BIG MATCH PREVIEW: Ipswich Town v Rotherham United
Ipswich Town go in search of a fourth straight Championship victory, at home to Rotherham United, today.
Ipswich have won their previous two home games, against Millwall and Brighton, and added to their growing momentum on Monday with a 2-1 victory at Wigan Athletic.
It’s still early in the season, but a victory today could see Town climb into second place in the table, if results were to go for them.
Mick McCarthy is targeting a first as Ipswich manager today.
His spell at Portman Road has been nothing short of excellent, turning the team from relegation contenders to genuine candidates for a top-six spot.
However, he has never won four Championship games in a row with the Blues, but will reach that milestone with victory against the Millers.
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The odds are on his side at the moment.
Town have not conceded in their last two homes games and it looks as though the goalscoring burden, so heavily placed on David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy last season, may be being lifted with Jonathan Parr, Luke Hyam and Conor Sammon all opening their accounts for the new season in the last three games.
McCarthy has called for more goals from other areas, especially midfield, and was delighted with his side’s attacking display at Wigan, during which Hyam was superb.
If Town can get in front early doors today, then they could prove a real tough nut to crack.
However, McCarthy has warned that the Millers will provide Town’s toughest test of the season to date, especially with the buzz around Portman Road at the minute – a buzz that could be nullified in an instant with a negative performance, as was seen after the Norwich setback.
Today’s visitors are sixth-bottom in the Championship and still finding their feet, but arrive in Suffolk having enjoyed two hugely successful seasons under Steve Evans.
They finished second in League Two, in 2013, before winning the League One play-off final against Leyton Orient in May.
The Millers punched above their weight for the most part during their last spell in the Championship, between 2001 and 2005, but are expected to do more than just make up the numbers this time around, thanks to an ambitious chairman, Tony Stewart, and a manager that shares the same vision, Evans.
The Scot, who guided Crawley Town and Boston United into the Football League, won back-to-back promotions with the Millers to get to this level and has been backed by Stewart who has allowed him to significantly strengthen his squad over the summer.
Former Ipswich trio Scott Loach, Paul Green and Frazer Richardson are all solid Championship performers, strikers Johnson Clarke-Harris (Oldham) and Jordan Bowery (Aston Villa) are considered young, exciting prospects, while on-loan targetman Luciano Becchio (Norwich) is a proven goalscorer at this level.
Those signings have joined an already impressive-looking squad that features goalscoring midfielders Ben Pringle and Lee Frecklington and former Hearts defender Kari Arnason who, according to reports in Rotherham, has really found his level in the Championship, having possibly struggled with the physicality of leagues One and Two.
Today’s visitors are in double figures when it comes to new signings.
But McCarthy does not believe it will have taken them much time to gel, citing the fact that the majority of the Millers new-boys are well-versed to life in the second tier.
With that in mind, it should only be a matter of time before they are climbing up the table.
n Cameron Stewart, sidelined with knee and injury problems since pre-season, got some game-time under his belt with the under-21s in training yesterday, but is unlikely to feature in the 18.
n New signing Jack Collison is available for today’s game, having signed until the end of December, but is another player unlikely to be in Town’s 18-man squad.
n Stephen Hunt and Alex Henshall are both fit, the former having been out since pre-season, and the latter recovering after receiving a knock earlier in the week.
n Mick McCarthy is hoping that Cole Skuse (sore toe) will be fit, while Jay Tabb (flu) returns.
n Star defender Kari Arnason (knock) and Richie Smallwood (tight hamstring) hope to be fit for the clash at Portman Road.
n Former Braintree Town striker Alex Revell has recovered from a dead leg.
n Skipper Craig Morgan serves a one-match suspension after accruing five bookings
n On-loan Ipswich Town duo Paul Taylor and Anthony Wordsworth are ineligible for the encounter.
ROTHERHAM BOSS STEVE EVANS: “We’ve got a couple of little things we need to wait on, Kari Arnason has a knock and Richie Smallwood felt his hamstring tighten after training.
“There will be an opportunity for some. We’ve always maintained that if you do the business you keep the shirt.
“Our options are severely limited this weekend, as they have been for several weeks with injuries. Now we have a suspension kicking in.
“We haven’t really had the full availability of our squad.
“We’ve never used it as an excuse in the games we’ve played and we’re not going to use it as an excuse going forward.”