BIG MATCH PREVIEW: Spotlight falls on Paul Jewell’s squad as football returns to Portman Road
AFTER the jubilation of a flying start to the Championship, Town staff and fans alike will be looking to keep the good times rolling against Northampton Town in the Carling Cup tonight (7.45pm ko).
As football returns to Portman Road, we will be given an insight into the strength of Paul Jewell’s squad with the manager promising to give his fringe and youth players a chance against the League Two side.
And the competition has some wonderful recent memories for the Super Blues – Tamas Priskin, Cesc Fabregas’ ‘rugby’ comments and a wonderful night at the Emirates spring to mind.
Jewell said: “The players had a great journey last year, as well as the supporters, and got half an hour away from getting to the final.
“I have been to the final before with Wigan. It seems a long way off now when you are starting in August, but it’s a game that gives people an opportunity to play competitive football.”
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It will be interesting to see if fans favourites, Jaime Peters and Shane O’Connor, are given a chance to try and change the manager’s thinking.
But it won’t be easy against a Northampton side targeting promotion from League Two and who took a shock lead when the two sides met at Portman Road in the fourth round of the competition last year, before bravely going down 3-1.
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After enjoying a full-strength squad for the curtain-raiser, Paul Jewell must do without four first-teamers tonight.
Keeper David Stockdale is ineligible as part of his loan deal, even though he will now return to Suffolk after England’s friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley was called off due to the riots in the capital.
Tamas Priskin (Hungary) and Josh Carson (Northern Ireland Under-21s) are away on international duty while Damien Delaney is out after the ankle injury sustained against Bristol City – but is expected to be back for Saturday’s match against Hull City.
The Town boss said he would use tonight’s cup match as a chance to blood squad players so expect wholesale changes from the side that lined up at Ashton Gate.
But he might be tempted to give Jay Emmanuel-Thomas a chance to impress upfront in a 4-4-2 formation while Grant Leadbitter could be among a handful of Saturday’s side to start again.
The only thing the manager would confirm is that Arran Lee-Barrett will start in goal and young American Cody Cropper would be on the bench for the first time. In truth, Jewell has little option.
Expect the likes of Andy Drury, Jason Scotland and Nathan Ellington to also get some much-needed pitch time.
Cobblers boss Gary Johnson has admitted his squad is thin on the ground with skipper John Johnson adding to the list of casualties after suffering a dead leg in Saturday’s 0-0 home draw against Accrington Stanley.
He is joined in the treatment room by Andy Holt (dislocated shoulder), Kevin Thornton (hernia), Shaun Harrad (back) and Nathaniel Wedderburn (ankle).
Adopting a forward-thinking 4-2-3-1, Adebayo Akinfenwa will be supported by last season’s player of the year Michael Jacobs and new signings Arron Davis and Jake Robinson. Lewis Young, brother of Manchester United’s Ashley, is expected to start on the bench.
Ipswich Town: Lee-Barrett, Edwards, Ingimarsson, Smith, Cresswell, Drury, Healy, Leadbitter, Peters, Emmanuel-Thomas, Ellington, Cropper, Ainsley, Hyam, Martin O’Connor, Bowyer, Kennedy, Scotland, Murray, Chopra.
Northampton Town: Walker, Nana, Webster, Westwood, Corker, Tozer, Turnbull, Davies, Robinson, Jacobs, Akinfenwa, Hall, Young, McKoy, Savage, Purcell, Salihu.