Ticking clocks, sticking with it and getting cut adrift - Town take on Northampton

Kayden Jackson under pressure at Charlton Athletic

Kayden Jackson could start for Ipswich Town against Northampton tonight - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town are in League One action away at Northampton this evening, as they look for a spark in their late bid to make the League One play-offs. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.

The clock’s (still) ticking 

Let’s try again. 

Paul Cook’s Ipswich have now gone a miserable seven hours and 19 minutes without scoring a goal, dating back to the 11th minute of the Blues’ home victory over Bristol Rovers on April 2. 

You can do a lot in seven hours. That’s how long it takes to cook the perfect leg of lamb, drive from Ipswich to Paris (with a decent stop) or watch the entirety of the current series of Line of Duty.  

Back on the sidelines - an injured James Norwood during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Back on the sidelines - an injured James Norwood during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Charlton certainly brought a better performance, if not a goal. But Cook’s side’s two efforts on goal of any real note came inside the opening two minutes of the game, with nothing more coming in the following 88 aside from a Gwion Edwards trundler, despite decent tempo and attacking endeavour.  

Losing James Norwood to hamstring trouble once again, after just 25 minutes, was undoubtedly a blow. He’s another whose season has just never really gotten going. 

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If Norwood is indeed out tonight, and with Alan Judge no longer an option, Edwards and Teddy Bishop are now the only two Town player who featured on Saturday to have scored more than one goal in the league this season. 

James Norwood with an early headed chance at Charlton Athletic

James Norwood with an early headed chance at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Neither of them have netted since October, though. There’s your problem. 

Town have already drawn a blank against Northampton once this season, at Portman Road back in February, with another something the Blues desperately need to avoid. 

The Cobblers (35), along with Bristol Rovers (40), are one of only two sides to have scored fewer than Town’s 41 in League One this season. 

Ipswich Manager Paul Cook during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Paul Cook is sticking with his 4-2-3-1 system now - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Sticking with it 

Logic suggests Cook will go with something similar to the side which drew at The Valley, with Kayden Jackson the most likely to start in place of Norwood in attack, in the highly likely event the former Tranmere man doesn’t recover. 

But you also wouldn’t bet against the Town boss mixing personnel up again, given he’s still searching for a winning formula following a run of just two wins in his opening 11 games in charge. 

What’s clear now, though, is the former Wigan man won’t be adapting his principles in order to accommodate Ipswich players who have not performed under him so far. 

Kane Vincent-Young is fouled during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Kane Vincent-Young was back in action at Charlton - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Cook’s tried every system in the book during his desperate search but has now made it plainly clear it’s going to be his hugely-favoured 4-2-3-1 all the way, now. 

Whether Kane Vincent-Young is ready to play a second game in quick succession will have a real influence on any changes, you would think. 

If he can go again, great. If he can’t, or if there are any concern at all, the door may be open for skipper Luke Chambers to return to the side, either at right-back or in the heart of defence, with Luke Woolfenden potentially returning to right-back. 

Elsewhere, Armando Dobra will be hopeful of a start, having replaced Keanan Bennetts off the bench at The Valley, while Cole Skuse, Freddie Sears and Myles Kenlock could potentially come into his thinking. 

Referee Darren Drysdale appeared to square up to Ipswich Town's Alan Judge this evening

Town's 0-0 draw with Northampton in February was dominated by a clash between Alan Judge and referee Darren Drysdale - Credit: Steve Waller

Man in the middle 

The referee took centre stage the last time these two sides met, with Darren Drysdale’s clash with Town midfielder Judge making national headlines within minutes of the two coming together in the final seconds of the game. 

Drysdale is back refereeing again following a retrospective four-game ban, while Judge’s Ipswich career has of course come to a premature end. 

The man with the whistle tonight is James Bell who, in just his first season as an EFL official, has yet to officiate a Town match. 

He taken charge of 27 games in Leagues One and Two this season, showing 78 yellow cards and eight reds. 

Like Drysdale, he’s been involved in a high-profile refereeing moment this season, though. He was the man who sent off Grimsby’s Stefan Payne for headbutting team-mate Filipe Morais at Bradford earlier this month. 

Paul Hurst, the former Ipswich boss now in charge of Grimsby, labelled the incident as ‘embarrassing’. 

Luke Chambers soaks up the sun in the stands as an unused sub during the second half at Charlton Ath

Luke Chambers soaks up the sun in the stands as an unused sub during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Bigger picture 

Sorry to have to do this.  

But Saturday’s point actually closed the gap to the League One play-off places, with Cook’s men only four points shy of sixth place. 

The much-discussed lack of goals is why any late charge seems highly unlikely but it’s certainly mathematically possible. 

The gap could, in theory, be down to one tonight should Town win at Sixfields and results go Town’s way elsewhere. Sixth-placed Oxford are at AFC Wimbledon, Portsmouth (7th also four points ahead of Town) are at Swindon and Charlton (8th, two points ahead) travel to Plymouth. 

Tonight’s game is another against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table, with Jon Brady’s side sitting 21st, four points from safety.  

An Ipswich victory coupled with three points for nearest-rivals Wigan at Shrewsbury tonight would surely put the task of staying in League One beyond the Cobblers, with a seven-point gap to make up with four matches remaining. 

In a worst-case scenario, Town's gap to the top six could also be seven points by close of play tonight. Then, finally, we can completely write-off any lingering promotion hopes.

Northampton keeper Jonathan Mitchell punches clear.

Town drew 0-0 with Northampton in February - Credit: Photo: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

We meet again 

This is Town’s first visit to Northampton since April 1967, when the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in Division Two. 

The last visit all told came in 1987, where Town claimed a 4-2 victory in the League Cup.  

Tonight’s game is Town’s first competitive visit to Sixfields, with the Cobblers moving to their current home from the County Ground in 1994. 

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