Ipswich Town take on Southampton, at Portman Road, in a Championship clash this afternoon (5.30pm, Sky Sports). Stuart Watson previews the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: Conor Chaplin's first half goal secured Ipswich Town a 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Good Friday.Conor Chaplin's first half goal secured Ipswich Town a 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Good Friday. (Image: Pagepix Ltd)


Let's start with some table talk and what's at stake. Kieran McKenna and the players are understandably trying to blank that out, but it's impossible for the rest of us to ignore it.

Good Friday couldn't have gone much better for Ipswich Town. A hard-fought 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers, allied with Leicester City, Southampton and Leeds United all dropping points, means the Blues sit top of the Championship table.

Town have won eight of their last nine. Win their last seven and back-to-back automatic promotions to the Premier League would be secured. That, remarkably, is the scenario going into Easter Monday.

It's tight at the top though. Leeds are just a point behind. Leicester trail by two with a game in hand. Southampton are 10 points back, but could cut that to one if they win at Portman Road this afternoon and claim maximum points from their two games in hand.

There are sure to be a lot more twists and turns and turns to come.

Five of Town's remaining matches are against teams currently in the top 10. Does that suit Kieran McKenna's men given they prefer to go toe-to-toe in open games of football? Or is a record of seven points claimed from a possible 24 against the current top six sides a slight cause for concern on that front?

Who will feel the pressure most - a group of newly-promoted players who are now within touching distance of something they would not have dreamed of just a few months back, or the trio of sides expected to return to the top-flight? Recent form would suggest the latter, but time will tell.

Leicester host Norwich in the lunchtime kick-off today (I'll let you debate what result would be best from that), with Leeds hosting Hull in an 8pm kick-off.

One thing for sure is that whatever happens this special group have achieved something special.

For context, 84 points has equalled the total posted by John Lyall's second-tier title winners in 1992/92. One more would equal the average tally required to secure a top-two spot in the Championship over the last decade. Three more would match what George Burley's promoted side of 99/00 achieved (87). Four more would break the club record for points in a 46-game season at second-tier level, while five more would break the record for most points secured by a newly-promoted Championship club (Southampton, 88pts, 2011/12).

Sing loud and sing proud. Teams like this don't come along very often.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town are back at Portman Road for the first time since a 6-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday.Ipswich Town are back at Portman Road for the first time since a 6-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday. (Image: Steve Waller)


There have been several high-scoring thrillers at Portman Road this campaign. Ipswich Town have won 4-3 twice (Blackburn and Rotherham) and lost by that scoreline once (Leeds). There have also been 3-2 wins against Cardiff, Wolves, Plymouth, Swansea and Bristol City. 

Sheffield Wednesday were put to the sword 6-0 last time on Suffolk soil. The Blues score, on average, three goals a game on Suffolk soil. No other season ticket in the land provides better value for money right now.

Southampton have also been involved in plenty of goalfests too. The south coast side have scored three or more goals on 12 occasions. They've also conceded three or more in eight different matches. March scorelines for them included a dramatic 4-3 win at Birmingham and 4-2 home victory against Sunderland. 

Hold on tight, we could be in for another wild night.

East Anglian Daily Times: Will Leif Davis be passed fit to play after struggling with illness?Will Leif Davis be passed fit to play after struggling with illness? (Image: Ross Halls)


Leif Davis - 15 assists for the season from left-back now - was 'struggling to breath' during his 70 minutes on the pitch at Ewood Park. He was one of a number of Town players to be affected by illness last week. 

Welsh international striker Kieffer Moore - six goals in 11 games since joining on loan from Bournemouth - has just played 184 minutes for country and club in the space of four days.

Will the key duo be ready to go again? Harry Clarke and Ali Al-Hamadi look next in the line to play those roles.

Cameron Burgess was rested at Blackburn having only just returned from international duty in Australia. It's likely that he'll replace George Edmundson at centre-back.

The likes of Jack Taylor, Lewis Travis, Jeremy Sarmiento, Marcus Harness and Kayden Jackson are also options to freshen things up for a second game in four days. There's the small matter of an East Anglian derby coming up on Saturday for McKenna to consider too, remember.

East Anglian Daily Times: Adam Armstrong celebrates after giving Southampton the lead against Middlesbrough on Good Friday. He's scored 19 goals this season.Adam Armstrong celebrates after giving Southampton the lead against Middlesbrough on Good Friday. He's scored 19 goals this season. (Image: PA)


Ipswich won 1-0 at St Mary's last August courtesy of Omari Hutchinson's tackle finish.

It was a night that proved newly-promoted Town were ready to mix it at this level. It was also clear that the freshly-relegated Saints, while packed with individual talent, were going to need to get through some teething issues as they adapted to new boss Russell Martin's obsession with possession playing style. 

A 3-1 home win against Leeds at the end of September proved the start of a club record 25-game unbeaten run (W18 D7) for Southampton. There were thumping home wins against Blackburn (4-0), Swansea (5-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (4-0) along the way.

Surviving a scare against Huddersfield in February (coming from 2-0 and 3-1 down to win 5-3) proved the prelude to a major blip though. They subsequently suffered defeats to Bristol City, Hull and Millwall before exiting the FA Cup at Liverpool.

Wins against Birmingham and Sunderland got things back on track, though Martin wasn't happy with the goals his side conceded in those games. On Friday, they conceded a 90th minute equaliser to draw 1-1 at home to Middlesbrough.

"I'm really annoyed with both the chances we missed and the rubbish one conceded," fumed Martin afterwards. "I'm really looking forward to the Ipswich game now. We go toe-to-toe with anyone. It won't change."

Marauding right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, one of the best players in the division, returned to action on Friday following an injury absence. The fact that Ryan Manning, Jan Bednarek, Joe Aribo, Joe Rothwell, Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Sekou Mara and Sam Edozie were all on the bench for that game speaks volumes of the Saints' squad depth.

East Anglian Daily Times: Southampton have a 69% win rate when Flynn Downes starts.Southampton have a 69% win rate when Flynn Downes starts. (Image: PA)


Flynn Downes joined Ipswich's academy at the age of eight and went on to make 100 appearances for his boyhood club.

The all-action midfielder, who wore the captain's armband at 20 and earned caps at England youth level, handed in a transfer request when Crystal Palace showed interest and eventually moved up the pyramid when joining Swansea for £1.5m. One outstanding season there saw him move to his beloved West Ham in a £9m deal.

After playing a bit-part role for the Hammers in 2022/23, he signed for Southampton on loan last summer, reuniting with his former Swans boss Martin. Once again, he has starred in the Championship. The team's win rate when he starts is 69%.

Tricky winger Ryan Fraser was a real hit at Portman Road during a season-long loan from Bournemouth back in 2015/16, while full-back James Bree had a spell at Ipswich on loan from Aston Villa in the latter stages of the relegation season of 2018/19.