Six games that could shape Ipswich Town’s season... here are some predictions
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Following a respite in League One action, Ipswich Town are preparing for a potentially season-shaping six games. STUART WATSON looks ahead and makes some predictions.
Where: Portman Road
When: Saturday, November 21
After a 17-day break from league action, Ipswich really need to start what will be a big week with a bang.
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Shrewsbury may still be in both the FA Cup and EFL Trophy, but they sit in the League One relegation zone after claiming just eight points from their opening 11 games.
Since a 1-0 win at AFC Wimbledon on October 17, the Shropshire side’s league form reads LLLLDD. On Saturday, Sam Ricketts’ men led 2-0 and 3-1 at home to Swindon only to be pegged back to 3-3 via a deflected goal deep into stoppage-time.
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The Shrews finished 16th last season and look to have a weaker squad now following the summer departure of star midfielder Josh Laurent to Reading.
It’s a combination of ageing players with higher level experience, such as Dave Edwards (34), Charlie Daniels (34), Marc Pugh (33) and Leon Clarke (35), lower league stalwarts such as Scott Golbourne, Aaron Pierre and Shaun Whalley, plus youngsters on loan, such as Scott High (Huddersfield), Marlon Fossey (Fulham), Jan Zamburek (Brentford) and Shilow Tracey (Tottenham).
Prediction: 2-0 Ipswich
Where: Portman Road
When: Tuesday, November 24
Can Town finally beat a promotion rival? They struggled to do that last season and have dropped points against Lincoln and Doncaster already this campaign. The midweek visit of Hull represents the first of four matches against teams currently in the top nine over what could be a potentially season shaping 19 days.
The Tigers were relegated from the Championship with a whimper and then saw a mass exodus of players, but a reasonable core for third-tier level remained and boss Grant McCann was able to add to it.
The full-back duo of Josh Emmanuel and Callum Elder will be familiar to Blues fans. Ex Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman (five assists), plus young forwards Keane Lewis-Potter and Mallik Wilks (both on five goals) will be among those who pose a threat in a 4-3-3 system.
The East Yorkshire side shouldn’t be hyped too much though. They remind me very much of where Ipswich were at this time last year. On the face of it, having won 10 of their opening 17 games across all competitions to sit second in the standings, they’ve responded to a bruising relegation well. However, the highest ranked team they’ve beaten in the league so far is Plymouth.
Defeats to Fleetwood, Peterborough and Swindon will have left some doubts bubbling under the surface.
Prediction: 2-1 Ipswich
Where: Portman Road
When: Saturday, November 28
Things did not look good for the Addicks following their final day relegation. Several key men departing, including star man Lyle Taylor, and a transfer embargo meant Lee Bowyer initially couldn’t bolster a very small squad. A long-running takeover saga was eventually concluded in late September though.
The South London club have got some very decent looking players for this level; Ben Amos, Adam Matthews, Jason Pearce, Chris Gunter, Alex Gilbey, Ben Watson, Jonny Williams, Andrew Shinnie, Marcus Maddison, Conor Washington and Omar Bogle to name just a few. Dutch teenager Ian Maatsen, a left-sided specialist on loan from Chelsea, looks a find too.
They’ve won their last six successive league games, keeping clean sheets in five of them, and now face three successive away games – Gillingham, Burton and Ipswich.
Prediction: 2-0 Charlton
Where: Kassam Stadium
When: Tuesday, December 1
Oxford look to have lost their momentum following July’s Play-Off Final defeat to Wycombe.
Captain Rob Dickie going to QPR was a major blow. Having sold Tarique Fosu-Henry and Shandon Baptiste in January, it was yet another key player out the door.
Don’t read too much into the fact they are currently 21st in the table. The U’s have games in hand to come and still have some decent players in Elliott Moore (on loan from Leicester), Alex Gorrin, Anthony Forde, James Henry and Matty Taylor. They might just be more of a mid-table side this time around though.
Karl Robinson’s men have already lost to Lincoln, Sunderland, Peterborough, Charlton and Fleetwood so far. They face Crewe, Wigan, Portsmouth and Swindon before hosting Ipswich at the start of December.
Prediction: 1-1 draw
Where: Home Park
When: Saturday, December 5
Plymouth played some entertaining football on their way to League Two promotion last season and have carried that momentum into this campaign.
Ryan Lowe’s men are ninth in the table following last night’s televised 2-2 draw with Portsmouth. Excluding the EFL Trophy, they now unbeaten in 15 games at Home Park (W11 D4).
Key midfielder Danny Mayor is a player who rejected a move to Ipswich last summer to be reunited with his ex Bury boss Lowe. Homegrown forward Luke Jephcott has already scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the club and is one to watch.
This could be a testing game for Ipswich, who will be making a 600+ mile round journey to the South West just days after a midweek trip to Oxford.
Prediction: 2-1 Plymouth
Where: Portman Road
When: Saturday, December 12
A chance for Town to gain some revenge following their recent controversial FA Cup extra-time loss at Portman Road.
Since returning to League One, Portsmouth have finished eighth, fourth and fifth, losing in the Play-Off Semi-Finals two years in succession. Pressure appeared to be mounting on boss Kenny Jackett following a poor start to this campaign, but six wins from eight league games (including the away scalps of Sunderland and Lincoln) changed the mood.
Portsmouth have some good attacking talent in Marcus Harness, John Marquis, Ronan Curtis and Ellis Harrison. And they’ve scored plenty of goals on the road.
But they are beatable (Wigan, Doncaster and Charlton have shown that) and if Town’s ‘reserves’ were able to push Pompey’s full-strength side all the way, then they have to believe they can win this league fixture.
My fear is two teams, whacked by the schedule and feeling the pressure, might cancel each other out.
I’ve got Town down for two wins, two draws and two defeats from the next six there. I hope I’m wrong, because that would still leave us with more questions than answers heading into the Christmas period.