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All eyes on Ipswich Town defence as Blues face tough month to test top-six credentials

PUBLISHED: 13:46 06 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:46 06 September 2017

Jonas Knudsen, heading clear, and Jordan Spence have filled in at centre-back for much of the season.    Picture: STEVE WALLER    www.stephenwaller.com

Jonas Knudsen, heading clear, and Jordan Spence have filled in at centre-back for much of the season. Picture: STEVE WALLER www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town sit second in the Championship after picking up 12 points from their opening five games of the season. The Blues now play five games, starting on Saturday, before the next international break. CHRIS BRAMMER assesses the challenges ahead.

Queens Park Rangers Manager Ian Holloway before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
16/08/2017 Queens Park Rangers Manager Ian Holloway before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 16/08/2017

Few would have given Ipswich Town much hope of netting 12 points from a possible 15 and sitting second in the Championship, going into the first international break, given the events of the first month.

Town, who recorded their lowest league finish for 58 years last season, played the final two games of August without a recognised centre-half and, despite having time before the transfer window closed, failed to adequately fill the void.

A whole host of midfielders missed the whole, or big chunks, of the first month too, including new faces Tom Adeyemi, Bersant Celina and Emyr Huws, and the unfortunate Andre Dozzell.

However, the emergence of Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam, alongside Cole Skuse and Grant Ward softened that blow.

New players sometimes take time to settle, meanwhile, but Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn – the latter playing out of position on the right of midfield for much of his first month – hit the ground running.

September’s first game comes on Saturday at QPR.

Bolton manager Phil Parkinson. Bolton manager Phil Parkinson.

The Blues head to a London with a perfect record at home this season – albeit they have only played twice at Loftus Road, but they have beaten Reading and Hull, two teams fancied to be challenging for the top-six.

It will be interesting to see how Town react after their first league defeat of the season, and how a back-four or five, without a recognised centre-half, cope at the back against the physicality of Matt Smith and Conor Washington.

Both players possess a huge physical threat – especially Smith, who is an ‘old-fashioned’ centre-forward that likes to bully defenders.

The Blues have rode their luck at times this season, and against better teams would have been punished more.

However, they are second on merit, mainly down to a clinical goal to shots-on-target ratio. The potential return of goalscoring midfielder Tom Adeyemi will also be an added boost.

Prediction: D 1-1

Leeds United's Samuel Saiz and Fulham's Ibrahima Cisse (right) battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Elland Road, Leeds. Leeds United's Samuel Saiz and Fulham's Ibrahima Cisse (right) battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Elland Road, Leeds.

After QPR, the Blues host a BOLTON side with just two points to their name this season.

The Trotters’ two draws this season came away at Millwall and Birmingham – sides Town have taken maximum points from.

They have had a busy transfer window, going mainly down the free transfer route, and new signing from Cardiff, Craig Noone, will add creativity down the right

But if Ipswich are to challenge near the top, they need to be beating the likes of Bolton.

Prediction: W 2-0

Four points from two games would be the ideal preparation for a daunting-looking trip to LEEDS.

Billy Jones and Sunderland have endured an indifferent start to the season. Billy Jones and Sunderland have endured an indifferent start to the season.

The Whites have drawn both of their home games 0-0 so far, but having won all three on the road, it’s likely they will soon turn around their Elland Road form.

In Mick McCarthy’s early years at Town, the Blues mastered the art of frustrating sides away from home, while lacking a cutting edge to finish teams off.

They’re a different proposition now, Ipswich always having a goal in them so, on current form, a smash-and-grab 1-0 away win is on the cards!

The Blues are also seemingly more susceptible at the back though, without Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith and Adam Webster,, and with Leeds having winnable home games against Burton and Birmingham coming up, Town could be in for a tricky time.

Prediction: L 2-0

After Leeds come SUNDERLAND, at Portman Road, under the lights.

Bristol City's Bobby Reid battles for the ball against Aston Villa. Bristol City's Bobby Reid battles for the ball against Aston Villa.

The Black Cats have taken five points from five, and it is unclear in which direction they are headed, following relegation from the Premier League.

In their favour, they have a savvy manager in Simon Grayson and have recruited well in the summer with the signings of Jonny Williams, Lewis Grabban, Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman.

They still have that soft underbelly though, as the recent 3-0 loss at Barnsley will testify.

Home games against Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff, plus a trip to Hull – all prior to the Ipswich clash – should give a clearer indication of where they will be fighting this year.

Prediction: W 2-1

The final game before the next international break comes when BRISTOL CITY visit Ipswich,.

Midfielder Bobby Reid has caught the eye with four goals, while the arrival of West Brom winger Jonathan Leko will add pace and creativity on the flanks.

Both teams have been busy in both boxes this season and their encounter could produce goals.

Prediction: D 2-2

Winning games of football is the best way to heal a damaged relationship between touchline and terrace, former Blues boss George Burley insists.

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy has apologised for any offence he caused while celebrating Luke Chambers’ goal at Norwich on Sunday, but has reiterated he did not aim his comments at the Blues fans.

Match highlights from Ipswich Town’s dramatic 1-1 draw with rivals Norwich in the East Anglian derby.

Ipswich Town U23 1

Charlton Athletic U23 2

Shane McLoughlin was on the scoresheet but it wasn’t enough as Ipswich Town’s Under 23’s were beaten 2-1 by Charlton Athletic at Playford Road this afternoon, writes Kieren Standley.

Police have said they are working to identify supporters responsible for criminal damage at Norwich City’s ground ahead of derby clash against Ipswich Town in the East Anglian derby.

Luke Chambers insists Ipswich Town will be fuelled by a desire to finish above rivals Norwich between now and the end of the season.

What an absolute kick in the teeth, writes Karl Fuller in the wake of Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road.

What a shame. Mick McCarthy was only seconds away from having another favourite DVD to add to his collection of perfect away performances. You know the ones – shut up shop for the entire second half, then nick a winner from a set-piece, writes Northstander Terry Hunt,

No amount of counselling can get this increasingly fractured long-term relationship with Mick McCarthy and Ipswich Town back on track now.

As the dust continues to settle following Ipswich Town’s dramatic 1-1 draw at Norwich, sports writer Andy Warren hosts our weekly webchat to discuss all the latest goings on at Portman Road.

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