Ipswich Town’s trip to Bristol Rovers to go ahead as government ‘consider banning sporting fixtures’ due to coronavirus
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are due to take on Bristol Rovers in League One this weekend. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game at the Memorial Stadium.
There's only one topic in town at the moment - coronavirus.
As things stand the Blues' visit to Bristol Rovers on Saturday remains on despite swirling discussion surrounding the possibility of matches being played behind closed doors or postponed as the UK heightens its response to the virus.
Speaking this evening, prime minister Boris Johnson said the cancellation of sporting events is something being considered by a conclusion is yet to be reached, meaning this weekend's games look set to go ahead as planned in front of a crowd.
An EFL statement this evening reads: 'In light of today's announcement by the UK Government, EFL matches will continue to take place as normal while the guidance from the relevant authorities remains that there is no medical rationale to close or cancel sporting events at this time.
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'The EFL, however, will continue to work with Government and relevant stakeholders to further develop contingency plans to ensure the League is best placed to act as and when any potential restrictions may come into force.
'Imediately following the announcement by the Prime Minister, EFL Chair Rick Parry held discussions with the FA and Premier League and agreed on a consistent approach ahead of this weekend's round of fixtures. Matters will be further discussed at a meeting called by European Football's Governing body, UEFA, on Tuesday 17 March.
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'The League will continue to liaise with the Government regarding ongoing developments and will continue to work with Clubs to ensure players, staff and supporters are updated and appraised accordingly.
'These matters are, of course, subject to change and we will update as appropriate.
Spain's La Liga yesterday postponed all matches for a fortnight to help battle the virus, as did the Dutch Eredivisie, while no Serie A games will be played until the start of April at the earliest as Italy continues to deal with a mass outbreak there. German Bundesliga games are being played behind closed doors.
In England, Arsenal players were quarantined after coming into contact with the owner of Olympiacos, who subsequently was confirmed to have contracted the virus, while three Leicester City players are currently in isolation after showing symptoms. There has been a coronavirus 'scare' at Chelsea, while Real Madrid have isolated their entire staff in Spain. Two players in Serie A, as well as others in Germany, have confirmed cases of coronavirus.
UEFA yesterday announced they will be holding a meeting on Tuesday where member leagues will discuss plans for completing their seasons, as well as the schedules for the Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2020.
Elsewhere in the world of sport, the NBA has been suspended until further notice, the Miami Open tennis tournament has been cancelled and all ATP activity suspended for up to six weeks and this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix scrapped.
But, for now, Town's League One visit to Bristol Rovers is unaffected. It does, though, seem only a matter of time before the impact of the virus is felt in British sport.
Straight back in?
Okay, onto the game itself. Kayden Jackson and Flynn Downes return from suspension for the visit to The Gas, with both sorely missed.
Jackson missed Town's defeats by Blackpool, Fleetwood and Coventry after getting sent off in the closing stages of the defeat by Oxford, with the Blues failing to score in all three of those games as they struggled to mount regular attacking threat.
Downes missed the Fleetwood and Coventry losses after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season, with his absence leaving the Blues lacking midfield bite, drive and quality.
Both will likely return to the starting XI at the Memorial Stadium, with Downes surely considered one of the first names on the team sheet. He's effective in a midfield two or three and his return is a 'no-brainer'.
Jackson's role may depend on the fitness of Will Keane, who himself missed the Coventry loss with a groin problem. If Lambert again opts to field a 4-3-3 formation Keane may be better suited to the lone-striker role, with Jackson having struggled there in the past. The former Accrington man offers a more regular goal threat, though.
Kane Vincent-Young was due to see a specialist on Monday in the wake of a setback regarding his groin problem, while Danny Rowe is pushing for involvement once again.
Is the door ajar?
I make no apology for a little repetition, but it's surely time we saw more of Armando Dobra.
The Albanian teenager has been discussed in the lead-up to each of Ipswich's last three games but has been on the bench for each, making cameo appearances in two.
But could Alan Judge's season-ending metatarsal injury open the door for him to finally claim a first league start.
We have seen enough of him now to know what he's all about. The youngster's positive, determined, talented and fearless. He likes to run with the ball, take on his man and drive towards goal - all good qualities given the Blues have lacked dribbling ability to break the lines this season.
It's already been a good week for the 18-year-old, following a superb goal for the Under 23s at Cardiff and a first call-up to the Albania Under 21 squad, so could the teenager end it with a league milestone? That's down to Lambert.
It's a good time to...
It looked as if a well-worn football cliché was going to be particularly relevant for the Blues until Rovers beat Sunderland on Tuesday night.
The Bristol side were in the thick of the promotion mix before Christmas, when they beat Ipswich 2-1 at Portman Road, but have since fallen away big time.
A run of just one win in 18 games came to an end on Tuesday night, with that run including defeats by MK Dons and Southend as well as a draw with Bolton.
So it really was 'looking like a good time to play' Rovers.
Jonson Clarke-Harris, Rovers' leading marksman with 16 goals, scored both as the Black Cats were downed, meaning the men from the Mem will be going into this game with a welcome boost in confidence.
That's something the Blues could do with themselves, following a run of seven defeats in nine games which has seen their own promotion hopes blown out of the water.
It's been a while
This will be Town's first visit to Bristol Rovers in more than 22 years.
The last, in January 1998, ended in a 1-1 draw after Micky Stockwell rescued a point after Peter Beadle had given the hosts the lead. That took the FA Cup tie to a replay in which David Johnson scored the only goal to take Town through to round four.
You have to go back to August 1991 for the last league visit, with that game ending in a 3-3 draw.