Lambert's big decision as Blues bid to stop Ferguson's 'holy trinity' - talkings points as Ipswich host Posh
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 February 2020
Ipswich Town host Peterborough United at Portman Road this afternoon. ANDY WARREN looks at the big talking points heading into the League One contest.
A different challenge
The Blues were pushed to the limit at Rotherham on Tuesday night and, ultimately, they couldn't cope with the physical, fast and direct approach of the league-leading Millers.
The challenge will be a different one when Peterborough come to Town this afternoon but it's just as stiff.
Posh, following a dip in form which saw them claim just two points from six games over Christmas and New Year, have got themselves going again and are now on a run of three-successive victories which has seen them climb to fourth in the League One table.
There's no doubting their strength comes in attack, where strikers Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa have combined for 31 league goals so far this season, but the latter has found himself on the bench during those three victories with his place taken by Siriki Dembele. Eisa could return this afternoon, though.
Posh owner Darren MacAnthony set his stall out early and was clear Toney, wanted by Premier League and Championship clubs, would not be leaving this month despite sides being willing to pay more than £10million for his services. He has been true to his word.
That means Ipswich will have to handle the league's best striker, who combines power, pace and an eye for goal with clever movement and high workrate.
Making up Peterborough's 'holy trinity' for much of this season has been creative force Marcus Maddison, pulling the strings as a No.10, but, after a protracted transfer saga which saw him linked with Birmingham and Charlton, he eventually moved to the Championship with Hull yesterday.
They replaced him weeks in advance, though, with former Colchester man Sammie Szmodics hitting the ground running with two goals in his first four Peterborough games atfer joining on loan from Bristol City.
The physical test won't be as tough as the one faced at the New York Stadium in midweek, but the Blues will be stretched by Posh's relentless attacking style in what promises to be an exciting match-up at Portman Road.
Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert has named the same starting XI in each of the last three games, but at least one change is expected for this game.
Emyr Huws went off with an ankle injury at Rotherham on Tuesday night and, while Lambert insists it's 'just a knock' it seems serious enough to keep him out of this game.
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So, who comes into the side? Cole Skuse, a first-team stalwart who has had to make do with a place on the bench in recent weeks and Jon Nolan are the two real options here.
Skuse brings experience, a calmness on the ball and a clever football brain which allows him to go about his vital work unnoticed at times. Nolan can sweep the ball around the field and, in theory, offer more of an attacking threat than Skuse is able to.
Teddy Bishop would be another candidate in a deeper midfield role were it not for the knee injury he has picked up. Lambert says it's not too serious but not worth the risk and, while he could potentially make the bench, he surely won't be in a position to start with Alan Judge seemingly nailed on to start again as a No.10.
The other injury worry is Josh Earl, who is yet to make his Ipswich debut after signing on loan from Preston. He's 'taken a knock to his cheekbone' and as such missed the loss at Rotherham and, in all likelihood, won't be involved again.
So injuries may force Lambert's hand in midfield, but he will have a decision to make when it comes to his strikers.
The Town boss has taken a look at James Norwood, Will Keane and Kayden Jackson in all combinations so far in 2020, with all three offering examples of what they're capable of.
Keane and Jackson got the nod in the victory over Lincoln and loss to Rotherham, with Norwood coming off the bench on Tuesday night and offering a real spark as the Blues finally found a foothold in the game for the final 10 minutes. He so nearly nicked what would have been an undeserved point, too, when he somehow turned the ball towards goal from the tightest of angles only to see it bounce back off the post.
So will he start this weekend? That seems likely and, if he does, the next question centres around who he will partner.
He and Jackson offer non-stop work rate, endeavour and pace as they look to terrorise defences, while a partnership of Norwood and Keane would add a little guile to the former Tranmere man's all-action approach.
Whether he gets the nod or has to make do with a place on the bench one thing's for certain, Norwood is champing at the bit to get back amongst the goals and make a real contribution for the Blues.
Proving a point
The Blues sit third in the table, and could return to the top depending on results this weekend, but much has been made of the fact they have yet to secure three points against any of the other current top nine sides in League One.
Today's game, as well as next week's clash with Sunderland, offers a good opportunity to do just that, having drawn their previous meetings with those two sides all the way back in August.
Ipswich were perhaps a little lucky to rescue a draw from London Road that day, thanks to Luke Chambers' last-gasp equaliser, with Lambert's men hoping for more at Portman Road today.
More than 2,000 Peterborough fans will make up the biggest away contingent for some time, meaning the game should be played out in front of a good atmosphere at Portman Road.