Six key talking points ahead of Ipswich Town v Nottingham Forest
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Ipswich Town host Nottingham Forest in a Championship clash at Portman Road on Saturday. STUART WATSON previews the action.
Two improved sides
Forest beat Town 3-0 at The City Ground on the final day of last season. It sparked a joyous pitch invasion as Mark Warburton’s side beat the drop, while for the Blues it confirmed a 16th-place finish and brought the curtain down on a forgettable campaign.
Both teams have taken steps in the right direction since then. Town’s fantastic 1-0 win at Derby on Tuesday night keeps them within three points of the play-off places. Forest are just one place and two points behind.
Which Forest will turn up?
Warburton has placed his faith in youth and never wavered from a high-tempo, passing philosophy. When it’s worked, they’ve been virtually unstoppable – a swashbuckling 4-0 home win against QPR evidence of that.
They are the only Championship side without a draw to their name though (nine wins, 10 defeats) and inconsistency is an issue.
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Cardiff produced some wily game-management to win 2-0 there on Saturday, while they’ve lost four of their last five away games.
Return of the ex
Daryl Murphy is among the top 10 league scorers in Ipswich Town history following his 67 goals in 226 games spaced over five years.
The Republic of Ireland international, who will turn 35 next March, helped Newcastle to promotion last season before completing a £2m move to Forest. Such was their desire to get him they handed out a three-year deal.
Murphy’s been the focal point of their attack in a 4-2-3-1 system, not only scoring seven goals but also bringing into play the likes of talented Everton loanee Kieran Dowell, tricky Scottish winger Barrie McKay and homegrown heroes Tyler Walker and Ben Osborn (all aged 22 or younger).
Luke Chambers played every minute of every Championship game last season. He showed just how important he is as skipper by instigating an impromptu team huddle following Callum Connolly’s goal at Pride Park on Tuesday night.
Town’s on and off-field leader will serve a one-game ban tomorrow though after collecting his fifth booking of the campaign in midweek.
He’ll be a big miss given his impressive recent form and the nature of the midweek clean sheet.
Mick McCarthy had to field a makeshift defence earlier in the campaign when Chambers was injured and will have to do so again.
Much depends on whether Tommy Smith is fit following a calf injury. If he’s not, then Jordan Spence or Jonas Knudsen could move inside, with either Dominic Iorfa or Myles Kenlock coming into the team.
It once again raises the debate as to whether Town should have signed a replacement for Christophe Berra back in the summer instead of going into the season with just three senior centre-backs.
Injury curse moved on
Earlier in the season, Town’s injuries centred around the centre-backs with Chambers, Smith and Adam Webster all sidelined at the same time for a spell.
When that situation started to ease, the curse moved onto central midfield – at one stage Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop, Luke Hyam, Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell were all out.
Now, just as Huws and Bishop have returned to action, it’s the strikers who are going down like flies.
David McGoldrick will be out for a month with the nasty cut he sustained to his groin courtesy of Glenn Looven’s horror tackle in last week’s 2-2 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday, while Joe Garner missed the 1-0 win at Derby with a foot injury.
In their absence, nine-goal top-scorer Martyn Waghorn led the line superbly at Pride Park, with Huws operating in behind, Grant Ward on the right and Bersant Celina on the left.
This will be a fifth tough game in 15 gruelling days for Town.
In the space of a month there have been away trips to Burton, Cardiff, Hull, Aston Villa and Derby.
Tuesday night was a rearranged match from earlier in the campaign. Forest, meanwhile, were at home with their feet up and should arrive in Suffolk the fresher outfit.
The unrelenting schedule doesn’t get any easier. There may be no midweek games now until the new year, but next Saturday there will be a long trip to Middlesbrough, then comes the visit of Reading, followed by a game at league-leaders Wolves on December 23.