Can youngsters get Keane out of trouble?
IPSWICH TOWN: Boys will be asked to do a man’s job when the Blues visit Hull City on Saturday in the npower Championship.
They will be looking to halt a slide down into the bottom half of the table and help restore faith in the management of Roy Keane.
The Town side that finished last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Barnsley had the lowest average age in the division of 23.36.
And this will be lowered even further at the KC Stadium when 34-year-old Mark Kennedy will be missing with a hamstring problem.
It is a vital game at the start of a crucial period and the absence of injured defensive kingpin Gareth McAuley and key midfielder David Norris – along with Kennedy – will make it even harder to get the show back on the road following two depressing home defeats.
If Ipswich can keep within a few points of the top six and move into the semi-finals of the Carling Cup at Christmas then the beleaguered manager’s position will remain secure.
But he will be relying on youngsters still learning their trade to get the better of relegated Hull even though Grant Leadbitter and Darren O’Dea are set to return after suspension and injury.
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While Town’s performances at home have been mainly dull and dreary helping to energise the current wave of criticism towards the manager and leading to fears about yet another nondescript season, their away showings have been okay with six wins on the road.
Eight players of 21 or less featured against Barnsley while the division’s pacesetters Cardiff City and QPR are benefitting from an average age of over 27.
Keane can be criticised for failing to make good use of the treasure chest handed to him by club owner Marcus Evans and not equipping himself with a more experienced squad.
Some unwise moves into the market led to Evans dictating that Keane had to self finance his purchases in the summer although the manager has admitted that he did not anticipate losing Jon Walters and John Stead from his squad.
Luke Hyam (hamstring) will also miss the trip to Hull, a game that is followed by the derby at Norwich and then the home cup quarter-final against West Brom.
Kennedy’s absence will lower Town’s average age considerably with only Graham Alexander (Burnley 39) and Lee Carlsey (Coventry 36) older outfield players in action last weekend.
Goalkeepers David James (Bristol City) and Neil Sullivan (Doncaster Rovers) both played aged 40.
Average of Championship teams last weekend: Doncaster (29.00), Portsmouth (28.73), Hull (28.09), Burnley (27.91), Bristol City (27.27), QPR (27.09), Cardiff (27.09), Preston (27.00), Coventry (26.91),
Reading (26.36), Swansea (26.18), Sheffield Utd (26.00), Leicester (25.91), Barnsley (25.64), Millwall (25.09), Leeds (25.09), Crystal Palace (24.82), Norwich (24.82), Middlesbrough (24.73), Derby (24.73), Nottingham Forest (23.73), Watford (24.72), Scunthorpe (24.55), Ipswich Town (23.36).
Ipswich players in action against Barnsley last Saturday: Mark Kennedy 34, Carlos Edwards 32, Jason Scotland 31, Damien Delaney 29, Marton Fulop 27, Tamas Priskin 24, Jack Colback 21, Jake Livermore 20 (21 last Sunday), Tommy Smith 20, Tom Eastman, Andros Townsend, Ronan Murray, Luke Hyam all 19, Connor Wickham 17.