‘Beast from the east’ casts doubt on game, but one thing’s for sure... Town need wins to snowball

Players and staff from Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough talk to the officials about frozen conditions

Players and staff from Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough talk to the officials about frozen conditions at Portman Road in February 2012. The game was abandoned after 37 minutes. Photo: Archant - Credit: Ashley Pickering

Ipswich Town will, weather permitting, host Hull City in a Championship match tomorrow afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the potential action.

Will the game be on?

The club say everything will be done to try and get the game to go ahead, but there is a concern that the weather may defeat those efforts.

Covers have been on since an Under-23 game against West Brom on Monday afternoon. Hot air blowers create a warm tent underneath to thaw the surface in as little as two hours, but every time there is heavy snowfall that has to be deflated.

Further spells of heavy snow – which are forecast tonight – would mean there will be a rush to clear the snow and get the heaters on again tomorrow morning.

Hull City manager Nigel Adkins. Photo: PA

Hull City manager Nigel Adkins. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Another issue will be if the number of staff required to stage a Championship game, including stewards, are able to travel.

The biggest consideration for the club is the safety of supporters, with the condition of roads and paths around Portman Road, as well as on the concourses and in the stands, set to play a major part in the decision whether to go ahead.

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A club meeting to discuss the situation is scheduled for this morning, with Mick McCarthy’s pre-match press conference – as it stands – scheduled for 1pm.

The last time Town had a game abandoned at Portman Road was against Middlesbrough in February 2012 due to a strip of turf in the shadow of the Co-op Stand freezing as soon as the covers came off around 1.30pm. The referee called a halt to the game after 37 minutes with the score still 0-0 after Town defender Ibrahima Sonko broke his ribs landing on the hard surface.

Mustapha Carayol scored the winner at Preston on an impressive full debut for Ipswich Town last week

Mustapha Carayol scored the winner at Preston on an impressive full debut for Ipswich Town last weekend, but had to be subbed at half-time as he was struggling with sickness. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

The last time Town had a home game postponed due to weather conditions was against Watford on Boxing Day 2010 following a 1.15pm pitch inspection.

That decision came just weeks after Roy Keane’s Town had beaten Sven Goran-Eriksson’s Leicester 3-0 in a televised game amidst heavy snow in Suffolk.

One thing is for sure, if tomorrow’s game does go ahead then Town could set another unwanted milestone following recent 20-year record lows for league attendances (13,815 v Burton and 13,205 against Cardiff).

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Momentum required

Last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Preston saw Town close the gap to the play-off places back to six points with 12 games to go.

Sixth spot very much looks up for grabs given how Bristol City (one win in 10) have faltered. Sheffield United are the current incumbents, with anyone down to 14th place Norwich probably feeling they have an outside chance of making a late surge.

For that to happen it would require Town – currently in 13th – to string together a lengthy winning run, something they’ve struggled to do for some time now.

Since opening the campaign with four straight league victories, they’ve managed back-to-back triumphs just one – against Derby and Nottingham Forest back in November/December.

And there was back-to-back wins just once in 2016/17 too (against Burton and Newcastle over the Easter weekend).

The Blues have claimed 13 points from their last 12 games. Replicate that form over the next 12 and they’ll end up with 61 points – very much a mid-table tally.

When asked if there was still a chance of the play-offs last weekend, Mick McCarthy said: “No, I don’t think so. I wrote that one off (after the draw at Norwich). I thought it was over, but I didn’t say we’d stop fighting for it.”

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Tigers in trouble

Hull City, just like Sunderland, are very much in danger of suffering back-to-back relegations from the bright lights of the Premier League to the quiet outposts of League One.

Summer appointment Leonid Slutsky was sacked on December 7 with a Championship record of P20 W4 D7 L9 and there have been no marked improvements since Nigel Adkins took over either (P14 W3 D5 L6).

Tuesday night’s 1-1 home draw with fellow relegation-battlers Barnsley was a missed opportunity to pull away from the bottom three following last weekend’s impressive 1-0 home victory against Sheffield United.

The East Yorkshire club have claimed just two away wins in the league all season – the joint-lowest in the division.

To make their task harder, key Brazilian midfielder Evandro Goebel – a January signing from Porto – is still injured, while fellow playmaker Jon Toral suffered a jaw injury in midweek.

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Town team

It could very well be unchanged following victory at Deepdale. A new-look 3-4-3 system seems to have suited the Blues in the last two games. Flying winger Mustapha Carayol, so impressive on his full debut, is hopefully over his sickness.