All eyes on Ipswich Town defence as Blues face tough month to test top-six credentials
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town sit second in the Championship after picking up 12 points from their opening five games of the season. The Blues now play five games, starting on Saturday, before the next international break. CHRIS BRAMMER assesses the challenges ahead.
Few would have given Ipswich Town much hope of netting 12 points from a possible 15 and sitting second in the Championship, going into the first international break, given the events of the first month.
Town, who recorded their lowest league finish for 58 years last season, played the final two games of August without a recognised centre-half and, despite having time before the transfer window closed, failed to adequately fill the void.
A whole host of midfielders missed the whole, or big chunks, of the first month too, including new faces Tom Adeyemi, Bersant Celina and Emyr Huws, and the unfortunate Andre Dozzell.
However, the emergence of Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam, alongside Cole Skuse and Grant Ward softened that blow.
New players sometimes take time to settle, meanwhile, but Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn – the latter playing out of position on the right of midfield for much of his first month – hit the ground running.
September’s first game comes on Saturday at QPR.
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The Blues head to a London with a perfect record at home this season – albeit they have only played twice at Loftus Road, but they have beaten Reading and Hull, two teams fancied to be challenging for the top-six.
It will be interesting to see how Town react after their first league defeat of the season, and how a back-four or five, without a recognised centre-half, cope at the back against the physicality of Matt Smith and Conor Washington.
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Both players possess a huge physical threat – especially Smith, who is an ‘old-fashioned’ centre-forward that likes to bully defenders.
The Blues have rode their luck at times this season, and against better teams would have been punished more.
However, they are second on merit, mainly down to a clinical goal to shots-on-target ratio. The potential return of goalscoring midfielder Tom Adeyemi will also be an added boost.
Prediction: D 1-1
After QPR, the Blues host a BOLTON side with just two points to their name this season.
The Trotters’ two draws this season came away at Millwall and Birmingham – sides Town have taken maximum points from.
They have had a busy transfer window, going mainly down the free transfer route, and new signing from Cardiff, Craig Noone, will add creativity down the right
But if Ipswich are to challenge near the top, they need to be beating the likes of Bolton.
Prediction: W 2-0
Four points from two games would be the ideal preparation for a daunting-looking trip to LEEDS.
The Whites have drawn both of their home games 0-0 so far, but having won all three on the road, it’s likely they will soon turn around their Elland Road form.
In Mick McCarthy’s early years at Town, the Blues mastered the art of frustrating sides away from home, while lacking a cutting edge to finish teams off.
They’re a different proposition now, Ipswich always having a goal in them so, on current form, a smash-and-grab 1-0 away win is on the cards!
The Blues are also seemingly more susceptible at the back though, without Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith and Adam Webster,, and with Leeds having winnable home games against Burton and Birmingham coming up, Town could be in for a tricky time.
Prediction: L 2-0
After Leeds come SUNDERLAND, at Portman Road, under the lights.
The Black Cats have taken five points from five, and it is unclear in which direction they are headed, following relegation from the Premier League.
In their favour, they have a savvy manager in Simon Grayson and have recruited well in the summer with the signings of Jonny Williams, Lewis Grabban, Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman.
They still have that soft underbelly though, as the recent 3-0 loss at Barnsley will testify.
Home games against Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff, plus a trip to Hull – all prior to the Ipswich clash – should give a clearer indication of where they will be fighting this year.
Prediction: W 2-1
The final game before the next international break comes when BRISTOL CITY visit Ipswich,.
Midfielder Bobby Reid has caught the eye with four goals, while the arrival of West Brom winger Jonathan Leko will add pace and creativity on the flanks.
Both teams have been busy in both boxes this season and their encounter could produce goals.
Prediction: D 2-2