Josh Earl clears the ball during Town's League One match against Burton Albion Picture: ITFC

YOU may be familiar with an ITV show currently doing the rounds called The Masked Singer.

Well, Ipswich Town have their own veiled star at the moment in the shape of on-loan defender Josh Earl.

After a late cameo at Sunderland, the Preston man, wearing a protective mask because of a facial injury suffered in training, was in from the start for the recent stalemate at AFC Wimbledon.

He then made his first appearance at Portman Road in last week's swashbuckling 4-1 victory against Burton.

On an afternoon laced with goals and slick attacking football, it was the frontmen who rightly dominated the headlines.

But Earl was just as impressive - an unsung hero operating on the left of a back three, alongside Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden.

In fact, I can barely remember him doing anything wrong.

He defended solidly and was unruffled and unflappable - a calm, reassuring presence throughout.

His standout moment was a heroic late block to deny Lucas Akins.

Both Earl and Town will face much tougher tests than the one posed by a poor, limited Burton side.


Masked man - Ipswich loanee Josh Earl Picture: ITFC

However, the early signs are that boss Paul Lambert has brought a gem to East Anglia.

He ticks every box in terms of what you would want from a loan signing - young, talented and, crucially, hungry.

The next challenge for both club and player is Saturday's home clash with Oxford.

Earl was an unused substitute for the reverse fixture at the Kassam Stadium on January 14, as he was for subsequent matches against Tranmere and Lincoln.

Now, against the same opposition, it could be his turn to slip out of the shadows and take centre stage.

Certainly, a team performance in the same ilk as last week would go down a storm with Town fans.

It was a vast improvement and, as we know, home form is ultimately going to decide their side's promotion fate.

Town have a dozen games left and, in a strange quirk, eight are at Portman Road.

Oxford, Fleetwood, Coventry, Portsmouth, Southend, Bolton and Rochdale all pay a visit before MK Dons bring the curtain down on another season (play-offs aside) on May 3.

Karl Robinson's side head east on the back of a 5-0 thumping of Wimbledon, on Tuesday.

But aside from that, their recent form has been patchy, at best.

Just two wins in nine tells its own story and if Ipswich want to stay in the hunt for automatic promotion - they're currently five points behind second-placed Coventry, having played two games more - then three points, it would seem, are a necessity.

Just getting back in the play-off zone would be a great starting point.