Flynn Downes, unhelpful transfer talk.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that we’ve been missing our two best players from last season, Downes and Kane Vincent-Young. It was good to see Downes come on and make an instant impact against Bristol Rovers. Let’s hope he stays, puts thoughts of a move to the Premier League to the back of his mind, and plays a big part in our promotion campaign.
I’ve always thought that the Championship should be the next step for young Downes, where he can see how he adapts to the higher level. I hope he makes that step up with Ipswich.
The headline news at Bristol was, of course, the return of Jack Lankester. The poor lad has had an awful time, suffering two serious back injuries which have kept him on the sidelines for the best part of two years.
Before the injuries, he showed immense promise, playing wide right and cutting in on his left foot. It’s great to see him back, coming off the bench and setting up our two late, match-winning goals. Jack can be a big player for us.
It was very interesting to see how much difference our three substitutes made on Saturday. Downes, Lankester and Oli Hawkins all helped to change a game which looked like it was drifting towards a dull goalless draw.
It shows, once again, how strong our squad is in this admittedly pretty poor division. That obviously should be a strength, but last year Paul Lambert somehow managed to turn it into a negative, with his constant chopping and changing.
I’m not getting carried away - honestly! - but our squad really should see us into the top six. We are not going to run away with the league, or anything like it, but we really should be strong contenders for the play-offs. That will depend on the manager doing his job well.
At least we’ve got the Carabao Cup out of the way, so that potential distraction gone. We only have the ridiculous EFL Trophy now. I was speaking to a Portsmouth fan who was trying to convince me how exciting the competition became in the later stages.
Really? I’d much rather we didn’t have to compete in it. There is only one, crystal clear priority for me, and that’s to escape from this dreadful division. I was looking at our fixtures. How many excited me? Errr....that will be none, then.
Let’s concentrate on what’s important, use our strong squad, and get the heck out of League One. And, no, I’m not getting carried away....