Top of the league with 11 games to play. These are exciting times indeed. It sets up every game between now and the end of the season to be tight, nervous battles of will, but is a far more preferable position to be in than the years of forgettable mediocrity the majority of Coventry City fans have endured.
The only way to reduce the tension ramping up towards the end of the campaign is to keep winning. Starting with this trip to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town, the next five games are an opportunity to put points on the board while our closest promotion rivals battle it out with one another. Four wins or more from this period keeps us in this strong position with a month of the season remaining.
While it wasn’t the most fluent of performances against Sunderland, the 3-4-2-1 set-up with an attacking trident of Matt Godden, Jamie Allen and Callum O’Hare looks set to be what Mark Robins will stick with between now and the end of the season.
Although recent attacking performances can be forgiven for the fixture congestion and the difficulty of the opposition, we need to demonstrate we can move back up through the gears now that we have a clearer fixture list. If not, it’s putting a lot of pressure on an, admittedly impressive, defensive unit not to make any mistakes or for opponents to produce individual moments of magic.
With even the bench looking settled right now, it’s highly doubtful that there will be any changes to the starting XI or 18-man squad for this game. Although there is some concern over Liam Kelly’s recent performances, a lack of viable alternatives means he’ll be allowed to play himself back into form.
Last Time We Met
Back in December, it seemed as if we were locked into an eternity of 1-1 draws with Ipswich Town. After an FA Cup tie followed by a league meeting at St Andrew’s, the stalemate was broken by a fluent first-half showing from the Sky Blues at Portman Road in the cup replay. Goals from Jordan Shipley and Maxime Biamou set us on our way to a convincing away victory, made slightly nervy towards the end via a strike from Ipswich’s Luke Garbutt which ultimately proved to be a consolation.
The Manager – Paul Lambert
Lambert looked to be rebuilding his reputation earlier in the season when he led Ipswich to a strong start to the campaign with there looking to be little doubt the Tractor Boys would bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
However, a shocking run of four wins from his last 20 league matches looks set to finish off Lambert’s managerial career. Unable to settle on a starting line-up, formation or style of football, Lambert seems to have made matters worse with his constant tinkering of the team. That he hasn’t already been sacked has been down to the bizarre decision to hand Lambert a five-year contract back in January while the poor run was well under way. Six points adrift of the play-offs, this game looks set to Paul Lambert’s last stand in the Portman Road dug-out.
Who To Look Out For?
Not only is this a good time to play Ipswich Town in terms of the trajectory of their season, but their three best players – strikers James Norwood and Kayden Jackson, along with key midfielder Flynn Downes – are either injured or suspended for this game.
While there is still plenty of talent available to Paul Lambert, most of it is stacked towards fairly flighty, creative midfielders such as Jon Nolan, Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop, and Andre Dozzell who are all capable of taking hold of games at this level but haven’t been able to develop any momentum this season due to the manager’s constant tinkering.
The great hope at the moment for Ipswich is in two youngsters – the skillful winger Armando Dobra and powerful striker Tyreece Simpson – who haven’t been tarnished by the stench of mediocrity that has set in around the club. While more senior attacking players such as Alan Judge, Will Keane and Freddie Sears are match-winners on their day, they haven’t demonstrated that they are capable of doing so on a consistent basis this season.
While the rest of the team is largely dysfunctional, Ipswich do have a strong defence marshaled by the impressive youngster Luke Woolfenden – who was surprisingly dropped for the defeat to Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night – who are capable of holding the opposition at arm’s length if they get the opportunity to dig in.
Where The Game Will Be Won or Lost
The attitude of the Ipswich players in this game could well be crucial on how this plays out. While it appears that they have lost all motivation to play for the manager, a win here could change the complexion of their season, proving that they can beat the best in the division and keeping the play-offs just about within touching distance.
As league leaders, we may well see teams naturally raise their games against us to prove a point to themselves. As such, it’s important that we impose ourselves on games early to demonstrate why we’re up here.
If we can take another early lead here, it feels as if the atmosphere at the stadium will turn on Ipswich. This is the kind of situation that promotion-winning sides tend to be able to take advantage of.