A ‘must-win’ game, plenty of familar faces and Barton’s words coming back to haunt Town - talking points as Ipswich host Fleetwood

Joey Barton and Paul Lambert will go head-to-head at Portman Road tonight. Picture: PA/ARCHANT

Joey Barton and Paul Lambert will go head-to-head at Portman Road tonight. Picture: PA/ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town host Fleetwood in a crucial League One clash at Portman Road this evening. ANDY WARREN looks at the talking points heading into the game.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert applauds the travelling supporters after the last gasp defeat at B

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert applauds the travelling supporters after the last gasp defeat at Blackpool. Picture: Pagepix Ltd

Must win

Here we are then, we've reached the point of a 'must win game'.

We've been talking about whether Ipswich games are 'must win' for several weeks now but, speaking after Saturday's loss to Blackpool, manager Paul Lambert admitted his side simply must claim three points from tonight's game with Fleetwood.

He's right.

Ipswich currently find themselves ninth in the League One table, five points off the play-offs and three behind Joey Barton's Fleetwood side, who sit immediately above them in eighth. That gap could become six should the men from the Fylde coast leave Suffolk with a victory, or the Blues could move above them on goal difference should they claim a win of their own. A true six-pointer.

But then there's the small matter of Fleetwood also holding two games in hand on Lambert's side, highlighting the task at hand.

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It's a real battle for Ipswich to make the play-offs from this point, whichever way you look at it. But it's a battle they surely won't be able to win if they don't win this evening's skirmish.

Barton-mania

Joey Barton and Paul Lambert on the touchline at Fleetwood earlier in the season. Picture Pagepix

Joey Barton and Paul Lambert on the touchline at Fleetwood earlier in the season. Picture Pagepix

The below are the words of Fleetwood boss Barton prior to the first meeting between the two teams in October - "You can see them (Ipswich) doing the wave to the crowd after games and the stuff you would worry about them doing 10 games in.

"Do you have the confidence after losing virtually every week for a long period last season?

"Is it built on solid foundations?"

As it turns out, the former Newcastle midfielder had a point.

Teddy Bishop played for an hour at Blackpool. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Teddy Bishop played for an hour at Blackpool. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Since the 1-0 win at Highbury in October, Ipswich have won just six league games compared to Fleetwood's nine, with the latter picking up 10 more points during that period.

Barton's been at the forefront of Fleetwood's push, but he won't be on the touchline tonight.

His first visit to Portman Road as a manager is the first of a two-game touchline ban he received last week, after being found guilty of using foul and abusive language when he was sent off in his side's victory over Wycombe at the start of February.

Familiar faces

Paul Lambert pictured after Town's 2-1 defeat at Blackpool Photo: ROSS HALLS

Paul Lambert pictured after Town's 2-1 defeat at Blackpool Photo: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

This may be Fleetwood's first visit to Portman Road, but there's no shortage of familiar faces in Barton's side.

Midfielders Paul Coutts (Preston, Derby, Sheffield United) and Glenn Whelan (Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke, Aston Villa) have both played against Ipswich many times and give Fleetwood a solid base in the middle of the field, where they are joined by Ipswich Town loanee of 2017/18 Callum Connolly.

On the subject of Connolly, remarkably he will be playing against Ipswich for a fourth team since leaving the Blues less than two years ago, having previously turned out for Wigan, Bolton and Lincoln against the Blues.

Barrie McKay, on loan from Nottingham Forest, is a player who has performed well against the Blues in the past and is also a player looked at by Ipswich managers of old.

Flynn Downes is banned for the visit of Fleetwood. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Flynn Downes is banned for the visit of Fleetwood. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Then there's Lewis Gibson, an Everton youngster who was a real target for Ipswich in January, who is now impressing at the heart of the Fleetwood defence.

They may be 'little Fleetwood' but, as Barton has stated so regularly, this group of players is coming together and could well be the most successful in the club's history.

They are going to take some stopping tonight, that's for sure.

We go again?

Josh Earl is down as the crowd celebrate with goalscorer Joe Nuttall after his last gasp winnerat Bl

Josh Earl is down as the crowd celebrate with goalscorer Joe Nuttall after his last gasp winnerat Blackpool. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears both made their first league starts following long spells out at the weekend.

Sears, Town's goalscorer at Bloomfield Road on Saturday, lasted 90 minutes and insists he's ready to go again just a few days later, while Bishop was replaced on the hour mark in what appeared to be pre-planned change.

Whether either or both are fit to start again may impact which way Lambert goes in terms of his team selection this evening.

If both are good to go then we could very well see a similar set-up to the Blackpool game, with Bishop and Sears supporting Will Keane in attack. If they're not, it may just be a return to the back three and wing-backs.

One player who definitely won't be involved tonight, or in the game with Coventry at the weekend, is Flynn Downes, after the youngster was banned for two games after picking up his 10th booking of the season.

Jon Nolan, Andre Dozzell and Alan Judge are potential replacements there.

Must start

The one player I'd like to see start this game is Armando Dobra.

The young Albanian international has been a bright spark whenever he's played for Ipswich this season and was so again at the weekend, when he regularly picked up possession, took a positive touch and looked to drive towards goal.

Ipswich have lacked players who have a desire to run at their main throughout this season and the 18-year-old offers exactly that, bringing a new dimension to the Blues in the process.

He's yet to start a league game during his young career to date.

Maybe his time is now.

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