Blues in the 'red zone', Tigers' broken engine and a 19-goal difference - Hull City v Ipswich Town talking points
Ipswich Town take on third-place Hull City, at the KC Stadium, this evening (7pm). STUART WATSON previews the League One action.
CAN NORWOOD GO AGAIN?
It was an improved performance from Town in Saturday’s goalless home draw against in-form Oxford United.
James Norwood’s physical presence in attack was a big part of that. He had a header cleared off the line, hit the post with a one-on-one and was a real handful.
But the last time he started successive games was the Saturday-Tuesday home clashes back at the end of last November - and we all know how that ended.
After playing 74 minutes in the 3-0 defeat to Hull, he limped off with a hamstring injury just 35 minutes into a 2-0 loss to Charlton.
Given Paul Lambert has spoken of Norwood being on a 45-60 minutes limit recently – and he played 81 minutes at the weekend – that suggests it would be a big risk for the front man to go again.
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Aaron Drinan would be the nearest thing to a like-for-like option, stylistically.
Alternatively, Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott could push further forwards again – following an experimental outing as the link man – to create an opening for Josh Harrop.
Kayden Jackson, of course, remains exiled.
OTHER POTENTIAL CHANGES
Teddy Bishop and Keanan Bennetts are surely two more players deemed to be ‘in the red zone’ fitness wise.
Bishop, for the first time in a long time, had started to churn out Saturday-Tuesday games in October/November before an unfortunate ankle injury was sustained.
He’s been back in action since the middle of January, but whether he’s ready to start two games in four days again remains to be seen.
If he’s not, midfield options are slightly limited.
Flynn Downes serves out his two-game suspension for that controversial Darren Drysdale issued red card against Northampton.
Jon Nolan, along with Jackson, remains exiled.
Harrop could play as a ‘No.8’, but, as previously stated, might be needed as the No.10.
Alan Judge enjoyed that central role against Blackpool earlier this month. It might be that he moves back inside from the wing.
Bennetts, like Norwood and Bishop, is another who may have to be wrapped in cotton wool.
He also played 81 minutes at the weekend having only just returned from a five-week groin injury.
Wide men Gwion Edwards and Luke Thomas should be available again after knocks to freshen up the wide areas, with Freddie Sears also an option.
Hull City shook off a stinking relegation hangover quickly, but, a bit like Ipswich last season, a few doubts appear to be creeping in.
Since their 3-0 win at Portman Road last November, they have recorded impressive victories against Charlton (2-0, home), Accrington (3-0, home), Portsmouth (4-0, away) and, just last week, Wigan (5-0, away).
But there have been points dropped against Burton (1-0, away), MK Dons (1-0, home) and Doncaster (3-3, away) recently too – all courtesy of late goals.
Grant McCann’s men have slipped to third and exited the Papa John’s Trophy after claiming just one win from their last six in all competitions.
To be pegged back in Saturday’s Yorkshire derby, having led 3-1, was a real body blow. James Coppinger’s free-kick equaliser came 12 minutes into stoppage-time.
It looks like they’ll be without their three first choice central midfielders tonight.
Captain Richie Smallwood was already a big miss in recent weeks. He’s now joined on the sidelines by Greg Docherty (groin) and George Honeyman (neck), the latter two having both gone off at the weekend.
Docherty was looking like Hull’s best player before his forced withdrawal, while Honeyman produced his 10th assist of the season before getting stretchered off following a heavy collision.
This might not be a bad time for the Blues to go to the KC Stadium. Then again...
Hull are one away from hitting half a century of league goals this season (49 in 30).
They’d become the first team in the third-tier to hit that marker and only the second in the Football League after Brentford.
Ipswich, by contrast, have netted just 30 goals in 27 games. Only four teams in the league (all in the bottom six) have a worse goals per game record.
Ipswich’s top-scorer across all competitions is still five-goal winger Gwion Edwards. And he's not netted since the middle of October.
Hull's front three – Mallik Wilks (17), Josh Magennis (10) and Keane Lewis-Potter (8) - have 35 between them.
Right-sided forward Wilks is undoubtedly the danger man. Strong, skilful and direct, he has bagged five in his last two.
If Lambert goes with the same back four again – Luke Chambers, James Wilson, Toto Nsiala and Myles Kenlock – they will have to be every bit as good as they were against Oxford, if not more so.