Striker hot streak looks the missing ingredient as Town head to Morecambe
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town take on Morecambe, in Lancashire, this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
MIND THE GAP
Tuesday night's 0-0 home stalemate with Cheltenham was frustrating in the extreme.
Nine times out of 10, the Blues take at least one of their big first half chances and go on to win that game. But they didn't. And every dropped point feels big given how small the margin for error is.
An opportunity to move to within two points of the play-off places was missed. Instead, the gap remained at four.
That doesn't sound a lot, but top-six rivals Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe and Plymouth all have games in hand to come.
Draws are no good if Town are going to undo the damage done by their slow start to the campaign.
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For the sake of momentum, it's important the Blues, who Kieran McKenna admitted looked 'fatigued' during the second half in midweek, get back on the win wagon over the coming eight days.
Today's game at Morecambe represents a 560-mile round trip. Next Saturday, it's a 552-mile round trip back to the Lancashire coast to take on another relegation-battling side in Fleetwood.
Can some tired bodies and minds dig deep and keep promotion hopes alive? Let's see.
GOING FOR GOALS
Reasons to keep the faith are plentiful.
Town are averaging more than two points per game under Kieran McKenna (W7 D2 L2).
They have conceded just four goals over his 11 games in charge. Should they keep a sixth successive clean sheet today then that would be a new club record.
They are dominating possession in games and creating more than enough match-winning chances.
The missing ingredient, it seems, is to get a striker on a hot streak.
Macauley Bonne scored 11 in 16 at the start of the season. He's now got one in 19.
Joe Pigott, whose time at the club has been very stop-start, is on an 18-game goal drought.
James Norwood scored four in five after returning to the fold in December. He's eight games without a goal now.
Kayden Jackson scored in last weekend's 3-0 home win against Burton, having not scored in his previous 23 league outings.
Wes Burns (5) and Conor Chaplin (3) are the top-scorers since McKenna took charge.
The front three has regularly been rotated by the Northern Irishman. Last weekend, against Burton, it was Pigott as the central striker, with Jackson and Sone Aluko either side. On Tuesday night, against Cheltenham, it was Jackson as the central striker with Chaplin and Bersant Celina in support.
Whose turn is it next? And can someone make themselves undroppable?
FILLING A VOID
It's been a case of make do and mend in Ipswich Towns' engine room ata crucial stage of the campaign.
Skipper Sam Morsy sat out four games through suspension and was conspicuous by his absence during that period.
The Blues are now having to cope with Lee Evans, who is arguably equally influential in the middle of the pitch, for the next few weeks.
The Welshman injured his knee towards the end of the Burton game and, though surgery is not required, he is facing a significant spell on the sidelines.
It's a major blow. Town missed Evans when he was ill for the 0-0 draw at MK Dons. He was outstanding in the 3-0 win against Burton. Again, he looked like the missing link in Tuesday night's 0-0 draw with Cheltenham.
"He does give us a different balance to the team, but we have good players to come in, probably not of the same profile of Lee, but it's up to us to find the right balance now for the games going forwards," said McKenna.
Tom Carroll was the man who got the nod in midweek. Tyreeq Bakinson and Idris El Mizouni are the other options.
NEW BOSS BOUNCE?
Morecambe saw manager Stephen Robinson and his assistant Diarmuid O'Carroll left to join Scottish club St Mirren on Tuesday.
Later that day, the Shrimps lost 2-0 at league-leaders Rotherham.
On Thursday, the Lancashire club announced that Derek Adams, the man who led the club to League Two promotion via the play-offs in 2020/21, was returning to the hot-seat.
"It was an really easy decision for me to come back," said the experienced Scot, who was sacked by League Two club Bradford City last week.
"We have obviously got a challenge between now and the end of the season to stay in League One."
Morecambe are currently 21st in the table but know a win could lift them out of the relegation zone today.
They've claimed just nine points from a possible 45 against teams currently in the top half this season (one of them coming from the 2-2 draw at Portman Road on the opening day).
Tuesday night was the first time Cheltenham had ever played at Portman Road.
Today will be the first time Town have played at Morecambe in the league.
The Blues' only previous visit to the Lancashire club was in 2001, as a Premier League side, for a 3-0 FA Cup third round win. Marcus Stewart, Alun Armstrong and Jermaine Wright were all on target that day.
That game was played at Morecambe's old Christie Park ground. Since 2010 the Shrimps have played at their current 6,476 capacity home. Formerly known as the Globe Arena, it is now called the Mazuma Stadium for sponsorship reasons.