Heart after hurt, white to black and wildcards... Wigan v Town
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town take on Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
SHOW SOME HEART
In the wake of Paul Cook's sacking, Town's players simply didn't turn up at The Valley on Tuesday night.
Okay, they competed reasonably well for the opening 20 minutes, but once Jayden Stockley opened the scoring they crumbled. Too many players looked went into hiding. A 'fear factor' crept in, admits interim boss John McGreal.
Only a string of Christian Walton saves prevented it being an embarrassing scoreline. There could certainly be no complaints when Alex Gilbey finally bagged the killer second late on.
Unsavoury scenes followed as a large number of the 3,159-strong Blues fans in attendance voiced their displeasure. Town players, we're told, then exchanged their own frank words in the dressing room.
Now let's see those words turn into actions. As McGreal has said, it's time for the players to be accountable. They're better than this and they need to start showing it.
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Win, lose or draw, the performance has to be full of heart today. That's all anyone's asking for.
A GOOD FIXTURE?
Wigan are on a roll. The Latics are on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions (W8 D2). They're level on points with Rotherham and Wycombe at the top of the League One table and have at least one game in hand on the majority of their rivals.
On the face of it, this is a nightmare game for the Blues (two wins in their last 10) to be walking into next.
Then again, you could choose to look at it another way. Is it better for Town to be the underdogs on the road rather than the under-pressure favourites to win in front of a tense home crowd?
WHITE TO BLACK
On Tuesday night, we saw Town superstitiously opt to wear their away kit following previous successes in that strip under the lights at Portsmouth and Wycombe. This time, sadly, it resembled more of a white flag.
Today, it has been announced, the Blues will be wearing their 2021/22 'clash kit' for the first time - it's a black shirt with grey stripes.
Let's hope this colour choice doesn't symbolise the death of promotion hopes.
IN FROM THE COLD
Exiled striker James Norwood is in from the cold.
Town's top scorer from the previous two seasons looked to have no future at the club, but he's got his head down with the U23s and got himself back in the fold.
The 31-year-old could add a goal threat to a team that has drawn a blank in five of their last eight games. He could certainly offer a bit of fight too.
Whether he starts or not is another question.
Macauley Bonne, even with his lack of recent goals, and Joe Pigott, who has been patiently waiting for his chance, will both feel they should be ahead in the pecking order.
You can certainly argue that when it comes to playing two strikers we've reached the 'potential rewards outweigh the risks' point.
Cook's favoured 4-2-3-1 hasn't been working and the very definition of madness is repeatedly trying the same thing and expecting different results.
Cameron Humphreys caught the eye when making his senior debut in the Carabao Cup loss to Newport back in August. The 18-year-old has excelled for the Under-23s since.
Having stepped off the bench in the last two games, might he be handed his full senior debut today?
“The boy’s talented,” said McGreal. “We’ve got to try and get him opportunities as best we can."
He can play on either wing, centre-midfield or even left-back.
KVY AND JD ROLES
When Kane Vincent-Young and Janoi Donacien were both named in the team on Tuesday, many assumed Vincent-Young would be the left-back given he played in that position a lot under McGreal's management at Colchester.
Instead, it was Donacien who played on the left, reprising a role he excelled in at Accrington Stanley prior to joining Town.
"I made that call because of their star player Jaiyesimi (playing on the right)," explained McGreal.
"When I was Colchester manager we came up against Accrington several times and JD was always a left-back for them. He was always around the Team of the Year playing in that position.
"I know what JD can do defensively. I thought he did a brilliant job on Jaiyesimi, because he actually got subbed, and then when the other boy got on, Leko, he did another great job."
Wigan's main wing threat comes down the left in the form of Northern Ireland international James McClean. Might Donacien be switched back to right-back to deal with him?
There wasn't a huge clamour from Ipswich fans to see the injury-hit Will Keane kept on at the end of the 2019/20 season.
The former Manchester United youth forward initially came in on loan from Hull midway through the 2018/19 relegation campaign, scoring three goals in 11 appearances.
Then, after signing a one-year deal, he netted six times in 19 starts and 10 sub appearances as Paul Lambert's men finished 11th in League One.
The 28-year-old proved his fitness at the DW Stadium last season, his 11 goals proving vital in the Latics' successful battle against relegation. Now, with better players around him, he is thriving.
Operating in the No.10 role, the recently capped Republic of Ireland international comes into this match having already scored nine times this season.
Wigan also have former Town winger Gwion Edwards. The Welshman turned down the offer of a new deal at Portman Road back in the summer to join Leam Richardson's big rebuild under new ownership. He's been limited to just two league starts so far though.
Ipswich signed Lee Evans from Wigan in the summer. He too turned down a new deal to move on. It'll be interesting to see what sort of reception he gets.
The mood is on a knife's edge. Years of simmering frustration have bubbled to the surface again. There's anxiety in the air.
We don't want the nerves to grow going into next Wednesday's televised FA Cup clash at Barrow.
We don't want the season to feel unsalvageable ahead of a new manager coming in and the visit of Sunderland for a packed out Portman Road next Saturday.
We were told that character and personality were top of the attributes list when this squad was compiled. Today will be a true test of that.