The good news is that there will be a three-month break before we play Ipswich Town again, the bad news is that there is one more game between the two sides to get out of the way before we get that respite.
The same opposition, the same location, the same result saw us draw 1-1 with Ipswich on Saturday afternoon. After one of our poorer first-half showings of the season, we once again pulled something out of the bag at St Andrew’s to salvage a point. We remain teetering on the edge of having a great season and an underwhelming one, but for now, the focus is on getting through in the FA Cup for a tantalising away trip to either Bristol Rovers or Plymouth Argyle.
With Mark Robins commenting earlier in the season just how important runs in the cup competitions could be, I would expect him to name close to our strongest side for this game. Just what our strongest side currently looks like though remains an area of confusion.
Playing three centre-backs over the past month has been an effective use of the available players, however, it ran into problems in the first-half on Saturday against an Ipswich side that overran our midfield and were left with time and space both in front and behind our defence. The eventual comeback was aided by sacrificing a centre-back for an extra central midfielder, which may well be what Mark Robins is looking to revert to longer-term now that we have more midfielders and forwards available for selection.
Jamie Allen’s cameo impact on Saturday playing in almost a number 10 role may well see him come into the starting line-up for this game, depending on how Mark Robins feels about his fitness. If the second-half on Saturday becomes the template, that would see Callum O’Hare deployed on the left of the attack and Amadou Bakayoko on the right, although the manager might want to bring in more a more natural wide option in Jordy Hiwula so that Callum O’Hare can be played centrally.
Just who is deployed alongside Liam Kelly in central midfield is an area for competition. It is not known the extent of the knock that kept out Liam Walsh from Saturday’s game, while Zain Westbrooke struggled as Kelly’s midfield partner in the first-half. Via a process of elimination, that probably sees Jordan Shipley return to the starting line-up, unless Callum O’Hare is played over Jamie Allen as the central attacking midfielder and Allen moves into that central midfield spot alongside Kelly.
Last Time We Met
Without labouring too much more over Saturday’s game, Ipswich’s opening goal was notable in that it was the first goal we’ve conceded in a league game from a set-piece, while Maxime Biamou’s equaliser was perhaps also notable in that it was the kind of straightforward striker’s finish that we don’t associate with the Frenchman – could that be the sign of a run of goalscoring form to come?
Manager – Paul Lambert
Failure to hold onto the lead on Saturday means that Ipswich have now won just one of their past eight games and have drawn each of their past five. While the FA Cup is likely to be low down on Paul Lambert’s list of priorities for this season his side are in danger of slipping into a bad run of form that could put their promotion prospects in danger.
Lambert sprang a surprise on Saturday by naming 10 of the 11 players who started the initial FA Cup tie between the two teams – when he had been expected to rotate back to his strongest XI – which possibly belies that he still doesn’t have a sense of what his strongest team is. Whether he goes for a weaker team here to keep players fresh for Saturday’s league game against Bristol Rovers will be a keen area of interest.
Who To Look Out For?
Having rested Kayden Jackson on Saturday and with James Norwood returning from suspension, Paul Lambert has his first-choice strike pairing fresh for this game. However, with target-man Will Keane scoring in both of the fixtures between the two teams thus far, there is a selection dilemma in attack before taking into account whether the Ipswich manager actually wants to play his strongest team for this game.
As we have seen over the past week, Ipswich are a side that can control possession but seem to be at their most dangerous when pressing the opposition and playing quick interchanges between their attacking players. Along with their dangerous strikers, Ipswich’s energetic wide players of Danny Rowe and Gwion Edwards could be deployed here to overwhelm us in our attempts to play out from the back.
Elsewhere, with Flynn Downes the first-choice in central midfield, Paul Lambert still seems to be trying to find the best partner for a midfielder who can do a bit of everything. Andre Dozzell has been solid alongside him in our encounters over the past week without doing much to stand out, while the experienced Cole Skuse perhaps doesn’t quite offer the dynamism Lambert is looking for. This game could well be a chance for the creative Emyr Huws to step up his recovery from injury to help Ipswich find their strongest midfield partnership.
Areas To Exploit
While Ipswich have had the quality to put the two games against us to bed, they seem to have played within themselves in trying to contain the game once taking the lead. Although this game being played at Portman Road theoretically should engender Ipswich being more proactive, their away form this season has been better than their home form, perhaps due to their difficulties in converting dominance into goals.
This game could well be an opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves that we can win against a good side away from home. The question remains as to whether we’re capable of adapting our preferred game-plan to get results on the road, but perhaps the confidence boost of getting a win here is just what we need.