Joe Ironside carries the mantle of a traditional No 9 at Cambridge United
Joe Ironside is making a big impression for Cambridge United in Sky Bet League One.
The striker has taken to life in the higher division with aplomb, scoring five goals in seven league games to sit joint-third in the top scorers list so far.
In his first season at the U's, Ironside struck up a lethal partnership with Paul Mullin, who has now headed for pastures new, as they took League Two by storm.
But United head coach Mark Bonner said: “His role has not changed too much in the team. The supporting players probably haven’t been as close to him as maybe Paul would have been when we played a front two more often.
“But he is the type of striker he is, and whether he plays on his own or with somebody, he carries that physicality and that direct target for us that we need sometimes in the game.
“I think our club, in our history, and I know from my own perspective that I love seeing a striker like that in the Cambridge team - and I think he has carried that mantle really well.
“I’m not surprised that he has adjusted. I know people would have said at the time they were unsure of his goalscoring qualities but that is the art of scouting - finding somebody that you think can fit in your team.
“We always believed he would be a goalscoring striker for us and a real target.
“He got to double figures last year, I think 15 in all competitions, and is already on five this year. He is having a great start to the season, and he is stepping up to the level but that’s what we’ve all got to do because it is another level and we have to do it consistently.
“It’s good from him so far but the expectation is that he and we continue that.”
Ironside's style is typified for his never-say-die spirit, perhaps epitomised by playing three games with a fractured sternum last season.
He has just picked up in League One where he left off, and Bonner explained that it is an approach that runs throughout the squad.
“For all of our players, we need that really committed, physical approach,” he said, “so whether that is from a disciplined starting point where you’re not chasing everything, but when you’ve got to go to work, you’ve got to go to work.
“Whether that is physical in tackles, in interceptions, in blocks, in our defensive side of the game, whether that is a pressing game, whether that is a recovery game running hard back to your own goal or on the counter attack to connect the game - we need players throughout the team that are going to play like that.
“It’s got to be the bedrock of our team really, that work ethic, organisation, spirit and togetherness and there is no excuse for us not to do that.
“We can lose games and have games that we find harder than others but I’m pretty determined that is never a trait that you can throw at us that we don’t commit physically to games - and that is what we’ve got to keep doing.”