Can Town kick on now? Predictions for the next five league games
- Credit: Steve Waller/PA/Sheff Weds FC/Cambridge United FC
Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook wants his new-look side to kick on after they claimed their first win of the season, at Lincoln, last weekend. STUART WATSON looks at the next five fixtures.
Where: Portman Road
The Owls are back in League One for the first time since 2011/12 after finishing bottom of the Championship.
Manager Darren Moore has kept hold of experienced players like Barry Bannan, Sam Hutchinson, Chey Dunkley and Dominic Iorfa and supplemented them with – on paper at least – some very good signings for this level in the form of Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jack Hunt, Lewis Wing, Lee Gregory and Saido Berahino.
An opening day goalless draw at Charlton was followed by three successive wins against Doncaster (2-0 at home), Fleetwood (1-0 at home) and Rotherham (2-0 away).
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Recent weeks have provided a bit of a reality check though. After back-to-back away defeats to Morecambe (0-1) and Plymouth (0-3) they let an early lead slip to draw 1-1 at home to Shrewsbury last weekend.
Wednesday missed a penalty and had a goal controversially chalked off in that game, with the equaliser coming from a Bailey-Peacock fumble.
Moore said: “In the first 45 minutes we were excellent. The second 45 minutes we got drawn into a scrappy battle. That went away from our plan and that’s what I want to look at. We’ve got some work to do on it.”
PREDICTION: D 1-1
When: Tues, Sept 28
Where: Portman Road
Highly competitive in League One over recent years, Rovers have been hit by the sale of captain Ben Whiteman (January), exit of boss Moore (March) and retirement of club legend James Coppinger (May).
Richie Wellens made some solid summer signings, such as Tommy Rowe and Ben Close, but it’s been a tough start to the campaign.
The South Yorkshire side started without a win in nine across all competitions (D2 L7), though those opening fixtures did comprise of tough games against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth, Rotherham and Wigan. A low point was a senior side getting thrashed 6-0 at home to Rotherham in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Like Ipswich, they finally ground out that elusive first victory of the campaign last weekend, beating Morecambe 1-0.
Wellens, whose team will come to Portman Road next Tuesday night fresh from a long weekend trip to Plymouth, said: “We’ve won a football match because we did the basics well, it wasn’t pretty at times but the win gives us confidence.”
This could be a big opportunity to make a statement under the Portman Road lights.
PREDICTION: W 3-0
When: Sat, Oct 2
Where: Wham Stadium
Ipswich have seen first-hand how competitive a side Accrington Stanley are since dropping into League One.
Following last season’s 11th place finish, John Coleman was able to keep the core of his squad together – including in-demand striker Colby Bishop – and bring in a cast of young players from Premier League clubs on frees or loans.
Tipped by some to be ‘dark horses’, Stanley so far have a split record of W4 L4. The wins were against Cambridge United, Doncaster, Crewe and Shrewsbury, with the losses against Wycombe, MK Dons, Sunderland and Wigan.
Town defenders Cameron Burgess and Janoi Donacien will be back on their old stomping ground for this fixture, as will manager Paul Cook and first team coach Gary Roberts.
This is Stanley’s next home game in the calendar. Before then they have away trips to Morecambe and Oxford United.
Speaking after last weekend’s 4-1 home loss to Wigan, Coleman said: “I never like getting beat, but what can you do when they were better than you in every department?
“We have been defying odds for so long that people think it’s just the norm. But the brutal reality is that all their subs coming on today will be on double our top earner.”
PREDICTION: D 1-1
When: Sat, Oct 9
Where: Portman Road
Following a midweek home match against Gillingham in the Papa John’s Trophy, the Blues will be back at Portman Road to face the Shrews in the league.
The Shropshire side look like they could be in a relegation scrap this season based on their early results.
They’ve lost five league games – to Burton, Portsmouth, Morecambe, Plymouth and Accrington – all to nil.
Their points have come from a comeback 2-1 home win against Gillingham and, most recently, back-to-back 1-1 draws against Crewe and Sheffield Wednesday.
Steve Cotterill, back in the dug-out following his lengthy battle with Covid, said: “My teams are usually good at defending set-plays, but something seems to have got lost in translation because we're giving away cheap goals. That is something we need to be better at.”
PREDICTION: W 2-0
When: Sat, Oct 16
Where: The Abbey Stadium
The U’s lost three key men following promotion – 34 goal striker Paul Mullin, midfielder Luke Hannant and right-back Kyle Knoyle.
Manager Mark Bonner has got them off to a good start to life in League though (W3 D2 L2).
They’ve beaten Burton and Bolton (both of whom Ipswich lost to), but were also thrashed 5-1 at home to Lincoln (who Town just beat). Make of that what you will.
Town will, of course, be up against Jack Lankester for the first time since his summer exit. Former Norwich nemesis Wes Hoolahan still looks classy at the age of 39.
Speaking after last weekend’s 2-1 win at Portsmouth, Bonner said: “I think there is a confidence about the team at the moment. How much I guess will be seen over the next few weeks, but I thought we played really well and deserved the result in the end.”
PREDICTION: D 2-2