The Verdict: Town exit Carabao Cup to Premier League Fulham
We take a look at the talking points from Town’s exit from the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Far from disgraced
The Premier League side always looked like they had another few gears if needed on Wednesday, but in truth Fulham won the game without having to really break a sweat.
The Town side were organised and defended soundly throughout the tie, the deciding goal was one a few moments quality in the game, quality you expect from players playing in the top tier of English football.
Scott Parker’s side were dominant with the ball and had six shots on target compared to one effort from the Blues, which in my eyes was more of a cross from Gwion Edwards late in the game.
However, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Despite Fulham dominating possession, Paul Lambert’s men were comfortable for much of the game. There were several opportunities for Town to test Areola in the Fulham goal, but the final bit of quality, whether that be a shot or cross, was lacking.
Paul Lambert made seven changes from Sunday’s victory over Wigan, with only James Wilson, Toto Nsiala, Jon Nolan and Andre Dozzell retaining their places in the side.
Usually if Lambert made wholesale changes fans would be questioning the Town manager and I will be returning with Lambert Lottery, but on this occasion we all accepted changes was probably the best move.
Wednesday’s tie was Town’s fourth game in 11 days, with a trip to Bristol Rovers on the horizon on Saturday. Veterans Stephen Ward and Luke Chambers were rested, the trio of Dozzell, Nolan and Bishop were rested either from the start of withdrawn in the second half, again with Saturday in mind.
Armando Dobra was given a rare opportunity in the side, one you would presume would have gone to Jack Lankester if the youngster was available (concussion). Oli Hawkins and James Norwood both got more minutes in the tank ahead of their returns to full fitness.
In terms of performances, David Cornell probably had his best display in a Town shirt. The former Northampton keeper made a superb double save to keep Town in the tie during the second half.
Oli Hawkins also showed that he will be an asset for Town going forward. The striker led the line well and it was rather refreshing watching a Town striker winning aerial battles, let’s just hope the opportunity to go more direct isn’t too tempting when Hawkins is in the side.
Downes back in the fold
My eyes weren’t on the starting eleven when my phone pinged at 6pm, it was drawn straight to the substitute bench where I was delighted to see Flynn Downes back involved in the squad.
The midfielder had missed the previous three matches after being given time off to get his head clear following the Blues rejecting an offer form Crystal Palace for the 21-year-old.
Speaking after the game, Lambert suggested that the midfielder will now be considered for selection with the focus being on playing football.
“We had a chat yesterday (Monday) and I understand the rigmarole he has been going through,” Lambert told iFollow Ipswich.
“You have to remember he’s only a young man. Now is the time to let him play his football. He has a fight on his hands to get back in the team. Teddy [Bishop], Doz [Andre Dozzell], Nolo [Jon Nolan] and Emyr [Huws] are all doing well.
“There’s good competition in that area. Let’s let Flynn get back out there and focus on playing.”
You can certainly question the actions of Downes (or his new agent) over the last couple of weeks, but you can’t question the quality he brings to the side.
His little cameo agasint Fulham provef that Ipswich Town are simply a better team with Flynn Downes in it, let’s hope we can see the midfielder wearing the blue shirt for the remainder of the season.
Focus on the league
It is the typical line after being knocked out of the cup, but Town really can now focus their efforts on gaining promotion from League One.
Due to the congested start to the season, the first four rounds of the Carabao Cup are all due to be played on consecutive weeks. Fulham will now host Sheffield Wednesday next Tuesday/Wednesday with Paul Lambert’s side having a rare free week in preparation for the visit of Rochdale.
Asking the likes of Stephen Ward, Luke Chambers, Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop to play Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday is a tough ask, with Lambert understandably rotating his pack.
Instead, the Town boss can now fully focus on ensuring his squad is ready to put a strong promotion bid in place.
Images: Richard Calver / TOTT