A guessing game, a grudge match that never was and the start of something good... maybe’ - Town take on Shrewsbury
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town begin a run of three successive home games with the visit of Shrewsbury Town this weekend. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game.
The start of something good?
It’s not very often teams get the chance to play three home games in the space of just eight days.
But that’s just what’s in front of Town now as they bid to take their season up a gear.
Manager Paul Lambert has rated his side’s start as a ‘7/10’ and, in fairness, he’s probably just about right in that assessment. They’ve won seven of their 12 games and have yet to concede at home, yet Accrington (10th) are the highest-placed side the Blues have put to the sword.
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Optimistic signs yet nothing to go overboard about. Areas worthy of concern but not yet a meltdown.
Three wins over the next eight days would certainly silence a few doubts and answer a few questions, particularly if Ipswich are able to beat Hull and Charlton.
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But if they stumble, further questions will be asked.
Much of the intrigue of these three games jumps to the Hull and Charlton games, but Shrewsbury are not a side who should be taken lightly despite the fact they’re 22nd in the table.
They play good football but have had trouble scoring goals at times (sound familiar), though they have netted seven in their last two. They’ve also been a little leaky at the back.
It should be a good game to watch, with the most clinical side the one who will take the points.
Lambert’s revealed his squad is dealing with two further injuries ahead of this game, with the mystery pair ruled out.
I guess we’ll find out their identity at 2pm today, at which point we’ll be able to assess just how big a blow their absence will be.
Away from the duo, Lambert will have decisions to make.
It’s certainly possible the Scot will stick with the pairing of Toto Nsiala and Mark McGuinness at the heart of defence, despite Luke Woolfenden’s return from coronavirus isolation, while Andre Dozzell is out for the next two games as he completes the three-match ban following his red card at Sunderland.
Brett McGavin looks likely to get the nod in his place, with Teddy Bishop, Jon Nolan and Emyr Huws contenders for the other two central roles. Jack Lankester could also play in the middle, but is an option wide too.
There’s a call to make in attack as well, with Lambert blessed with the luxury of having four central strikers to choose from, having spent weeks with Oli Hawkins shouldering that burden alone.
It’s likely James Norwood, and possibly Aaron Drinan, will be on the bench, given they’ve had limited training time this week, meaning Kayden Jackson and Hawkins are vying for the start.
The pace of Jackson may just get the nod.
So Lambert has got his wish. He can now use five substitutes in a single game.
The Town boss has been championing the move since the summer, pointing to the number of injuries, and was delighted when the switch was voted through earlier in the week.
It’s still a bench of seven, rather than the nine now available to Championship teams, with the five changes only able to be made during three stoppages.
Half-time doesn’t count towards those three so, for example, Lambert could make two switches at the break and then three separate substitutions during the course of the second half.
It will be interesting to see how he uses them.
Stuart Watson’s written an excellent guide to how Lambert’s used his changes so far.
A grudge match that never was
For a brief period in history, Ipswich and Shrewsbury were intrinsically linked.
The summer of 2018 saw the Blues raid Shropshire to appoint Paul Hurst as manager before he returned to his former club to prise Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala away for a combined £2million.
There was a war of words and accusations of tapping up, denied by Ipswich, as the process to bring Hurst to Suffolk moved at lightning speed and left a sour taste in Shrewsbury fans’ mouths after a stunning season which saw them so nearly win promotion.
Then there was a tug of war regarding Nsiala and Nolan which seemed to go on all summer and involved the pair handing in transfer requests in order to eventually force through moves.
Shrews chief executive Brian Caldwell certainly had his say during the saga.
Had Hurst ever led an Ipswich side against Shrewsbury he would certainly have got a hot reception from his former fans, given the manner of his departure, but he of course is now long gone after a nightmare spell in charge ended after just 15 games.
What could have been a grudge match is now just a run-of-the-mill League One fixture.
Hurst is gone, of course, but this game will still see Nolan and Nsiala take on their former club.
There aren’t too many friendly faces, though, with midfielder Shaun Whalley the only remaining player from their time at the club.
That’s a reunion Nolan in particular is looking forward to, though.
“The only player left is Shaun Whalley, who’s probably my best mate in football so it will be nice to see him,” the midfielder said.
“But I had some very happy days at Shrewsbury with a good group of players.”