Can Ipswich Town finally make October a month to remember?
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Ipswich Town have won just one game in the month of October over the previous five years. STUART WATSON looks at the fixtures ahead.
Sheffield United (a)
Date: Saturday, October 14
Current position: 3rd
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Sheffield United were dubbed the ‘Norwich of North’ by Town fans after several memorable and often feisty clashes with Neil Warnock’s men in the late 90s and early 00s. It’s a fixture that has not been played for six years following the Blades’ relegation, but now they are back.
The Bramall Lane outfit claimed 100 points and scored 92 goals last season to claim the League One title. Winning is a habit and they’ve kept the momentum going, claiming seven victories from their opening 11 league games.
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Chris Wilder has overseen promotions from the National League (Oxford), League Two (Northampton) and League One now. You wouldn’t bet against him adding the Championship to that list at some stage.
There are no ‘star names’ in the ranks. The summer recruitment was a mix of experienced Championship players like former Blues loanee Richard Stearman and veteran striker Clayton Donaldson, established lower league men like Enda Stevens and George Baldock, as well as young Premier League loans likes Cameron Carter-Vickers and Jamal Blackman.
Striker Billy Sharp, once heavily linked with Town, is the danger man. He’s scored four in seven so far, having netted 30 last season.
Norwich City (h)
Date: Sunday, October 22
Current position: 9th
Town may be wishing this fixture had come just a few weeks earlier, as it did last season, as that lot up the road seem to ominously be getting themselves together after their new era got off to a shaky start.
It’s a continental style operation up the A140 these days, with sporting director Stuart Webber overseeing recruitment and German head coach Daniel Farke, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund’s second team, focussing on the training field and tactics.
In the first few games an inflexible pass-out-the-back approach was disastrous. A high press easily undid them and they were comprehensively beaten by Sunderland, Aston Villa and Millwall.
Since then there’s been a remarkable transformation from flaky defence to steely operators. Since that 4-0 humbling at The Den, they’ve gone seven undefeated, conceding just twice.
German trio Timm Klose, Christophe Zimmermann (centre-backs) and Tom Trybull (midfield) have been key, but without the injured Alex Pritchard in midfield and a shortage of striker options there has been a lack of goals (11 in 11).
Town, as if you need reminding, haven’t won an East Anglian derby since 2009. For the first time in a long time though they go into this game not the outright underdogs.
Burton Albion (a)
Date: Saturday, October 28
Current position: 21st
Town did do the double over Burton last season, but were given a tough examination on both occasions. And the Brewer’s 2-1 home win over Fulham last month was a reminder of what they are capable of.
This is the difficult ‘second season’ for the Staffordshire side though after they beat the odds to finish 20th in the club’s first-ever season at second-tier level.
Replicating that feat is going to be a tough task for Nigel Clough given star midfielder Jackson Irvine departed for Hull this summer, while the spine of last season’s side was built around loan players who needed replacing.
They’ve lost their last two games 4-0 – both at home – against Aston Villa and Wolves. They’ve scored just six and conceded 23.
Cardiff City (a)
Date: Tuesday, October 31
Current position: 1st
The Welsh dragons are breathing fire as veteran boss Neil Warnock works his magic on yet another club.
Top of the table, they have seven victories to their name – including the notable scalps of Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Wolves and Leeds.
Winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has been a revelation after a nomadic life in the lower leagues, while Danish striker Kenneth Zohore is attracting plenty of Premier League attention.
Town have to contend with a 240-mile midweek trip too.