Town's reaction will be fascinating as Sunderland visit on a big night for Lambert's Ipswich
- Credit: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town take on Sunderland this evening in another big game under the Portman Road lights. Andy Warren looks ahead to the televised contest.
How Ipswich Town react this evening will be fascinating.
There needs to be a reaction following Saturday’s home loss to Peterborough, in which Town again struggled to carry any meaningful goal threat and again failed to beat a League One promotion contender.
And it will be telling to see just how the Blues’ players, and indeed staff, react following calls for a change of manager from this newspaper, as well as a further protest from the Blue Action supporters group and rising fan frustration.
The club responded to our front-page comment with a statement which again stressed manager Paul Lambert has the backing of owner Marcus Evans, at a time when the Blues are still in touch with the promotion race despite sliding down the table and showing ominous signs of drifting away from contention.
Should they lose touch, then it’s surely likely the owner will then have a real decision to make.
The same old story against another of the division’s big guns will only serve to ramp up the heat further.
The gap to Charlton is currently two points and Town could jump into the play-off places with a win, but a Sunderland victory in Suffolk would extend that gap to four, with a tricky game against Crewe (eighth) to come on Saturday.
- 1 People with these surnames in Suffolk could be owed a fortune
- 2 Valley Ridge ski resort in jeopardy amid furious row over landfill site
- 3 'Never seen anything like it' - community pulls together to revamp pub
- 4 Where are Suffolk’s outstanding schools?
- 5 Delays after car crashes into level crossing
- 6 Man left with cuts to his head after being bottled following fight in Suffolk town
- 7 Mapped: Suffolk postcodes with lowest level of Covid cases
- 8 Popular community pub announces when it will re-open
- 9 Mike Bacon: Never delve too deeply into those pre-season results
- 10 Tourists turn to inland Suffolk as coast books up
The performance and the result of tonight and Saturday’s games will go a long way to showing just how much fight is within the group.
These are two big matches for Lambert and Ipswich.
There’s an element of revenge in the air this evening as the Blues look to make things right following their loss at Sunderland in November.
Town went down 2-1, with the winner a controversial one as Mark McGuinness was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the box following a Toto Nsiala clearance. There was also a hotly-disputed red card for Andre Dozzell, prompting Lambert to declare himself ‘hot and angry’ after the game.
It was another defeat to a promotion rival but this one was a little different, with Ipswich well in the game and hauling themselves level through Jack Lankester before the break. It ended in the same result so many similar contests have, though.
But it’s a totally different Sunderland side now, with Lee Johnson replacing Phil Parkinson in the hot seat and looking to implement a more technical style at the Stadium of Light.
Form has been patchy but promising since his arrival, with the Blues will still needing to be wary given the talent at the former Bristol City boss’s disposal.
There are some ominous signs as well, with Sunderland unbeaten on the road in the league this season and winning their last three without conceding.
When Dozzell has been fit, he’s started for Ipswich Town. That’s how it’s been this season and rightly so.
We’ve seen the most consistent run of the youngster’s career during 2020/21 and some excellent performances have come along with that. His range of passing can, at times, be a joy to behold and there’s no doubting he’s one of the most talented footballers in the Ipswich squad.
But, perhaps for the first time this season, are we at a point where there can be genuine questions surrounding his place in the side? With a daunting run of ‘Saturday-Tuesday’ football he will surely dip out at some point in the coming weeks given he’s nearly played as many minutes this season as he has during the rest of his career to date.
It must also be said the academy youngster has maybe gone off the boil of late, with his usual incisive, instinctive game lacking at the weekend as a succession of balls went missing. Maybe that time is now?
Jon Nolan is a possible option to take his place, either tonight or in the games ahead.
One player who must surely start tonight is new loanee Luke Thomas.
The 21-year-old impressed from the bench during a cameo appearance on Saturday, running at his man and looking to inject some life into Ipswich’s final third at a time when the Blues were struggling to threaten.
He’s fully fit, having been involved regularly for Barnsley this season and there’s no reason not to start him, with Lambert surely itching to give his new man a run.
If Ipswich can get Thomas and Gwion Edwards flying on the flanks they could, to use Thomas’s words, ‘cause havoc’ for the Sunderland backline.
Lambert will be hoping he can call on one of either James Norwood or Kayden Jackson this evening, with both players missing at the weekend with injuries. If they are available they could start ahead of Aaron Drinan, as could Freddie Sears, who replaced the Irishman from the bench.
We all know Ipswich Town struggle to perform when live on national television.
It’s now a record of just three wins from the last 32 attempts, dating back six years to January 2015.
The remaining 29 games have been made up of 10 draws and 19 defeats, the most-recent of which came just over two weeks ago when Swindon Town won 3-2 at Portman Road.
There are plenty of damning statistics which could use a lick of positivity this evening.