Match preview: Barnsley v Ipswich Town – comment, stats, prediction and more
Ipswich Town will look to continue their unbeaten start to the season at Barnsley today. STUART WATSON previews the match.
Fifteen years ago almost to the day – that was the last time Ipswich Town won their opening three games of the season.
The Blues had only just been relegated from the top-flight. A 2-0 opening day win at Walsall was followed by a 1-0 victory at Luxembourg side Avenir Beggen in the UEFA Cup qualifying round (Town’s place in the competition courtesy of winning the ‘Fair Play’ lottery) and then came a 6-1 thumping of Leicester City at Portman Road.
Manager George Burley left by mutual consent less than two months later, the club went into administration in 2003 and the rest, as they say, is history.
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There have been plenty of false dawns for Blues fans this century. That’s why no-one is getting carried away by an encouraging start to this campaign.
Wins against Birmingham and Luton in the Championship and Carabao Cup respectively have helped restore some goodwill towards manager Mick McCarthy, owner Marcus Evans and the players following a dire 2016/17.
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It’s vital that the momentum continues to build heading into back-to-back away games versus two of the favourites for relegation – Barnsley today and Millwall on Tuesday night.
McCarthy has freshened up a squad that was going stale. Several senior players have moved on. Summer signings Joe Garner, Bersant Celina, Dominic Iorfa and Martyn Waghorn have added aggression, skill and pace, while teenagers Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam look homegrown heroes in the making. There’s still Emyr Huws and Tom Adeyemi to come into the mix when fit.
The squad is smaller in numbers, but appears to have more quality. The football, it seems, will be easier on the eye.
Optimism, understandably, remains cautious though.
It must be hard not to be pessimistic for Tykes fans. Paul Heckingbottom has seen his squad decimated over the past 12 months. Andy Yiadom looks like he’ll be following James Bree, Conor Hourihane, Sam Winnall, Marc Roberts, Josh Scowen and Marley Watkins out the Oakwell exit door. That septet made a combined 265 league appearances for the Yorkshire side last season.
Barnsley lost at Bristol City last weekend (3-1), while Millwall were defeated 1-0 at Nottingham Forest. Town need to be bold in these two games to really prove they have turned a corner.
Barnsley 1 Ipswich Town 1
Date: March 11, 2017
Tom Lawrence scored with virtually the last kick to salvage a draw. The Blues were second best for much of the game and fell behind when Marley Watkins finished off a rapid counter (58). Substitute Brett Pitman’s sumptuous cross created the leveller.
• Town have drawn their last three trips to Oakwell. Their record there this century reads P10 W3 D4 L3.
• Barnsley lost 4-2 at Portman Road on the opening weekend of 2016/17. Just three of their starting XI from that day – Adam Davies, Adam Hammill and Tom Bradshaw – remain at the club.
• The Tykes’ last home league win was January 21. Since then they’ve drawn seven and lost two.
• Since the January transfer window shut, Barnsley have claimed 14 points from a possible 54.
HOW THEY’VE STARTED
• Ipswich beat Birmingham 1-0 at home in their Championship opener courtesy of Joe Garner’s debut goal, then won 2-0 at League Two side Luton Town in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night after Mick McCarthy made seven changes to his side.
• Barnsley lost 3-1 at Bristol City last weekend after conceding three goals in 14 disastrous first-half minutes. They then made hard work of a 4-3 home win against League Two side Morecambe in midweek, Ryan Hedges scoring a 90th minute winner.
TYKES NEW BOYS
Stevie Mallan (St Mirren, £300k), Jason McCarthy (Southampton, £200k), Lloyd Isgrove (Southampton, free), Zeki Fryers (Crystal Palace, free), Ethan Pinnock (Forest Green, £500k), Cameron McGeehan (Luton, £1m), Liam Lindsay (Partick Thistle, £350k), Ike Ugbo (Chelsea, loan), Joe Williams (Everton, loan), Brad Potts (Blackpool, £750k).
• Adam Webster has been ruled out for at least a month after suffering more ankle ligament damage in the midweek win at Luton, but Cole Skuse should be fit after jarring his knee in that game.
• Jordan Spence (knee), Tommy Smith (back), Joe Garner (shoulder) and Grant Ward (calf) were all sat out on Tuesday night with knocks. The first three should return to action today, but Ward remains a doubt.
• Emyr Huws (Achilles), Tom Adeyemi (illness) and Luke Hyam (ankle) are all back in training and targeting the Carabao Cup second round game at Crystal Palace (Tues, Aug 22) for their returns. Teddy Bishop (groin) remains sidelined.
• Four of Paul Heckingbottom’s summer signings are injured – Lindsay (groin), Isgrove (foot), Fryers (hamstring) and McGeehan (broken leg). Matty Pearson, signed from Accrington, may have to play out-of-position at left-back due to Yiadom’s imminent switch to Huddersfield.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies; McCarthy, MacDonald, Pinnock, Pearson; Potts, Williams, Moncur, Hammill; Bradshaw, Ugbo.
IPSWICH TOWN (5-3-2): Bialkowski; Iorfa, Spence, Chambers, Smith, Knudsen; Skuse, Downes, Celina; McGoldrick, Garner.
Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy said: “They were brilliant last year. They lost loads of players, but I think Hecky is a very capable manager – as he’s proved already. Last year, although we equalised in the last minute, that was one of our hardest games all season.
“I don’t expect anything else this time. They don’t give me any gifts up there, let me tell you! I’m not tipping them for relegation at all. As usual, they will be a real hard nut to crack.”
Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “They have not conceded. They have gone five at the back but have had a bit of youth and energy in the team as well.
“We know it’s going to be difficult. They are going to be really well organised. They will work hard.
“Mick gets the most out of his players. They are going to be a threat. Mick might be honest and straight-talking but you do not know what that means out on the pitch.”
OPPOSITION KEY MAN
Mick McCarthy was interested in taking the Chelsea striker on loan, but refused to guarantee game time. The 18-year-old was part of the England team which won the Toulon Tournament in June.
Geoff Eltringham (County Durham)
2016/17 – Yellows: 112, Reds: 5
Barnsley 1 Ipswich Town 3
Bold shout, given the last time Town scored three away from home was at Wigan back in December 2016. Just got a good feeling about this Blues team though, while these seem worrying times for the Tykes.