Ruthless to toothless, home discomforts and three debuts - Town take on Blackpool
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town take on Blackpool this afternoon in a League One clash at Portman Road. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game against the Tangerines.
Ruthless to toothless
Was Town’s 4-1 victory over Blackpool in October the Blues’ best performance of the season? It’s hard to argue against it.
The Blues went top of League One that day following an afternoon where Paul Lambert’s side scored four excellent goals and showed a ruthless streak which has been lacking since.
Town averaged a fraction shy of two goals per game in each of their first 10 matches this season but, over the course of the last 10, have averaged less than one and drawn a blank in five of them. Clearly that’s a significant issue.
Injuries and suspension to strikers has undoubtedly been an issue this season, but the lack of attacking edge on display has been extremely worrying.
From holding top spot on October 10, the Blues now find themselves 11th and looking over their shoulder to the bottom half of the table.
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A win could take Ipswich up to 10th while Town could drop as low as 13th should they be beaten this afternoon, with three points taking the Tangerines above the Suffolk side. For context, defeat to the Blues in October left today’s visitors firmly in League One’s bottom three.
How times have changed.
Town’s form at Portman Road is becoming a real concern.
Portman Road was a fortress at the start of the campaign as the Blues won their first five league games without conceding a single goal. But it’s been a different story since Hull were victorious in Suffolk on November 24.
They’ve lost three-straight, have lost six of the last seven and have only won twice on home soil since Halloween.
It’s not good enough and it has to change.
To play or not to play?
It’s easy to feel negative heading into Ipswich Town games at the moment, but there have at least been a few positives this week.
All eyes will be on the own team sheet at 2pm this afternoon as manager Paul Lambert weighs up whether or not to give debuts to his newest recruits.
Josh Harrop, signed two weeks ago but absent due to a positive Covid test, is back in contention but is set to start on the bench given his lack of training while dealing with the virus.
But the Blues’ two deadline day signings are in the mix for a start.
Teenage defender Luke Matheson is almost certain to get the nod at right-back, potentially freeing up skipper Luke Chambers to move inside and partner either Mark McGuinness or Luke Woolfenden at centre-half. It’s not impossible the two youngsters will be given the chance to continue together at the back, but utilising Chambers’ experience there is surely the sensible option.
Then there’s Troy Parrott, the striker signed from Tottenham on Monday. Freddie Sears started the game at Crewe up top alone last week, before James Norwood and Aaron Drinan came off the bench as the Blues scrambled a draw. The latter scored the equaliser.
If Norwood’s fit, he surely starts. But could Ipswich go with two strikers in this game? Coach Matt Gill hinted it was possible yesterday but Lambert has stuck rigidly to his 4-3-3 system throughout this season, meaning it would be something of a surprise.
Hello old friends
This afternoon marks a first return to Portman Road for both Grant Ward and Luke Garbutt.
Ward, released following relegation, signed for Blackpool at the end of 2019 so missed their visit to Suffolk last season, a game in which Garbutt netted from the spot in an Ipswich shirt.
Both have been out of the side of late, with Ward struggling with an injury having impressed in a central midfield role during the early months of the campaign under Neil Critchley’s watch.
Garbutt’s been in-and-out of the side throughout the season and has missed the last two with a knock of his own, with former Norwich man James Husband the preferred choice at left-back for the Tangerines during the campaign to date.
Both former Town players are likely to be on the bench this afternoon.
Never have I ever
Blackpool have never won at Portman Road, with Town winning seven of the Tangerines’ 13 visits to date, dating back to 1962.
Here’s hoping that record remains intact come 5pm this evening.