Oxford are ‘playing with fear’, but would an Ipswich win change the mood? – Pre-match talking points
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town take on Oxford United in a League One clash this afternoon (7pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
STOPPING THE ROT
Over the last 41 league games, that’s not far off a full season, Ipswich Town have lost more games than they’ve won... In the third-tier.
It’s seven defeats in the last 10 games across all competitions. It’s nine points gained, all in unconvincing fashion, from the last eight league matches. It’s back-to-back home defeats to so-called ‘promotion rivals’, with Hull and Charlton not having to do anything special to leave Suffolk with all the points.
Judging by social media (our only gauge at present with no-one in the grounds), the mood among supporters is a mixture of outright anger and utter deflation.
We reported yesterday that fitness coach Jim Henry has left the club following a series of disagreements behind the scenes. The club later announced that he had departed for ‘personal reasons’ and taken up a ‘consultancy role’ from his home in Scotland.
Goalkeeper coach Jimmy Walker has been tweeting that he would be keeping his opinions to himself having recently opined that we may as well ‘rap up’ if Town didn’t finish in the top four of an ‘average’ division. You wonder whether he was given a ticking off behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, there’s been an outcry from supporters about the news that Phil Ham, the man behind popular website TWTD, has been banned from attending Paul Lambert’s press conferences just because a starting XI had been leaked on his forum.
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It all feels a little messy. It certainly feels like history repeating. In truth, a win at struggling Oxford United tonight is unlikely to suddenly change the Zeitgeist.
Ipswich Town really are down to bare bones.
James Norwood and Toto Nsiala both limped off with hamstring injuries during Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to Hull City to take the number of senior players in the treatment room up to 11.
If Paul Lambert remains completely wedded to a 4-3-3 system, there’s not an awful lot he can do to freshen up the team.
Mark McGuinness is likely to replace Nsiala in defence, with Janoi Donacien coming into the squad.
Then there’s a choice between Aaron Drinan, Oli Hawkins and Kayden Jackson to replace Norwood up front. It was Drinan who got the nod off the bench at weekend.
Maybe, just maybe, all these injuries will see Armando Dobra given a spot in the 18.
There’s every chance that Jack Lankester, wrapped in cotton wool at the weekend after plenty of playing time in the previous two matches, returns to the starting XI. You’d imagine that 17-year-old Liam Gibbs, who made his league debut at the weekend, could be the one to drop out for him.
The only other question mark is over who starts in goal. David Cornell came in for Tomas Holy against Charlton. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be given another opportunity.
‘WE LOOKED SCARED’
Oxford United have struggled since losing the Play-Off Final to Wycombe back in July.
Losing captain and defensive talisman Rob Dickie to QPR was a major blow. Having seen Tarique Fosu-Henry and Shandon Baptiste join Brentford back in January, it was yet another star player out the door.
Karl Robinson’s men are yet to keep a clean sheet in League One so far this season.
The U’s currently sit 19th in the table with just four wins and a single draw to their name. They’ve lost to Lincoln, Sunderland, Gillingham, Peterborough, Charlton, Fleetwood and Crewe.
On Saturday, they led for the majority of a derby match with Swindon at the Kassam Stadium only to concede twice late on – in the 85th and 90th minutes.
Robinson said: “We looked scared and we played with a little bit of fear. I don’t generally say that about the players.
“We were off it in a lot of our play and that to me is the worrying aspect of it.
“As a management team we know what we expect. There’s players in there that are underperforming and they’ve got to pull their finger out.
“The things that are in my control we’ll certainly get right, the things that aren’t are up to them to make the correct decisions for their own careers.”
On Matty Taylor missing a big chance to make it 2-0, he said: “That’s been a big problem of ours. If you look at an awful lot of games this year we’ve missed far too many chances when we’ve been dominant.
“That puts you under pressure the longer the game goes on.”