Town’s TV curse, Chairboys’ tough Christmas and will ‘The Beast’ be benched? – Talking points ahead of Wycombe v Ipswich
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Ipswich Town take on League One leaders Wycombe at Adams Park this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
TWO FALTERING SIDES
We all know that Ipswich Town are not in a good run of form. Sunday's 5-3 defeat at Lincoln was the fourth loss in five. It's 10 without a win in all competitions. Even taking the cups out of the equation, it's still 10 points from 11 games.
The Blues have dropped to fourth and could slip out of the play-off places on the opening day of 2020. Mind you, they could also move back within three points of leaders Wycombe and still have a game in hand to come. That's because the Chairboys have been stuttering a bit themselves.
Gareth Ainsworth's men lost just one of their opening 20 league games (at Gillingham on September 14), but they come into today's game on the back of three straight losses during a tough festive schedule - 1-0 at Oxford, 2-0 at Portsmouth and, most recently, 4-1 at home to Coventry (the Sky Blues having had Boxing Day off).
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ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDEST
Paul Lambert and his players held an hour-long debrief in the Sincil Bank dressing room.
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Afterwards, the Blues boss revealed: "We've had a good chat and if they perform the way they are speaking then hopefully we'll have a different outcome.
"One win could definitely spark us. We have to get back to where we were blitzing everything in sight. As a group and as a team we have to come back out of the traps again."
Asked whether his team's recent downturn in form was down to confidence or belief, Lambert said: "It shouldn't be that. Normally you'd think the edginess comes in March/April time. It should never happen now.
"We have to get back to what we were doing good. The first 15 games we were relentless. If you keep focusing on the negatives then it's just going to eat you away. We have to remember all the good things we did and get back to them.
"These will bounce back. I've got no doubt, these will bounce back."
Quizzed as to whether he really felt it was a simple as the players showing more graft, fight and desire, Lambert replied: "Absolutely, 100% it is. The guys feel the same. I asked them 'tell me what you think'. A lot of things were said, which was good.
"We're still well in the mix. Okay, we're disappointed we've not won for a while, but you don't capitulate. You do something about it. The great thing is there is so much tome to do something about it."
CHAIRBOYS' TOUGH CHRISTMAS
Wycombe's home record had read W9 D2 F22 A10 prior to Sunday's 4-1 loss to Coventry.
Speaking after that game, long-serving boss Ainsworth - who has been linked to Championship clubs in recent months - said: "It was a tough day at the office. I make no bones about going a little bit more direct because I wanted to try and bypass Coventry and get the ball forwards. Earlier in the season we probably played a bit more.
"The body language was a little bit down at the end, I think we were a bit tired. We're going to have to recover, get the legs back and make sure we're a force again on Wednesday.
"The lads are fantastic, they run through brick walls for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I just think we gifted them a couple of goals, which is very uncharacteristic of us. When you do that against a side like Coventry, who are a very good side, you're asking for trouble. They've got some good players and developed a great way of playing."
He added: "It's tough to see our home record go. I wish we could have finished the decade off with a win, but hopefully we can start the new year with one. I intend to get back to winning ways.
"It's going to be a tough game. They're in a bad place Ipswich, they haven't won so many games lately, but we've also had a very tough Christmas. I don't think anybody's fixtures could rival in terms of toughness - Oxford away, Portsmouth away, Coventry at home and now Ipswich at home. They are really tough winter fixtures, but I'm hoping for at least one win from them.
"We're still top but I don't want to talk too much about the league position because I think teams are coming here now and rasing their games and we're feeling a little bit of pressure. I want to make sure that's eradicated."
STICK OR TWIST?
Luke Chambers has admitted that he'd like to see Lambert's rotation, both of personnel and systems, stop. The Blues skipper says it's now time to 'go again, go again, go again and see where it takes us'.
Will that happen? Possibly. Lambert has deployed a 4-4-2 formation in the last two games and, in the first half at Lincoln, his team looked like they had a game plan. It sounds a strange thing to say given the final scoreline, but Town can take some positives from their weekend performance. Everything doesn't need ripping up from that game.
There's every chance there will be a change in goal. Following an impressive game at Portsmouth, Will Norris has produced a couple of erratic displays. Don't be surprised to see Tomas Holy back between the sticks again.
Will Janoi Donacien be fit to start? Him being forced off with a dead leg in the first half on Sunday really disrupted Town's growing momentum. Gwion Edwards does not look a right-back.
Jon Nolan (foot) and Cole Skuse (neck) were both injury absentees at the weekend. Regardless of whether they are fit or not, good friends Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell might just be given another game together. We'll see.
Could Lambert be tempted to put Luke Garbutt back on the left wing again? That's where the Everton loanee played during Town's excellent start to the campaign. He's better going forwards than defending - Oxford fans will tell you that.
And might we see Will Keane come into the team following his smartly taken substitute goal? James Norwood hasn't exactly been bang at it since undergoing groin surgery in November.
THE BEAST TO BE BENCHED?
Seven-goal topscorer Ade Akinfenwa was a handful when the two teams played out a goalless draw at Portman Road in late November. 'The Beast' may well be rested for a second game in four days though given, at 37, he hasn't started back-to-back matches an awful lot this campaign.
Ainsworth will hoping that key midfielder Dominic Gape and influential right-back Jack Grimmer are passed fit following injuries. Both have been big misses during a tough festive schedule.
This game is being broadcast live on Sky Sports. Town haven't won in front of the television cameras since a 1-0 victory at MK Dons in December 2015. Since then their TV record reads P15 D5 L10, the last of which was the 2-0 loss at Accrington in October.
Judging by Ainsworth's post-Coventry comments, and the possibility of Akinfenwa not starting, jaded Wycombe might look to go less direct today. Ipswich, judging by what Lambert and Chambers said post-Lincoln, will look to get back to being more organised, cautious and counter-attack minded.
If it pans out that way, I fancy the Blues to grind out one of those early season 1-0 away wins.