Meet Town's opposition: Basement boys Brewers will be no pushovers
Burton Albion might be propping up the League One table, but they will be no pushovers at Portman Road tonight.
Town have tended to fair well against the lower-ranked teams, while struggling to take points off their promotion rivals, over the last couple of seasons.
That would suggest a home win tonight, against a Burton side who have mustered just 13 points from 17 games, and are three points adrift of safety.
However, the Brewers have been stirring into life in recent weeks. They are unbeaten in four matches, albeit drawing their last three by 1-1 scorelines, and by all reports they were unlucky not to secure all three points from their most recent outing, a 1-1 draw at MK Dons on Saturday.
Manager Jake Buxton, appointed in May, has a big job on his hands trying to keep Burton in the third tier, but the signs are there that a second relegation in four seasons can be avoided.
Burton have scored first in each of their last four league matches, so Town will have to be on their guard.
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They proved quick starters in their surprise 4-2 win over miserly Charlton Athletic in their last game of November, Lucas Akins netting after just nine minutes against a side who had boasted the best defence in the division.
This month, Charles Vernam put the Brewers 1-0 up on the hour mark at managerless Sunderland, who had just parted company with their manager Phil Parkinson. Max Power salvaged a point for the Brewers with an 85th minute header.
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Likewise, a late goal denied Burton a couple of points in their last home game, against Crewe Alexandra.
Sam Hughes, on loan from Leicester City, headed the hosts in front on 76 minutes, only for Crewe to equalise with just two minutes remaining via Owen Dale's acrobatic overhead kick.
And last weekend, Colin Daniel swept Burton into a ninth minute lead against MK Dons, a lead they held until Scott Fraser converted a 73rd minute penalty.
Burton might not be so charitable, if they get their noses in front at Portman Road.
ON THE ROAD
Burton have yet to win on their league travels this season, and have in fact only won a couple of their 17 league fixtures, both at the Pirelli Stadium against Accrington Stanley (2-1 in mid-September) and Charlton Athletic (4-2 last month).
Yet December has already yielded 1-1 draws at Sunderland and MK Dons, while other draws have been secured at Shrewsbury Town, Peterborough United and Bristol Rovers, to make it five points gathered from nine away league games.
Manager Buxton, not surprisingly, wants to convert some of these one pointers into three pointers.
"All in all I’m happy with the performance (at Mk Dons), but we just need three points with the situation we’re in," insisted Buxton.
"This was another game, the same as the Shrewsbury game, the same as the Sunderland game, the same as the Crewe game, that we should have taken three points.
"The formation and shape was correct and that’s why we’re getting results - ultimately we needed three points, but I’m still pleased.
"We dust ourselves down and we get ready for Ipswich."
Replacing Nigel Clough was always going to be a tough ask, especially if it happened to be your first job - and the Burton job is Jake Buxton's first managerial role.
The 35-year-old former defender took over from Clough in May, the latter having left the club due to the financial pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
During Clough's first spell, from 1998 to 2009, he took Burton from the seventh tier (Southern League Premier Division) to the brink of promotion to the Football League when he left for Derby County.
Returning to the Pirelli Stadium in December, 2015, Clough subsequently guided Burton into the Championship, where they stayed for two seasons before finishing 9th and 12th in the most recent two seasons at League One level.
Buxton's main aim is retaining Burton's third tier status, and to help he has recruited several loan players from Premier League clubs.
Midfielder Sam Hughes is on loan from Leicester City until January, while striker Nial Ennis arrived on loan for the season from Wolves, having been on loan at Doncaster last term.
Other youngsters to have arrived on loan include midfielder Jack Roles (Tottenham) and striker Indiana Vassilieu (Aston Villa).
Despite all the youthful loan signings, there is a lot of experience in the Burton ranks.
Centre-half Michael Bostwick, 32, is fast closing in on 700 first-team appearances, having been a regular at Stevenage and Peterborough.
Likewise, fellow defender John Braford, also 32, has rattled more than 550 senior appearances, and at the other end of the pitch 31-year-old Luca Akins, who has five goals to his name this season, is a tricky customer.
Kane Hemmings, also with five goals, is on the comeback trail after injury. The 28-year-old front-runner is back in training after several weeks on the sidelines with a quad injury, and could return against Ipswich.
John-Jon O'Toole, a streetwise midfielder of defender, is also a useful player to have up your sleeve. The 32-year-old made a name for himself at the likes of Watford, Colchester and Northampton
Town have yet to lose to Burton in six competitive meetings, winning five of them and drawing the other.