A daunting task, damning stats and the Town player with a chance to take as Peterborough visit
- Credit: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town host Peterborough United at Portman Road this afternoon in a battle of League One promotion hopefuls. Andy Warren looks ahead to the contest.
Sorry to have to remind everyone of these.
Against last season’s top 10, Ipswich played 18 games, won two, drew eight and lost eight. They picked up a total of 14 points from a possible 54 against those sides.
They’ve played eight games against the rest of this season’s top 10, with weekend opponents Peterborough the only one they’ve yet to face.
In those eight games they’ve won two (Crewe and Accrington) and lost the other six. They were beaten by Hull, Lincoln, Portsmouth and Charlton without scoring a goal.
In total that’s 20 points from a possible 78 over two seasons.
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Simply not good enough and something that must change if Paul Lambert and Ipswich Town are to prove their promotion credentials. The time is now.
The above stats have made a significant role in making this game something of a daunting one for Ipswich.
Also piling in on that is the fact the Blues were torn to pieces by Darren Ferguson’s side in February of last year as Posh came to Portman Road and won 4-1. It was arguably the lowest point of Ipswich’s 2019/20 season as it became abundantly clear just how far Paul Lambert’s men were away from seriously competing for promotion.
And, ominously for Ipswich, Posh appear to be finding their groove just in time for their visit to Suffolk.
A front-three of Siriki Dembele, Jonson Clarke-Harris and Sammie Szmodics is surely the strongest in the division and, after starting the season well as three extremely-talented individual players, they’re now gelling as a triumvirate.
Clarke-Harris, who Town looked at in the summer but were priced out of the chase for, leads the line and is strong, quick and occupies defences both centrally and into the channel areas. Dembele and Szmodics, who Town checked in on on a number of occasions during the summer before he signed for Posh full-time, work further back and look to take advantage of any pockets of space that open up.
The three players have combined for 23 League One goals this season, just three fewer than the entire Town squad have scored.
These are the kind of players Ipswich have struggled with in the past and will need to be kept in check if Town are to take anything from this game.
The early years of Ferguson’s first spell in charge of Peterborough saw Aaron McLean, George Boyd and Craig Mackail-Smith form the ‘holy trinity’ in attack.
The modern-day trio are doing a very good impersonation.
Ray of light
Town’s form against League One contenders may make it difficult to imagine Lambert’s side coming out on top in this game, but there are reasons to be optimistic.
There’s new blood in the form of Luke Thomas and Josh Harrop who, on the face of things at least, should add more purpose to an Ipswich side which has been ponderous in possession and lacked punch in the final third.
Posh are on fire at home, winning their last five in all competitions, but are winless on the road since mid-November. They're winless in their last five away from home.
Speaking yesterday, assistant manager Stuart Taylor says the Blues have identified weaknesses and will be looking to exploit them.
“I think they are a very good side,” he said. “I went and saw them the other night against Charlton. They went 1-0 down and did very well to go on and win (2-1).
“They’ve got very good attacking options and are a good side, there’s no doubt about that, but we’ve got confidence in what we do.
“They’ve got quality forward players, but we’ve got quality in our side and it’s about being confident and positive in our play and knowing how to go and hurt them. They have got their weaknesses that we’re going to highlight.”
So, are we going to see Ipswich’s new signings from the start?
Thomas arrives from Barnsley having been involved for the Tykes regularly this season, largely from the bench, and seems almost certain to slot in on one flank opposite former Posh player Gwion Edwards.
The Welshman is right-footed, Thomas is left-footed, but both can play on either side. That gives Lambert options and an ability to change the pace of attacks.
Harrop is maybe a little more complicated. He has played just five league games this season, has been dealing with hamstring issues and has only trained twice with his new team-mates.
Town have more options in his favoured No.10 position where Teddy Bishop could still continue, having started during the win with Burton, while Alan Judge is also a contender should Lambert opt to move him in from the wing.
It may be the Town boss wants to get his new piece on the field as soon as possible or it may also be that he’s a potential spark off the bench.
We’ll find out at 2pm.
Strike it rich
Oli Hawkins is out for six weeks and James Norwood (hamstring) and Kayden Jackson (thigh) have both been struggling with injuries this week.
That could mean another opportunity for Aaron Drinan, who is fully fit following a thigh injury of his own.
This time last year the Irishman had just made his Ayr United debut and it looked as though the loan spell, the third of his Ipswich career, was going to spell the end of his time in Suffolk without a senior appearance to his name.
But to his credit his summer work and injuries to team-mates saw him get an unexpected chance which he’s taken well, offering good link-up play to midfield.
What’s missing is goals, but it does feel like he’s getting closer to opening his Ipswich account given he hit the bar (again) at Burton and had a decent header saved.
He could well start on what would be an excellent day to get himself off and running.