‘It looks like they were saving them’ – Preston boss frustrated by Ipswich scouting mission

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil is in charge of Preston North End. Photo: PA

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil is in charge of Preston North End. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ipswich Town take on Preston North End in a Championship match at Portman Road tomorrow afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.

Ipswich Town tried to sign Preston North End forward Jordan Hugill this summer. Photo: PA

Ipswich Town tried to sign Preston North End forward Jordan Hugill this summer. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Deadlock

A gritty 2-1 comeback win at struggling Burton last Saturday, followed by a rarely-in-doubt 3-1 defeat at high-flying Cardiff City on Tuesday night.

Those four days encapsulated the theme of Ipswich Town’s season so far – the average position of the seven teams beaten is 20th, the average position of the seven teams lost to is eighth.

Unsurprisingly, the Blues find themselves in the middle of the Championship pack (11th).


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Now they host a Preston side on exactly the same number of points (21) and ahead in the standings by virtue of a slightly better goal difference.

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Opposition

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After coming up from League One, Simon Grayson guided the Lilywhites to successive 11th place Championship finishes.

Tempers fray between Preston and Wolves players recently. The Lilywhites have lost their last three

Tempers fray between Preston and Wolves players recently. The Lilywhites have lost their last three games in a row. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ex-Norwich boss Alex Neil was appointed his successor this summer and has added a bit more attacking panache to a solid core. The Scot was talking about the possibility of promotion after just one defeat in the opening 12 league games.

The Lancashire club come into this match winless in five and on the back of three straight defeats though – 3-2 at Wolves, 3-2 at home to Brentford and 2-0 at home to Aston Villa (Wednesday night).

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Expect goals

Town’s goal threat should be boosted by the return of strikers David McGoldrick and Martyn Waghorn following a midweek rest.

Preston boss Neil – who was at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday – certainly expects Town to be the fresher team. He said: “They made six changes, which was frustrating. It looks like they were saving them.”

It’s hard to predict Ipswich keeping a clean sheet though given the woeful defending that was on show in South Wales.

Preston are scoring goals (with summer Town target Jordan Hugill the main man), but have also leaked 12 in their last five. Calum Woods and Josh Earl picked up medial knee ligament injuries on Wednesday night meaning Neil now potentially has seven defenders sidelined.

Club captain Tom Clarke, stand-in skipper Greg Cunningham, Ben Davies, Tommy Spurr and Marnick Vermijl are all currently out, though Paul Huntington is available again following a one-game ban.

• Quiz: Can you name the Town players who featured in FA Cup games against Preston in 2014?

Two long weeks ahead

Yes, another international break – the third of the season – is almost here. Town will have a fortnight to either enjoy or fester on tomorrow’s result.

A positive outcome will see the focus shift towards being on the edge of the play-off places, with a game in hand on most, despite a limited budget and crippling early season injury list.

A lacklustre draw or defeat would mean the narrative would centre around a poor run of form (seven defeats in 10 league games as it stands), a club ‘treading water’ and the future of Mick McCarthy.

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