Part two of the Ipswich Town trilogy, let’s hope this clash with Ipswich Town is more ‘Empire Strikes Back’ than ‘Attack of the Clones’.
Playing an opponent again over a short space of time makes for an interesting dynamic, allowing the two teams to size each other up, adjust their game-plans and attempt to make the best use of that new information. With Ipswich deploying their second-string last week against our strongest XI, it feels that the circumstances favour our opposition, allowing them to pinpoint our weaknesses without playing their strongest hand. However, football is strange enough that it isn’t certain that Ipswich using a theoretically stronger team this time out will make the difference between a draw and a victory for them.
With absentees over the past month or so starting to return from injury, Mark Robins now has genuine selection dilemmas to contend with, having been essentially forced into deploying the makeshift 3-4-2-1 system that had proven reasonably effective but seemed to come unstuck against an Ipswich Town side last week that could dominate long spells of possession.
It seems most likely that Mark Robins will opt for the system that dragged us back into last Sunday’s game, with Callum O’Hare and Amadou Bakayoko handed starts ahead of Jordan Shipley and Zain Westbrooke in order to provide us with a little more attacking impetus. Both Shipley and Westbrooke would be unfortunate to miss out given their strong recent form, but it’s hard to find a system to play the duo along with the more important Liam Kelly and Liam Walsh that doesn’t leave us short of an attacking presence.
Elsewhere, Sam McCallum looks likely to continue at left wing-back after being handed a start in last week’s FA Cup tie with Ipswich which seems to indicate that he is Mark Robins’ preferred option in that role. Kyle McFadzean’s position in the side continues to be an area to question, while he his physical presence is important, the number of costly mistakes he is making continues to mount to the extent that it cancels out the positive contribution he makes. As it stands, he just about keeps his place in the side, but with increasing options further up the pitch, he feels a player worth sacrificing in order to give us an extra attacking player.
Last Time We Met
It was a slightly strange game last week, with us starting well before Ipswich dominated much of the rest of the contest without really threatening our goal. On the one hand, it was excellent to salvage a replay against an Ipswich side that looked to have snuffed the life out of the game. On the other, it was a game we could, and possibly should, have won with given that we had the better chances and conceded a goal from an avoidable error.
Manager – Paul Lambert
Blessed with a huge squad, Paul Lambert has been able to hand fringe players minutes over last week’s FA Cup tie and a mid-week EFL Trophy match with Peterborough United, he now has a fresh strongest XI to deploy for this encounter. However, just what Paul Lambert’s strongest XI is has been a mystery throughout the season, with three or four changes per game being commonplace.
While Ipswich sit pretty in second-place in the division and well on track to win promotion back to the Championship, that lack of continuity and a sense of a playing style has left fans feeling unsure about the longer-term direction of a club that has looked to cut expenditure in recent years and may struggle in the second-tier if and when they return. Having won just one of their last seven games (with that one win being an FA Cup replay), Paul Lambert could really do with a win here to get his team back on track.
It will be interesting to see what lessons Paul Lambert takes into this game from our recent previous encounter. While he’ll have seen that his team can control a game against us with possession, their most threatening moments came from when they caught us in transition and could get our defence on the turn.
The pace of first-choice striker Kayden Jackson should worry us immensely in that regard. With seven goals to his name this season, Jackson is not just a speed merchant but can link play adeptly when required. Set to be the figurehead of a more mobile attacking line than last week’s offering of the largely isolated target-man Will Keane, limiting Jackson’s threat could be the key to us to coming out of this game with a positive result.
Sacrificing the control in possession that playing technical midfielders in Jon Nolan and Andre Dozzell, the vastly-experienced Cole Skuse will make Ipswich that extra bit more combative, alongside academy product Flynn Downes, who supplied the energy and aggression last week. That change in the midfield dynamic, is another area that looks set to make this a different game to last week.
Elsewhere, further solidity looks set to come from bringing club stalwart Luke Chambers back in at central defence alongside Luke Woolfenden and the sturdy Janoi Donacien at right-back, placing an emphasis on Luke Garbutt on the left side to get up and support the attack when required.
Areas To Exploit
The indication is that Ipswich are going to play a less controlled game this week, which is likely to mean we’ll be the team dictating possession this time around. It is vital then that we make better use of spells of possession than we have been over the past month or so, which will hopefully limit the danger that a quicker and more combative Ipswich Town side will pose on the counter-attack.
As we saw last week, Ipswich’s defence can be got at when pressed, adding the slower, but more commanding, Luke Chambers into the mix could be an area to specifically target with the experienced centre-back showing signs of age over the past couple of seasons.