Pressure's on... So time to go 4-4-2? - Ipswich v Burton pre-match talking points
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town host Burton Albion in a League One game at Portman Road tonight. Stuart Watson previews the action...
ONE GAME AT A TIME
When will Ipswich Town beat one of the division's leading sides? That was the question following Saturday's comfortable 2-0 home loss to Portsmouth on Saturday.
The Blues won just two of their 18 games against sides that finished in the top 10 of League One last season. And so far this campaign they've lost to Hull (1st), Lincoln (2nd), Portsmouth (3rd), Charlton (5th), Doncaster (7th) and Sunderland (8th).
So, only naturally, thoughts turned to Saturday's game at fourth-place Peterborough.
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To do that though underestimates just how big a potential banana skin tonight's home match with Burton is.
The Brewers may be rock-bottom, but they are currently on a four-game unbeaten streak. Jake Buxton's men beat Charlton 4-2 three weeks' ago. Since then they've had successive 1-1 draws against Sunderland, Crewe and MK Dons.
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In terms of the overall mood, it feels like Town have little to gain and everything to lose.
The pressure is on.
SET THE TONE
It was so good to see fans back inside Portman Road for the first time in nine long months.
Those that got in via the ballot gave the players, and Lambert, a warm reception pre kick-off but the atmosphere later turned sour.
It will be a different set of season ticket holders there tonight as the club looks to make things as fair as possible under the current 2,000 attendance restrictions.
They too, I'm sure, will put aside any bigger picture frustrations and turn up with every intention of backing the players under the lights.
After that the onus will be on the players to set the tone and give the crowd something to feed off, be it a crunching tackle, a driving run or shot on goal.
Town have conceded the first goal in eight of their last nine games (the other being a goalless draw). They really could do with that trend ending to avoid any nerves creeping in, both on and off the pitch.
OBSESSION WITH POSSESSION
Ipswich have had a lot of the ball this season, but so much of that possession has been slow, predictable and in non-dangerous positions.
Everyone knows how to set-up against Town now. Press high early on, force a mistake, get the lead and then park two organised banks of four or more behind the ball.
Against the lesser sides, the Blues have been able to ride their luck and, eventually, their passing game has triumphed against tiring legs.
Two thirds of their 21 league goals have come in the second half.
Will we have the same again tonight?
Burton have just gone four games unbeaten with a final possession share of 36% (win against Charlton), 29% (Sunderland draw), 30 (MK Dons draw) and 34% (Crewe draw).
Theirs is a counter-attacking game.
TIME FOR 4-4-2?
Jon Nolan became the latest Town player to limp off midway through a first half on Saturday. It's unlikely that he's going to be fit to play three days' later.
If Paul Lambert wants to add a bit of experience and physicality to his side, then the obvious thing to do would be bring in big striker Oli Hawkins and switch to 4-4-2.
Yes, that's not the playing identity that he or owner Marcus Evans wants, but right now some short-term pragmatism might be required to get through a sticky patch.
Town certainly looked more of a goal threat when Hawkins and Jackson were on the pitch together in the latter stages of the games at Oxford and Plymouth.
The alternative is to bring in young Brett McGavin into the midfield and keep plugging away with a 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 set-up that, without key men such as Flynn Downes, Teddy Bishop and Gwion Edwards, has lacked steel and spark.
A LONG BREW
A few of the Burton squad have been around the block. There's Michael Bostwick and John Brayford in defence, Stephen Quinn in midfield and Lucas Akins up top.
There's an outside chance we might even see an appearance from a 38-year-old Luke Varney too.
The popular ex-Town forward re-joined the Staffordshire side during the summer as a player-coach following on from a decent couple of years in League Two with Cheltenham Town.
He's made three late sub outings so far.