'They can define your season' - Walton on two crunch games with rivals

Town keeper Christian Walton applauds fans after the game.

Christian Walton says Ipswich Town can define their season in the next two games - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton says the Blues are relishing the opportunity to define their season in the next two games against promotion rivals Sunderland and Rotherham.

Town scored a rare FA Cup victory on Tuesday night and now head to fellow third tier big boys Sunderland this weekend on a fine run of form for their biggest game of the season so far.

After that it's third-placed Rotherham at home on Tuesday night - a side who thrashed Sunderland 5-1 recently.

And Walton believes these are the sort of games where Ipswich can lay down a marker for the rest of the campaign.

Christian Walton takes a goal kick against Oxford.

Walton and Town head to Sunderland this weekend - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"We'll be going there fully prepared," he said. "We know the threats that Sunderland will have and Rotherham on Tuesday night will be a different test.

"But we'll be fully prepared, we'll know what's coming and we'll be ready for it.

"We've got to go to these places and pick up results. 

Most Read

"I think they can define your season, especially when you're playing two of the teams who are higher up in the division in four days.

"If we can pick up two results it will set us up for the busy period going into December and January."

While Town head to Wearside having only lost once in their last 11 games, the home side are enduring a sticky patch, going winless in their last six.

But Walton says the Blues can't afford to be complacent.

"I don't think we can read too much into league form," he explained.

"It's going to be a big match on that day, it's going to be a big test and we'll have a big support behind us with the fans travelling up, which is unbelievable.

"It's a great occasion and we'll be ready for it. They started off really well and have obviously got quality in their team.

"They'll be ready for us, as we'll be ready for them. They're a good team and they'll be testing us. I'm looking forward to it."

The Blues have, of course, already enjoyed some big away wins over promotion rivals - thumping Portsmouth and Wycombe 4-0 and 4-1 respectively.

But in recent games they've shown they can grind out results and keep clean sheets too - something which Walton sees as a positive sign.

Christian Walton applauds fans as he takes his place in goal ahead of the game.

Walton believes Town have become more solid and robust in recent weeks - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

"Earlier in the season, before I arrived, there were performances where the team were taking leads and not holding onto them," he said.

"When you're not doing that at this level, it's difficult. Since I've been back in the team I've felt that we've been a bit more solid throughout the team.

"It starts at the top of the pitch and works its way backwards.

"We've picked up a few clean sheets and I think we've only lost two in 10 or something like that.

"That speaks for itself. You want to be winning games, not losing them and I think at this level you need to be able to grind out results.

"We're one of the better footballing teams in the division and we need to showcase that on a more regular level and be consistent with it, but we have showed teams what we're all about - beating Portsmouth, Wycombe.

"And then on Saturday I think second half we were too much for Oxford and were unlucky not to get a goal and win the game.

"The clean sheet was an important thing on the defensive side of the pitch."

Town manager Paul Cook makes his way to the dugout ahead of the game.

Walton credits Paul Cook for fostering a great team spirit at Town - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

A big part of Town's good run of form, according to Walton, has been the tight bonds forming between players at the club.

"There's a really good team spirit around the place and that's come from the manager and the players he's recruited," he said.

"It's obviously difficult when there's such a big turnaround in players - I've never seen it at a football club - but I've been really impressed with the club, the team and the players. Everyone wants to push in the same direction and that's to get promoted from League One this year.

"That being in place is massive. It's only going to help us on the pitch."

Looking ahead, Town will host Sunderland just four weeks from now in a match which could well see more than 28,000 fans inside Portman Road.

That clash is one of three festive fixtures which the club have included in their 'Pack Out Portman Road' initiative, something which has also seen fans raise more than £12,000 to fund tickets for those struggling to afford them.

Town fans give the referee a rousing send-off after the loss against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.

Walton says the Ipswich Town support has been 'unbelievable' - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

"The players are absolutely buzzing," Walton said, when asked about the support and the Christmas crackers ahead. "I've said it to a few people the last few weeks - I really can't believe the support we get.

"Down at Plymouth it was unbelievable, Wycombe was unbelievable and it's shocked me.

"I knew this was a massive club, but I just didn't realise how good the fans are here, the numbers they travel in and how well they support the club.

"Win, lose or draw they've been behind us and we just want to repay them by winning games of football and giving them good away trips.

"I know from being a fan myself, travelling to away games, winning is the main thing when you're travelling half the way up the country.

"We just want to repay them and over Christmas with the Pack Out Portman Road thing going on, I think it's brilliant - not just for the club, but for the town over the festive period.

"It will be a great three games and to get as many people as possible into Portman Road will be brilliant for everyone.

"Especially us as players - to have that backing is phenomenal."

Town fans celebrate at Portsmouth

Town hope to have more than 28,000 fans inside Portman Road for the reverse fixture with Sunderland next month - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

He added: "It's been really good (to see fans raising money). It's such a nice gesture and people will be really grateful for that.

"It just shows how good the club is, to help the local community - Ipswich Town is the only football club in the area and what it can bring to the community is just so big.

"It just shows that everyone is pushing in the same direction and I can't wait to be part of it over Christmas."

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