Meet Town's opposition: The miserly League One away-day specialists

Cole Skuse manhandles Charlie Wyke at Sunderland Picture Pagepix

Cole Skuse manhandles Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke during Town's 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light last February

Football writer Carl Marston casts his eye over Sunderland, who are tonight's visitors to Portman Road for a League One tussle....

Times are getting desperate for Ipswich Town, with under-pressure boss Paul Lambert in dire need of a victory, and his side couldn't pick a tougher home league tussle than against this evening's visiting Sunderland.

While Town's recent form at Portman Road has been miserable, with five defeats in their last six home league games, Sunderland do not know what it feels like to lose on the road in League One.

In fact, Sunderland have been Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to their home and away form, regardless of the lack of supporters. 

Tomas Holy is sent the wrong way for a late second half penalty against Ipswich at Sunderland Pictur

Town keeper Tomas Holy is sent the wrong way as Grant Leadbitter scores a late second-half penalty in Sunderland's 2-1 home win in November. But the Wearsiders have been in even better form on their travels. - Credit: Pagepix

AWAY-DAY SPECIALISTS

Sunderland are the only club in League One to remain undefeated on the road this season.

In fact, only Premier League leaders Manchester United, from the top four divisions, can join them in also boasting a record of no away league defeats.

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The Wearsiders have won five and drawn five of their 10 away league matches to date, accumulating 20 points as opposed to just 16 from 12 games at the Stadium of Light.

Just as impressive is their miserly defensive record on the road, with just four goals conceded in those 10 away outings, including seven clean-sheets.

Even Manchester United (12 goals conceded) cannot match that away record.

There have been wins at Oxford and Swindon, and more recently emphatic away victories at Gillingham (2-0), promotion rivals Lincoln City (4-0) and AFC Wimbledon (3-0).

They have only once let in more than one on their travels, in a 2-2 draw at Rochdale, securing other draws at Northampton, Fleetwood, Doncaster and Charlton.

Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke. Photo: PA

Charlie Wyke, who has scored 14 goals for Sunderland this season - Credit: PA

DANGER-MAN WYKE

Goal poacher Charlie Wyke, who scored in the 2-1 home win over Town in early November, is bang in form.

Middlesbrough-born Wyke, who came up through the Academy at his home town club without ever making a first-team appearance, has put two tough seasons behind him to give Sunderland a fighting chance of promotion this time around.

The 28-year-old proved a prolific scorer at his previous two clubs, bagging 39 goals in 89 outings for Carlisle United (2015-17) before netting 23 in 62 for Bradford City.

Hindered by an early injury, Wyke managed just five goals in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 for Sunderland, after signing for £400,000 in the summer of 2018.

But he has already scored 14 goals in 25 this term, including 11 in League One and a hat-trick in Sunderland's last away game, a 3-0 success at AFC Wimbledon.

Otherwise, though, the Wearsiders have rather struggled for goalscorers in their squad.

Ex-Town midfielder Grant Leadbitter (four) and fellow midfielder Chris Maguire (three) are the only others to have scored more than two league goals this season.

File photo dated 04-08-2019 of Bristol City manager Lee Johnson

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson - Credit: PA

THE BOSS

Lee Johnson was appointed to the Stadium of Light hot-seat on December 5, after previous boss Phil Parkinson, the ex-Colchester United manager, had been dismissed after just over a year at the helm.

Parkinson had brought success to Colchester, culminating in promotion to the Championship in 2006, and also had a level of success in charge at Charlton, Bradford (a promotion) and Bolton (a promotion).

However, he was unable to turn around the fortunes of Sunderland, mustering just 19 wins in 48 games.

Johnson, 39, was the longest serving manager in the Championship on the point of his departure from Bristol City last summer.

Grant Leadbitter looks to bring the ball under control : Picture: MARTYN HARRISON

Blast from the past: Grant Leadbitter during his days at Ipswich Town - Credit: BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

FAMILIAR OLD FACE

Grant Leadbitter has rattled up 557 first-team appearances during a long and distinguished career, and the 35-year-old is still playing at a high level.

Leadbitter played three seasons with Ipswich Town, under managers Roy Keane and Paul Jewell around a decade ago, and was the model of consistency with 126 outings in the middle of the park.

He has always been a tough competitor, in a defensive midfield capacity, and has had spells as club captain with both Town and Sunderland, despite being quietly-spoken and often quite an intense character.

A product of Sunderland's Academy, Leadbitter played in the Premier League with his home-town club before leaving for Ipswich in the autumn of 2009. He re-signed for the Wearsiders at the start of 2019.

He kept his cool to convert an 84th minute penalty to beat his old club Ipswich last November, after Jack Lankester had equalised following Wyke's early opener.

PAST ENCOUNTERS

Sunderland have not actually won a league match at Portman Road for 23 years.

Their last league success at Town was a 2-0 victory in 1998 thanks to first-half goals by John Mullin and Kevin Phillips. Since then they have lost five and drawn two of their last seven league visits.

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