MATCH PREVIEW: While Blackburn Rovers have fallen off the pace, Ipswich Town’s confidence is peaking at just the right time

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town - Credit: Archant

Blackburn v Ipswich: A third successive away win could see Ipswich Town end the day inside the Championship play-off places.

The Blues are hitting form at just the right time, four victories and a draw from their last seven matches moving them to within two points of the top six.

Just a few weeks ago, Blackburn were also dreaming of gatecrashing the promotion party but four successive score draws has left Gary Bowyer’s men in 11th and seven points off the pace.

OVERVIEW

Towards the start of the season, Mick McCarthy was criticised by some for never wavering from a 4-4-2 system.


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Then there came a period where the Blues boss seemed obsessed with changing his formation – no matter what the previous result – to match up the opposition’s system. Substitutions were often painfully predictable, with like-for-like switches coming late in the game.

Now, as the campaign reaches an exciting climax, the Yorkshireman is starting to throw caution to the wind.

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Recognising that loanee Jonny Williams is most effective in a free role between midfield and lone striker Daryl Murphy, McCarthy’s selected a 4-4-1-1 system of late.

Forget the opposition, let’s have belief in what we do.

He’s been proactive rather than reactive too, making tactical and personnel changes early in matches to good effect – the introductions of front men Frank Nouble and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake key to the comebacks against Derby and Nottingham Forest.

With the leading pack all beginning to falter under a weight of expectation, Town’s confidence and self-belief is peaking at just the right time.

“Blackburn have got good players,” said McCarthy, when asked about 11th-placed Rovers, whose last four results have been score draws.

“They’ve had trials and tribulations over the last couple of years, I think Gary Bowyer has settled all that down and he now has a steady team. Maybe if he’d had it for longer they might be better placed and be in those top six places.

“It will be a hard game. I’ve never had an easy one at Blackburn, believe me.

“I thought they played well down here actually. I know we beat them (3-1), but they did alright.

“I could talk about the opposition all day long until I’m blue in the face though. We’re doing okay and that’s the most important thing.

“We always look at the opposition and how they play, but the reality is that if we play like we have for the last three games then we’ll be okay.”

FORM GUIDE

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Brighton (h) D 3-3

Millwall (a) D 2-2

Watford (a) D 3-3

Leicester (h) D 1-1

Huddersfield (a) W 4-2

Points: 7 from 15

IPSWICH TOWN

Nott Forest (h) D 1-1

Derby (h) W 2-1

Brighton (a) W 2-0

Wigan Ath (a) L 1-3

Yeovil Town (a) W 1-0

Points: 10 from 15

TEAM NEWS

BLACKBURN ROVERS

– Centre-back Grant Hanley was sent-off against Millwall recently and would have been suspended today as a result, but that decision was over-turned on appeal.

– Central midfielder Corry Evans suffered a dead leg in Tuesday night’s 3-3 home draw with Brighton but is expected to pass a fitness test.

– Rovers were boosted by Hull City loanee Tom Cairney’s return to action in midweek, the right-winger making his first appearance since injuring his ankle on February 1.

– Striker Rudy Gestede is a doubt with a groin problem.

– Jason Lowe, Adam Henley, Dickson Etuhu and Ben Marshall are all sidelined with ankle injuries.

– Left-winger Craig Conway has made a big impact since his arrival from Cardiff in January, scoring three goals in nine starts.

IPSWICH TOWN

– Long-term absentee David McGoldrick is the only player in the treatment room.

– Strikers Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Frank Nouble have both impressed off the bench in the last two matches – particularly the latter. On both occasions, wingers Paul Anderson and Stephen Hunt were taken off.

– Anthony Wordsworth impressed as a starter against Brighton and Derby but was left out of the squad altogether against Nottingham Forest, Cole Skuse going straight back into the starting XI following his return from injury. McCarthy says Wordsworth will be back in the squad today.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Keane, Hanley, Kilgallon, Spurr; Cairney, Williamson, Evans, Conway; Dunn; Rhodes.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-1-1): Gerken; Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Anderson, Skuse, Hyam, Hunt; Williams; Murphy.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Jordan Rhodes will always be ‘the one that got away’. Since Roy Keane sold the former Kesgrave High School pupil to Huddersfield for a cut-price £750,000 in 2009, he has scored 140 goals for clubs and country.

The Scotland international tends to score in patches and, after a nine-game dry spell, he has now scored six in his last seven matches. Netted on the two occasions he has faced the Blues and will need no added motivation today.

Rhodes’ best friend in football is defender Tommy Smith, the duo having come through the Blues’ academy together.

Smith showed there is no room for sentiment when they last faced each other at Ewood Park though, inadvertently breaking Rhodes’ nose.

The New Zealand international can’t afford to switch off for one moment.

LAST MEETING

Ipswich Town moved to within two points of the play-off places with a 3-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers at the beginning of last December.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made four changes to his starting line-up following a bruising 1-0 win at Charlton, the decision paying off as three of the players promoted to the starting line-up – Luke Hyam, Carlos Edwards and Frank Nouble – scored the goals. Ex-Town man Jordan Rhodes had levelled the scores up.

PREDICTION

Blackburn Rovers 2 Ipswich Town 2

Blackburn may have leaked 11 goals in their last five games, but only four teams in the division (the top three and Middlesbrough) have let in fewer goals at home this season. I’m more concerned by how regularly they are finding the net (Jordan Rhodes in particular).

Ipswich’s confidence is sky high though and they won’t let their heads drop if they do go behind. It won’t take much for the hosts to get edgy either.

It could make for a topsy-turvy match with dramatic swings in momentum throughout.

LIVE UPDATES

Follow @Stuart_Watson on Twitter for live match updates.

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