Soul-searching, an unleashing and the enemy within - Town travel to Lincoln in search of a win
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Ipswich Town return to League One action when they visit Lincoln City this weekend. Andy Warren takes a look ahead to the game at Sincil Bank.
Manager Paul Cook said his side continue to ‘search for our soul’ following Tuesday night’s loss to West Ham’s youngsters.
That search continues today at Sincil Bank.
The Blues begin the day winless in six League One games, sitting 22nd in the table and already 12 points behind leaders Sunderland. The gap to Wigan in second is 10 points, with Town nine off the play-off places. It must be said, though, all of those teams currently occupying positions 3-6 have played a game more than Ipswich at this early stage.
We’re not in ‘must-win’ territory yet – it's September 18th, after all, but the gap to the position Town want to be in is already uncomfortably big. It can’t be allowed to get too much bigger, either.
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It’s likely Ipswich boss Paul Cook will make at least 10 changes to the side which lost so miserably to West Ham’s youngsters on Tuesday night.
Christian Walton will return in goal, George Edmundson and Cameron Burgess will again likely be paired in defence and Hayden Coulson should come back in at left-back.
Lee Evans is likely to return in midfield, as should Wes Burns and Macauley Bonne in attacking areas.
That’s seven players, with a few questions over the identity of the other four.
Logic suggests Janoi Donacien will start at right-back following Kane Vincent-Young's struggles this week, while Tom Carroll may just be the only member of the side which lost in the Papa John’s Trophy to keep his place in the side. Rekeem Harper could be the man dipping out of the league team – sadly Cook can’t sneak suspended skipper-in-waiting Sam Morsy onto the pitch, as much as he would want to.
Wide left and the No.10 positions are up for grabs, with Cook having options there, depending on fitness issues.
Conor Chaplin, Sone Aluko and Louie Barry are all fit and good to go but, if Kyle Edwards, Scott Fraser or even Bersant Celina are ready to start, it may just be a different story.
We’ll find out at 2pm.
Whatever team Cook’s today, it will be in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system.
He sees no reason to change it.
Cook said: “As a manager, when you sit down and reflect on a game, the first question I always ask myself is ‘has the formation cost us the result?’ I think that’s a very fair question.
“If you look at all the games we’ve played, has the formation cost us the result? Not a chance! Absolutely not a chance.
“Are there other elements to what we’re doing costing us games? A hundred per cent.
“We’re working hard to be better at those things.
Today may well be the day Celina is unleashed in an Ipswich Town shirt once again.
The Blues are hopeful a few red tape issues, linked to the Kosovo international’s visa, are cleared up in time for him to take his place in the matchday squad. If they are, the question is whether or not he starts or begins the game on the bench.
He’s had some time away from football this summer, of course, as he dealt with a heart infection linked to Covid-19, but he has been training since he arrived at Portman Road on transfer deadline day. The reports from team-mates have been glowing to say the least.
We know what Celina can do, Paul Cook knows what Celina can do, so the temptation may just be to throw him in from the start as the Blues desperately search for a victory to kick-start their season.
Cook is coy when it comes to the injury status of his players so it’s hard to say exactly who the Town boss has available to him this weekend, but it’s not impossible he may also be able to call on Edwards again.
The prospect of he and Celina in the same Ipswich side is exciting. Both want to play on the left flank, cutting in, but Celina can also operate centrally, meaning the former Manchester City man could line up as the No.10.
Town have had issues getting the player in that position into games, so it will be interesting to see if Celina can buck the trend if he does indeed get a shot there.
The midfield maestro
Ipswich Town’s 2020/21 squad are now scattered around the EFL, following the Blues’ summer clear-out.
Cook’s men have already come up against MK Dons’ Troy Parrott this season, but face the first big-hitter from their ex-files today when they come up against Teddy Bishop.
The midfielder, who spent 18 years at his boyhood club, is set to return to the Imps’ starting line-up after struggling with a minor knock and then illness this week. He’s sure to have a point to prove following an exit he described as ‘expected, brutal and almost disrespectful’.
Town know when he can cause trouble, so expect Cook to try and limit the opportunities for the 25-year-old to get on the ball and drive towards the Ipswich box.
He has one long-range goal to his name already in red and white and will certainly fancy another.
The enemy within
Standing between Ipswich and their first win of the season is a Lincoln side who have found a little bit of form themselves, following a mixed start to the season.
The last week has seen the Imps beat Cambridge 5-1 and then draw 1-1 with Rotherham to pick up four League One points, lifting them to 15th in the table.
They have plenty of weapons, Bishop aside, with Anthony Scully, Tom Hopper Hakeeb Adelakun and Chris Maguire all at manager Michael Appleton’s disposal.
It’s not Lincoln Cook is worried about, though.
“Michael’s done a good job everywhere he’s been,” the Town boss said. “He went to a few clubs at difficult times – Pompey, Blackburn and Blackpool – where he had to manage problems off the pitch.
"Lincoln is a really solid, good, football club. He’s brought in some fantastic players, they have a really strong identity in how they play the game and they are a massive threat to us.
“At the minute though the opposition is not our enemy. We are our own enemy at the minute.
“Until we can become a strong team together then you will not see our true colours. Our true colours will be revealed eventually. Tomorrow we will be taking a big step closer to where we want to be.”