Chance to impress, a first start and two old friends resume battle - Blues take on Pompey in the FA Cup
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are in FA Cup action against Portsmouth at Portman Road this afternoon. Andy Warren looks ahead to the first round game.
All change (well, nearly)
Paul Lambert will make significant changes to his Ipswich town side this afternoon.
It may not quite be a complete change of starting XI, but don’t be surprised if the Town boss makes seven, eight or even nine changes to his team as he deals with long-term injury, new knocks, suspension and fatigue, as well as a desire to give players finding themselves on the fringes some meaningful gametime.
That is likely to mean starts for the likes of David Cornell, Janoi Donacien, Myles Kenlock, Emyr Huws, Freddie Sears and Jon Nolan – the latter returning from a three-game ban – while young attackers Armando Dobra and Keanan Bennetts could also be started in tandem.
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James Wilson is another who would be hopeful of a start, given his recent slip from the starting XI, though Lambert could opt to give the pairing of Toto Nsiala and Mark McGuinness another start together at the heart of the defence.
The Scot will then need to choose whether to start with Kayden Jackson or Oli Hawkins in attack.
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It’s likely to be a similar approach from Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett, too, meaning this game is likely to played between two groups of players looking to show their managers they have something to offer their sides in the League One promotion race.
We will now surely get a first full sighting of Borussia Monchengladbach loanee Bennetts in this game.
What we’ve seen so far in the youngster’s seven substitute appearances (totalling just 59 minutes) has been promising – we already know he likes to get on the ball, take a positive first touch and then run with it.
But now it feels like time to see what he’s capable from the start of game.
Another attacking force hoping to start will be Dobra, who himself has made just three appearances this season.
His goal against Gillingham is the highlight so far but, after rejecting a loan move at the end of the transfer window, he’s had to remain patient in the Under 23s where the teenager produced a cracking strike at Sheffield United earlier this week.
He’s likely to be away with Albania’s Under 21s next week but will be hopeful of a game, either as a winger or as a No.10, before he leaves.
The most certain of starters in this game is surely goalkeeper Cornell.
The Welshman’s had to be patient since moving to Portman Road, with the former Northampton man restricted to cup action so far and doing very little wrong during his three appearances to date.
He could add two more starts to his resume over the next few days, firstly in the FA Cup and then at Crawley in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday, as he bids to push incumbent No.1 Tomas Holy.
But the big question Cornell will be asking is whether two good performances in these games will put him in the frame when the league action resumes against Shrewsbury in a fortnight.
That’s certainly not impossible.
A first return
One name jumping off the Portsmouth squad list is that of striker Ellis Harrison.
The frontman spent just one season in Ipswich blue, scoring once in 17 appearances before being allowed to join Pompey in the summer of 2019, in a deal which served to pay up what was left on Town’s £750,000 bill after Paul Hurst bought him from Bristol Rovers.
Having recovered from a hamstring injury the striker looks likely to make his first return to Portman Road today, with his departure thought to be as much down to a clash of character off the pitch as any perceived lack of ability on it. His season with Ipswich was hit by injury but he was still able to show flashes of what he’s all about, before he left Town in no doubt of his talents when they met Portsmouth at Fratton Park last December.
He bullied the Ipswich defence that day, in particular Nsiala who only lasted 38 minutes before being hauled off having failed to cope with his former team-mate’s power, pace and enjoyment of football’s dark arts.
The two men could well meet again this afternoon – it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Harrison’s form last season played a part in Portsmouth’s decision to release Hawkins earlier this year, with Town picking the striker up on a free transfer.
The forward split opinion during his time at Fratton Park and will no doubt be keen to prove a point should he get the nod this afternoon.
“Oli did very well during his time with us after coming out of non-league,” Jackett said of his former striker during the build-up to this game.
“Everyone here has a lot of time for Oli and we wish him all the best.
“We couldn’t keep everybody and we had some other forwards. Difficult decisions had to be made but he will be of very good use and a very good player for Ipswich for sure.”
You may be thinking this is an historic meeting, with former FA Cup winners meeting in round one, but you’d be wrong.
It’s rare, granted, with only nine previous winners competing in round one this year, but you only have to go back two years for the meeting between Barnsley (1912) and Notts County (1894) - a long time ago, but it still counts.
This tie does have the distinction of being the most common meeting of the 21st century to be played in this round, though.
Town have taken on Portsmouth in 2006, 2008 and 2016, with the men from the south coast winning all three.
We all know how miserable this competition has been for Ipswich during the course of the last decade. Hopefully this afternoon brings better.