Fan preview: Ipswich Town v Middlesbrough

IPSWICH Town go in search of their sixth straight home win against Middlesbrough at Portman Road tonight. Football writer and Town fan Rebecca Abbott offers her thoughts on the game.

LET’S get one thing straight, the defeat away to Watford at the weekend has ended any chance of us squeezing our way into the play-offs at the end of the season.

The slump in form just before Christmas made it an unrealistic target to start with.

It was frustrating to see old habits resurfacing in the defeat, not putting chances away and leaking too many goals at the other end. But saying that, the result was against the recent run of form the Blues are on.

Many in the squad will be hoping to continue that good run of results by securing their sixth straight home win against Middlesbrough, including Michael Chopra, who I don’t think would have spent his time watching re-runs of his glaring miss at the weekend!

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and Grant Leadbitter proved that point on Saturday.

His absence, through suspension, from the starting squad against Watford was, in my opinion, the main reason Ipswich suffered that defeat at Vicarage Road.

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The midfield pairing of Andy Drury and Lee Bowyer didn’t step up to the plate when needed. Paul Jewell has to put Leadbitter back into the starting 11 – he’s got no other option available and the gaffer’s already said that’s what he will do.

As for whether that means Drury or Bowyer will partner Leadbitter in midfield, I think Bowyer will miss out as he’s got a history of picking up injuries after a long run of games. If picked, this match would be Bowyer’s third in a week.

The comment about you don’t know what you’re missing is also true for Jason Scotland.

It’s good that he’s returned from injury but I don’t think at the moment he will be much use to Jewell.

The sooner he knows what he is doing for next year, whether that’s at Portman Road or elsewhere, the better for everyone concerned.

I, for one, hope he signs a new contract for next season as otherwise all the pressure to score goals will be placed on Chopra. Yes, he’s already got 14 goals to his name this season but as he showed against Watford, he can have an off day.

As for Middlesbrough, they have something to prove in this game as well.

They themselves have an influential midfielder returning from suspension and come into the game on the back of a poor result. Ipswich will need to watch out for Barry Robson, back in the side following a red card, and Adam Hammill, on loan to the Teesiders from Wolves.

My prediction: Ipswich 1-1 Middlesbrough

- What do you think? Do you agree with Rebecca? Let us know by leaving a comment below!