Game on, returning players, a chance for a youngster and a resurgence - talking points ahead of Bristol Rovers visit
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town take on Bristol Rovers this weekend. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.
After much discussion this game, and the rest of the English football schedule, goes ahead as planned.
The impact of the coronavirus has had a real effect on sport throughout the world, with Spain, the Netherlands and Italy halting play and many other leagues playing behind closed doors but, for now at least, England carries on as usual.
This subject will be top of the agenda again heading into next week's visit of Portsmouth, that's for sure, but for now we're playing on.
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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.
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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.