Town out to break record
A GOAL from one of the hottest strike forces around tonight will set a new record for Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.Shefki Kuqi's opener against Preston on Saturday equalled the previous best run for successive league games when Town have scored, which was set in May 1953, so the first strike against Sheffield United tonight will be a record-breaking 29.
A GOAL from one of the hottest strike forces around tonight will set a new record for Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.
Shefki Kuqi's opener against Preston on Saturday equalled the previous best run for successive league games when Town have scored, which was set in May 1953, so the first strike against Sheffield United tonight will be a record-breaking 29.
Town have scored in all 16 league games this season and went 12 games from March 2, when they did not score at Stoke, until the end of last season without failing to find the net. (As play-off matches don't count in official league records, the nil at West Ham is ignored).
Although the Blues and the Blades fought out a goal-less draw in November 2002, blanks are rare between these two teams.
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The very mention of Sheffield United brings a wry smile to Naylor's face.
He could not have been involved in a more tempestuous debut than his Blues bow more than eight years ago at Bramall Lane.
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Naylor went on as a 56th-minute substitute for Alex Mathie and five minutes later the Blades' Dutchman Michel Vonk was sent off.
Mitch Ward had already given the Blades the lead from the penalty spot but Town battled back to win 3-1 with two goals from fellow youth graduate James Scowcroft and one by Steve Sedgley.
Naylor recalled: “That game really stands out for me. It was my first game and we were down at half time. I went on as a substitute and we came back to win. Scowy scored to win it so that was one of my favourites.
“We always have physical games against them and they are usually good, entertaining matches.”
Naylor has also found the net against the Blades, scoring in both games during the 1998-99 season. The first was in the 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane and Town went on to win 4-1 in March at Portman Road with Naylor getting in among the goals.
Although he missed the hugely dramatic 3-2 win in March 2003, when 10-man Town came from two down to win 3-2, Naylor was in defence to keep a clean sheet in the 3-0 win over them at Portman Road last season.
A similar result tonight would be handy but United are on a run of seven games undefeated and have edged up to seventh place, with their uncompromising attacking style.
Naylor said: “They are always a difficult side to play against. You know how they are going to be and you have to step up and face the test. They are hard to play against at their place but are not much different away.
“They are always there or thereabouts in the play-off places and after going on a good run they are up there again.”
That said, Naylor prefers Neil Warnock's style of teams rather than the dogged defensive teams that string five across midfield.
He said: “It is better when teams come to our place and try to win, it makes for a more entertaining game. We go away and try to win games.
“Sheffield United are not afraid of us and will come here to try and win the game, which will make it an exciting night.”
As open as the game will be, Naylor is still looking to keep a second consecutive clean sheet - a feat yet to be achieved in the last three seasons when Naylor was an out and out front man.
He insists even though he has been converted back to a central defender clean sheets were always important to him.
Naylor said: “Even when I was playing up front I took the responsibility of defending from the front very seriously. One of my attributes was closing down and harassing defenders.
“I know the team appreciated me doing that and that is probably something our front men could improve on.
“That said, when Shefki Kuqi is on his day he doesn't give people a moment's peace.”
One thing is for certain. Tonight's game is unlikely to be goal-less and the rougher the better as far as Bam Bam is concerned.
After all he was born as a player in a Bramall Lane storm.