Can Town earn the right to play without Downes and Norwood? - Fleetwood v Ipswich talking points
- Credit: Steve Waller www.stephenwa
Ipswich Town take on Fleetwood Town, at Highbury Stadium, in a League One match this evening (7.45pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
TWO INFLUENTIAL PLAYERS OUT
Ipswich will be without two very influential players tonight.
Striker James Norwood missed Saturday's 1-0 home win against Plymouth with back spasms and is unavailable again tonight due to the fact he's in court to defend a drink-driving charge.
In what has been another injury disrupted campaign, the 30-year-old has still managed to score, on average, a goal every 179 minutes (six in 11 starts and 10 substitute appearances).
Midfielder Flynn Downes is also out after he limped off at the weekend with a hamstring injury.
Arguably the team's best player in 2019/20, he was just beginning to look back at his all-action best following a January injury comeback.
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Those two both add some bite and physicality to the spine of the side. Without them, the Blues can sometimes look a little lightweight.
It's up to Cook to find the right balance in their absence.
WHO LEADS THE LINE?
Kayden Jackson replaced Norwood as the central striker at the weekend.
Exiled to the Under-23s by Paul Lambert, he's back in the fold under new boss Paul Cook and should be playing with an extra bit of fire in the belly.
The lone striker role is not necessarily his forte though. His instinct is to run channels rather than fight centre-halves and make the ball stick.
One alternative would be to push Troy Parrott forwards into the No.9 slot. That's his preferred position, we know he's got the energy and desire to press high, while finally getting his first goal of the season will have been a big confidence boost.
Cook would not be short of options to then fill the No.10 void, with Alan Judge, Teddy Bishop, Josh Harrop and Jack Lankester all seeing that as their best role.
Another alternative would be to go with Aaron Drinan.
Stylistically, the young Irishman is the closest thing Town have got to a Norwood replacement. His link play was good at the start of the season and he looked lively off the bench at the weekend. That might have just given Cook food for thought.
WILL SKUSE START?
Teddy Bishop replaced Downes at the weekend. He and fellow academy graduate Andre Dozzell are both very easy on the eye, but as a pair they don't provide that 'solidity' that Cook has said he always looks for in the centre of the pitch.
There'd be the same issues if Harrop, Judge or Lankester played as a No.8 too.
Might it be, then, that Cole Skuse is thrown in straight in at the deep end?
The soon-to-be 35-year-old stepped off the bench just after the hour mark on Saturday, making his first competitive appearance in more than a year and first outing since undergoing knee surgery last October.
Unlike previous boss Paul Lambert, who constantly talked about the likes of Luke Chambers and Skuse being 'unable to beat time', Cook has lavished praise on the senior duo's ability and professionalism.
He might just be tempted to get Skuse in sooner rather than later. His reading of the game could provide the insurance policy needed for full-backs and forward players to really go gung-ho.
EARN THE RIGHT TO PLAY
Fleetwood sacked manager Joey Barton at the start of the year and turned to the experienced figure of Simon Grayson.
Grayson sides don't always excite, but they're often tough nuts to crack. Since he's arrived, the Cod Army have conceded just seven goals in 10 games.
Ex Town loanee Callum Connolly is playing at the heart of a back three, while current Blues player Janoi Donacien (who won't be eligible to play against his parent club) has been in and out the team at right wing-back.
And so it is that the Lancashire side come into this game off the back of a five-game unbeaten run which has included hard fought wins against Lincoln, Shrewsbury and Gillingham.
Of Saturday's goalless draw at rivals Blackpool, Grayson said: "If you don’t win the game, the next best thing is a draw.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, so you have to make sure you are competitive and win tackles.
“Did we do that? Yes, I think we did. Did we play as well as we can when we had possession of the ball? Probably not really."
This is another match where Town will have to earn the right to play.
DON'T EXPECT GOALS
Fleetwood (39 goals in 35 games) and Ipswich (38 in 33) are both among the lowest scorers in the division.
With Callum Camps out and Paddy Madden on the bench, Fleetwood's starting XI at the weekend had just 10 league goals in it.
Ipswich's starting XI against Plymouth, going into the game, had just 13.
But both these sides are also in the top-six when it comes to the third-tier's meanest defences.
Everything's pointing towards a tight, low-scoring game.