It's irresistible force v immoveable object as Town face Oxford
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town travel to the Kassam Stadium to face Oxford United this afternoon. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.
Eight games left, time running out and teams around them seemingly winning on a regular basis.
Ipswich need victories if they are to crash the promotion party and this afternoon’s visit to Oxford is no exception.
The gap’s currently at five points but there’s plenty of traffic and games in hand to factor in, too.
The play-offs will still be mathematically possible even with defeat today, but wins are what’s needed.
Be in no doubt about that.
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Irresistible force v immoveable object
Ipswich Town and Oxford United have played each other five times since the Blues’ fall into League One in 2019.
Remarkably, there has been just one goal across those 450 minutes. It’s four goalless draws and one 1-0 victory for Oxford, at Portman Road in February of 2020.
Both teams wanted plenty of the ball in those matches but, despite some pretty patterns of play, they managed to cancel each other out.
Karl Robinson’s still in charge of the U’s and Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich love possessing the football. So, on the face of that, are we destined for another goalless draw?
Well, things are a little different now. There’s plenty to consider.
The men from the Kassam Stadium lead the League One scoring charts on 73, with striker Matty Taylor scoring 19 of them, but no team in the top 10 have conceded more than their 48. For context, Ipswich have scored 57 and conceded 39.
Oxford have won five of their last six and have averaged three-goals-a-game across those matches.
But McKenna’s Town don’t concede goals, with 11 clean sheets in 15 matches and just one allowed in an unbeaten nine-game stretch. No side has a better defensive record since McKenna took charge.
How will that all stack up? It’s going to be fascinating to find out.
This week’s discussion of McKenna’s starting XI is based around hamstrings.
That’s because it’s the injured body part which has likely ruled Kayden Jackson out for the rest of the season and has once again left Sam Morsy as a real doubt.
The timing of Jackson’s injury is cruel, given just how much he’s been enjoying his football since coming back into the side, and a tough one for the team to deal with.
McKenna has three other central strikers to pick from, but all are out of form in front of goal.
Macauley Bonne has scored once in 22 games, James Norwood is 10 without a goal and Joe Pigott hasn’t netted in 19 matches. His last league goal was in August. A combined 51 games.
None of those strikers have had a regular run in the side of late. Whoever’s picked has a chance to stake a claim.
Morsy’s situation is a difficult one for Town to deal with. He’s limped out of the last two matches with a hamstring issue which is still causing him trouble, lasting a little over 20 minutes of Saturday’s draw with Portsmouth.
How much are McKenna and his team willing to risk with their skipper? The time is now for play-off hopes but is there a chance he could make the issue worse and impact his summer schedule?
We know just how much he brings to this team and Ipswich were a lesser side without him, though.
Town’s medical experts were due to make a call after training yesterday, so we’ll find out at 2pm.
If he isn’t fit to play, McKenna will surely go with the pairing of Tyreeq Bakinson and Tom Carroll.
One will partner the captain if he is good to go.
A new centurion
It’s a big afternoon for Luke Woolfenden as the central defender reaches his Ipswich Town century.
Since his debut at Luton in the League Cup in August of 2017, we’ve seen plenty of ability in an ultra-cool customer who has plenty of ability.
But he’s never played to the consistently high level he’s managing right now, which is credit to his drive and focus as well as the work put into him by McKenna and his coaching team.
He’s part of a back line which doesn’t concede goals, with just five beating them in 15 games, and has given the Blues a launchpad to work from.
There’s more to come from him, though, with McKenna insisting he’s far from the finished article. That’s exciting.
Here’s to the next hundred.
The Kassam Stadium boardroom will be a familiar place to two of Ipswich Town’s leading men.
Blues chairman Michael O’Leary was previously on the board at Oxford for a brief spell, starting in 2014, while Mark Ashton served as chief executive for a short time before joining Bristol City as chief operating officer at the beginning of 2016.
At the time of his exit, Oxford were on their way to winning promotion from League Two.