Two hunters with reasons to believe... Today is big

Wes Burns celebrates scoring at AFC Wimbledon with Macauley Bonne.

Wes Burns celebrates scoring at AFC Wimbledon with Macauley Bonne. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town take on Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.

Wes Burns celebrates scoring during the second half at AFC Wimbledon

Wes Burns celebrates scoring during the second half at AFC Wimbledon - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

THE HUNTERS

Former Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert once claimed that it was 'better to be the hunter than the hunted'. On that logic, both of today's teams are in great shape.

Four wins from five under new boss Kieran McKenna has lifted the Blues up to eighth and within five points of the League One play-off places. 

Sheffield Wednesday sit one place and one point back but, crucially, have two games in hand to come.

There may be a lot of football to be played still, but the top four of Wigan, Sunderland, Rotherham and Wycombe are in danger of getting too far ahead of the chasing pack. It mightn't be long before there are just scraps left to fight over. 

The games between those currently placed between fifth and 10th - that's MK Dons, Oxford United, Plymouth, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Portsmouth - therefore feel like key fixtures.

Most Read

Town have claimed six points from a possible 15 in the initial round of matches against those aforementioned sides. Realistically, they'll have to up that total the second time around if they are going to gatecrash the promotion picture.

For those wondering, Town go to MK Dons on February 12, then face Portsmouth (h), Oxford United (a) and Plymouth (h) in successive matches during the second half of March.

 

Macauley Bonne pounces after waiting silently and patiently behind against Sheffield Wednesday keepe

Macauley Bonne pounces after waiting silently and patiently behind against Sheffield Wednesday keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

HE'S BEHIND YOU!

The game between these two sides at Portman Road back on September 25 is remembered for only one thing...

Wednesday led 1-0, courtesy of Dennis Adeniran's first half goal, going into the final knockings. Then, in a moment now immortalised on one of the pillars behind the Sir Bobby Robson Stand, Town snatched a last minute equaliser.

Macauley Bonne, whose momentum had carried him off the field of play as Bailey Peacock-Farrell caught the ball, silently gestured to the crowd to be complicit in his sneaky plan. They duly obliged. 

He patiently stalked the visiting keeper, staying perfectly in his blind spot, before pouncing as soon as the ball was dropped. Peacock-Farrell flailed on the deck, Bonne coolly picked out Scott Fraser from the byline and he subsequently teed up Conor Chaplin to score.

It won't happen again, but it should make for some fun pantomime shouts from the crowd this afternoon.

Peacock-Farrell is likely to leave the field with a sore neck today.

Ipswich Town have signed Dominic Thompson on loan from Brentford for the rest of the season

Ipswich Town have signed Dominic Thompson on loan from Brentford for the rest of the season - Credit: ITFC

NEW BLUE

Kane Vincent-Young's late red card in Tuesday night's 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon left us all wondering who would play on the left-side this weekend. Would Matt Penney or Hayden Coulson be fit enough to return from injuries? Might Kyle Edwards be tried in that wing-back role? 

Then, on Thursday night, the Blues signed Dominic Thompson on loan from Brentford.

The 21-year-old looks, on paper, like a superb signing. He came through the youth ranks at Arsenal. He spent the second half of last season on loan at League One side Swindon, impressing against Town. And he's started five games for the Bees so far this campaign, including two in the Premier League (against Brighton and Man City).

Will he go straight into the side? Looking at his highlights reel, the hope is he can provide a similar sort of attacking threat to Wes Burns on the opposite flank.

Macauley Bonne celebrates at Gillingham.

James Norwood and Macauley Bonne both scored in last weekend's 4-0 win at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

DECISIONS, DECISIONS...

McKenna has shown he is not afraid to shuffle the pack.

Conor Chaplin, Bersant Celina and Bonne were the chosen front three for the 2-1 home win against Accrington last weekend, but then were replaced by Sone Aluko, James Norwood and Kayden Jackson for the midweek 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon.

It'll be interesting to see which forward combination the Blues boss thinks is best suited to today's game. 

Captain Sam Morsy moves onto game two of his controversial four-game ban. Tyreeq Bakinson and Tom Carroll formed the central midfield at Plough Lane. You would imagine Lee Evans, who provides a bit more physicality, would replace one of those two if he is passed fit following a recent groin issue. McKenna has said that will be a late call.

Preston North End's Jordan Storey (left) and Blackburn Rovers' Reda Khadra battle for the ball durin

Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday all reportedly want to sign Preston North End defender Jordan Storey (left) on loan this month. - Credit: PA

OWLS LAND REINFORCEMENTS 

Sheffield Wednesday could hand out as many as three debuts today.

With Dominic Iorfa, Chey Dunkley and Lewis Gibson all out injured, boss Darren Moore was desperately looking for defensive reinforcements as soon as the January transfer window opened.

Over the last few days he's finally landed two new centre-halves in Jordan Storey and Harlee Dean on loan from Preston and Birmingham respectively. Those two have made close to 400 Championship appearances between them.

A new striker has arrived to in the form of Tyreece John-Jules. The pacey 21-year-old joins on loan from Arsenal having spent the first half of the season at Blackpool. He's reunited with boss Darren Moore having played under him for a spell at Doncaster.

Sheffield Wednesday's Massimo Luongo during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffiel

Former Ipswich Town loanee Massimo Luongo is a key man in midfield for Sheffield Wednesday.

FORTRESS TO BREACH

Sheffield Wednesday, like Ipswich, are where they are in the table because of major inconsistency.

On their day, they've been very good - beating the likes of Rotherham, Wigan and Sunderland. At Hillsborough, playing in front of average crowds of 22,000, they've lost just once in the league (W6 D4). 

Key injuries, a set-piece Achilles heel and the failure to get a squad packed with Championship experience playing as a coherent team has held them back though.

Moore's men come into this match having lost three of their last four, including a 5-0 humiliation at The Stadium of Light.

There is a feeling though, that, the attacking part of their game is beginning to click following a 4-2 home win against Plymouth and entertaining 3-2 loss at Oxford United.

Midfield maestro Massimo Luongo is fit-again and making a real difference. Influential front man Josh Windass is working his way back into the team following hamstring surgery. And, with the aforementioned defensive reinforcements, the Owls will be hoping they can finish the season strong.

A 16-year-old Andre Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut at Hillsborough in April 2016. Photo: P

A 16-year-old Andre Dozzell scored on his Ipswich Town debut at Hillsborough in April 2016. Photo: Pagepix

GOOD MEMORIES

Town's last trip to Hillsborough ended with a 2-1 loss. Lucas Joao scored twice and Toto Nsiala was controversially dismissed during the ill-fated Paul Hurst era that set the wheels for relegation in motion.

Before that, the Blues had gone nine games undefeated at the famous South Yorkshire stadium. Martyn Waghorn scored a brace there, Luke Chambers got a late winner and there was that Andre Dozzell debut goal too.

Hopefully it can be a happy hunting ground again.