Ipswich Town take on Derby County in front of a big Portman Road crowd tonight. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.

Back on the horse

For the first time under Kieran McKenna, Ipswich Town have lost two matches in a row.

Not great, of course, but a long way from any point of crisis, too.

That’s because those two losses came in a league game Ipswich dominated and threw the kitchen sink at before slipping to a 1-0 home loss to Lincoln, before losing by the same scoreline in an almost dead rubber Papa John’s Trophy game at Cambridge on Tuesday. That match was ruined by Kyle Edwards’ early red card.

Ipswich Star: Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna is expecting 'a fight' at Port Vale tonightIpswich Town boss Kieran McKenna is expecting 'a fight' at Port Vale tonight

The latter of those games has no impact on Ipswich’s season whatsoever, while the Lincoln loss may just provide a vital learning opportunity, given the Blues will undoubtedly face a similar test on home soil between now and the end of the season.

But those two defeats do, possibly, add the slightest bit more pressure to a big game against Derby County, as McKenna’s side look to get back on the horse as quickly as possible.

TV nasty?

This evening’s game is being shown live on Sky Sports which, of course, will bring a discussion over Town’s extremely poor record in televised games.

In their previous 36 TV games, the last of which was the loss at Plymouth at the end of September, Ipswich have won only three, drawing 10 and losing 23.

That’s not very good.

Ipswich Star: Ipswich Town were beaten at Plymouth last month - their last televised gameIpswich Town were beaten at Plymouth last month - their last televised game (Image: PAGEPIX LTD 07976935738)

Viewers on Sky will be treated to a packed Portman Road for what is set to be something close to a full house at the famous old home of the Blues.

More than 28,000 tickets have been sold heading into the day of the game, meaning it’s likely to surpass the home victory over Portsmouth and become the biggest gate of the season.

Town’s #packoutPR campaign has once again been a great success.

Same time next year?

Ipswich Star: Paul Warne is now in charge of Derby CountyPaul Warne is now in charge of Derby County (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Revamped Rams

Town’s average attendance of 25,628 is bettered by only one League One club – tonight's opponents.

The Rams are used to playing in front of big crowds, averaging more than 27,000 at Pride Park, so certainly won’t be overawed by the occasion this evening.

A lot has changed at Derby in the last 12 months or so.

Administration in September 2021 led to a points deduction and in turn relegation in April of this year, which then led to Wayne Rooney walking away in June after a long takeover saga which eventually saw American Chris Kirchner’s attempt fall through. Liam Rosenior took over as boss on a temporary basis before David Clowes, a local property developer, gained control of the club in July and eventually prised Paul Warne away from Rotherham a month ago.

He’s managed three league games so far, winning twice away and losing at home to Port Vale, as the third-tier promotion specialist looks to build Derby in his own image.

We know what a Paul Warne team looks like, with a powerful, direct approach helping him beat Ipswich without conceding a goal in each of his four League One games in charge of Rotherham.

The Blues failed to land a glove on the Millers throughout the majority of those four games.

The beginnings of the transition to Warne-ball is showing at Pride Park already, with the ball being moved forward quicker and the football simplified in order to drive progress.

It will take time, as well as some good recruitment, for Warne to build to where he wants to be, though.

The Rams boss will be without a key piece of his puzzle this evening, with striker James Collins suspended following a red card at Port Vale. He had scored three goals in his first 95 minutes of action under the new boss.

That means Lewis Dobbin and Will Osula, a former Town target, will likely start up front. Former Ipswich striker David McGoldrick is another option, though the veteran has been restricted by niggles for much of a season which has so far yielded only two league starts and two goals in all competitions.

The rest of the Derby side is a mix between experienced players like James Chester and Curtis Davies, and promising youngsters such as Louie Sibley and Max Bird.

Selection section

So, which way will McKenna go with his side?

Town’s goalkeeping, defensive and central midfield departments feel set at this point, with Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson looking the likely central defensive pairing, given Richard Keogh played 90 minutes at Cambridge.

That leaves the four attacking players to discuss, with Wes Burns and Conor Chaplin surely likely to take two of those spots.

Is it then a question of philosophies? If McKenna wants to test the Derby defence with pace and a desire to get in behind at the start of the game, then Kyle Edwards and Kayden Jackson may be the answer.

If he wants a bit more control, then Freddie Ladapo and Marcus Harness could be turned to.

He could, of course, mix and match too.

It’s hard to predict a McKenna side, so we’ll find out at 7pm.

New look

Ipswich Town will not be wearing blue in this game.

Instead, they will give a debut to the hugely popular black third shirt, which has been sold to more than 11,000 fans since it was released in September.

Designed in collaboration with Ed Sheeran, the new shirt has gained the club a considerable amount of exposure but the decision to wear it at home, instead of the traditional blue, has certainly split opinion.

But all associated with Town will be hoping the shirt gets off to a winning start tonight.