Battle of the caretakers, good omens and McGreal's possible rejig... Charlton v Ipswich

John McGreal has been sacked as manager of Colchester United. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENW

John McGreal takes charge of Ipswich Town for the first time tonight. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town take on Charlton Athletic, at The Valley, tonight (7.45pm ko). STUART WATSON previews the action.

Town manager Paul Cook with his head down as he walks from the pitch.

Paul Cook was sacked by Ipswich Town following Saturday's goalless home draw with Barrow in the FA Cup. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

WHAT SORT OF REACTION?

The big question is, what sort of reaction are we going to get from the Town players following Paul Cook's sacking?

Cook signed the vast majority of this squad. Captain Sam Morsy who, just like Lee Evans, Conor Chaplin and Christian Walton, had come to Portman Road to be reunited with his former boss admits there was a feeling of ‘shock’ and ‘sadness’ at the news of his departure. 

Will this decision jolt the players into an all-action, energised display to be proud of? Or, with just three sleeps to process what’s happened, will they appear demoralised and befuddled?  

Let’s hope it’s the former because, let’s be honest, we’re getting close to the ‘now or never’ stage of the season. Ultimately, that’s why the owners have made the change. 

Fail to win tonight and Town could be leapfrogged by the likes of Cheltenham, Accrington and Bolton and drop as low as 14th. The gap to the play-off places could grow to 10 points heading into Saturday’s game at high-flying Wigan. 

It’s imperative that the Blues get at least three points from these next two matches to ensure that a packed Portman Road is bouncing, potentially for a new manager’s first game in charge, when Sunderland visit on December 18. 

Noel Hunt celebrates on the final whistle after scoring Ipswich's injury time winner at Charlton

Noel Hunt (left) celebrates after his last-gasp winner at Charlton in 2014. - Credit: Pagepix

Most Read

GOOD OMENS? 

The Valley has been a happy hunting ground for Ipswich in recent years. 

The last defeat at the South London stadium came back in October 2008 courtesy of a Moritz Volz own goal. 

Since then, the Blues have won four and drawn one in this fixture 

DJ Campbell and Daryl Murphy were on target when Mick McCarthy’s men were clawing their way to Championship safety in December 2012. 

Tommy Smith headed in at a corner to seal a 1-0 win in 2013, then we had Noel Hunt’s iconic stoppage-time winner on the way to a second-tier play-off finish in 2014. 

It was 3-0 in 2015, when Murphy (2) and Freddie Sears scored, and 0-0 back in April this year. 

Added to that, Ipswich’s best results this season – Portsmouth and Wycombe - have come away from home on Tuesday nights. 

Let’s hope these are good omens. 

FUEL THE BLUE ARMY 

Ipswich quickly sold out their initial away allocation for this game. An additional batch of tickets were quickly snapped up too. 

It means that a total of 3,159 Town fans will be there tonight to back the boys in blue. 

No doubt about it, they will start the night loud and proud. How long that continues is likely to depend on who much the team gives them something to shout about. 

The atmosphere inside Portman Road turned a little sour at the weekend as a collective sense of disappointment and frustration took hold. That’s 100% understandable and fair. The scars run deep for this fan base.  

It’s up to the players now to put belief back into the air. 

Charlton Athletic caretaker manager Johnnie Jackson applauds the fans after victory in the Emirates

Charlton Athletic caretaker manager Johnnie Jackson has overseen some impressive wins. - Credit: PA

BATTLE OF THE CARETAKERS

Charlton will also be feeling like this is a crucial juncture in their season. They may be sitting 15th, but will believing the play-offs are still very much achievable. 

After a poor start, manager Nigel Adkins was sacked. Johnnie Jackson was promoted to caretaker boss and a six-game unbeaten run followed for a squad packed with experience. 

The Addicks beat Sunderland (1-0 away) and Doncaster (4-0 at home), drew against Rotherham (1-1 at home), then beat Burton (1-0 away) and Plymouth (2-0 at home). That’s an impressive set of results. 

Is their ‘new manager bounce’ over now? They come into this game having failed to win their last two league outings – a 2-2 draw at Morecambe and 1-0 loss at Shrewsbury. 

Cup wins against Aston Villa U21s and Gateshead means it is seven wins from the last 11 for them though. Ipswich have won just three in that time. 

Town interim boss McGreal will know all about Alex Gilbey and Elliott Lee having managed them both at Colchester. 

Kane Vincent-Young at Burton Albion.

Kane Vincent-Young played under John McGreal's management at Colchester. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

WHO PLAYS? 

Temporary managers always tend to try something a bit different. If the gamble pays off, they boost their chances of getting the gig full-time. If it doesn’t, then at least they tried. 

So interim boss John McGreal, assisted by Rene Gilmartin and Kieron Dyer, is sure to tweak one or two things this evening. 

Kane Vincent-Young looks a potential beneficiary of change at the helm. He played under McGreal at Colchester. And he played a lot of that football at left-back too. So might we see him make his first league start since the 4-1 win at Wycombe tonight? Town could certainly do with an injection of dynamism in the full-back positions. 

George Edmundson missed Saturday’s draw with Barrow due to an Achilles problem. If Town’s November Player of the Month is not fit, will the no-nonsense central defensive partnership of Toto Nsiala and Cameron Burgess continue? Or might the door be open for Luke Woolfenden? His last league start was at Plymouth on October 30. Janoi Donacien moving inside to centre-half isn’t impossible either. 

Under-23s boss Dyer will sure to push the case of some his young stars. Might Idris El Mizouni get a starting spot ahead of Lee Evans in midfield? Could versatile teenager Cameron Humphreys, who did well off the bench at the weekend, have a role to play? We’ll see. 

Bersant Celina also missed the Barrow game with an unspecified injury. Again, time will tell if he’s available again. 

Most interestingly of all, might we see two up front from the start? 

Joe Pigott hits the post this strike early in the second half.

Joe Pigott made just two league starts for boyhood club Charlton. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

DOUBLE TROUBLE? 

Ironically, the final 45 minutes of Cook’s reign, which saw him sometimes accused of sticking too rigidly to a 4-2-3-1 system, ended with him pairing Joe Pigott and Macauley Bonne in attack. 

Starting those two together for the first time since August 17 (Cheltenham away) must be a serious temptation. 

Both have played for Charlton and both, it feels, have a point to prove right now.  

Pigott came through the youth ranks at The Valley, but was farmed out on loan several times and ended up departing with just two league starts to his name. 

Not only will he want to prove a point to his boyhood club, but, more importantly, he’ll want to prove to his current employers that he should have had more game time since arriving from AFC Wimbledon back in the summer. 

Starts against Arsenal U21s and Barrow will have shaken off the cobwebs. This has the potential to be his long-awaited big breakthrough moment for the Blues. 

Bonne, meanwhile, will look back at his time with Charlton more fondly. It was them that gave him a route back into the Football League after he had scored plenty of goals for Leyton Orient. He was their 11-goal top-scorer in the Championship as recently as 2019/20. 

Would a goal against them be celebrated respectfully? I’m not so sure. Bonne’s gone six games without one now. He needs one and he knows his beloved Blues need one. Finding the back of the net for the 12th time this season could see an out-pouring of emotion. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter