Challenging start, nights under the lights and potential rearrangements - A look at Ipswich Town's 2019/20 fixture list
PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 June 2019
Ipswich Town discovered their fixture list for the 2019/20 campaign in League One this morning. STUART WATSON looks at some key dates for the diary.
It's a challenging start on paper.
Two away games in the opening three matches - Burton and Peterborough having finished ninth and seventh respectively last season - sandwiching a home opener against the title favourites Sunderland.
A sticky start to life in League One would see pressure and anxiety rise. Come through that tough test with flying colours though and it could be lift-off for Paul Lambert's men...
WELCOME TO LEAGUE ONE
Town have been to Burton, Peterborough and Bolton in recent times.
With the greatest respect to Rochdale, it's the trip to Spotland at the start of September (Saturday 7) which is the real 'welcome to League One' moment.
The Greater Manchester club spent 41 unbroken years in the fourth-tier up until 2010. Ipswich, as if you need reminding, have spent the last 61 seasons in the top two divisions of English football.
On their way to a 16th place finish last season, Brian Barry-Murphy's side attracted an average crowd of 3,574.
UNDER THE LIGHTS
Town played 10 midweek evening games last season. They will play a minimum of nine this time around - possibly more.
Five league games are set for Tuesday nights - AFC Wimbledon (Aug 20) and Rotherham (Oct 22) at home, with MK Dons (Sept 17), Rotherham (Jan 28) and AFC Wimbledon (Feb 11) all fairly reasonable away trips.
There will be at least three more night games in the Checkatrade Trophy. The dates for those regionalised group games have not yet been set (the draw will be sometime in mid-July), but as a guide they took place on September 4, October 9 and November 13 last season.
In addition there's the Carabao Cup first round - draw at 7pm tonight - which is scheduled for the week commencing August 12 (in between Sunderland at home and Peterborough away).
Weekends have been kept free for the opening two rounds of the FA Cup (Nov 9 and Nov 30). Should Town or Fleetwood reach the third round then their scheduled clash at Portman Road on January 4 would have to be rearranged for midweek.
There are no international breaks in League One.
Teams can apply for games to be rescheduled on those weekends if they have three or more first team players away on international duty at senior or Under-21 level.
As it stands, the Blues have just one established senior international in Republic of Ireland midfielder Alan Judge. In addition, Idris El Mizouni recently earned his first senior cap for Tunisia, while Corrie Ndaba, Barry Cotter and Aaron Drinan have all recently been called into the Republic of Ireland U21 set-up.
Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell, Jack Lankester have all been in England youth squads, but are unlikely to make the leap to Aidy Boothroyd's star-studded U21 set-up just yet.
Town play the following games on international weekends: September 7 - Rochdale (a); October 12 - Wycombe (h); November 16 - Oxford Utd (a); March 28 - Bury (a).
There's an outside chance that a game or two of those could be moved forward to a Friday night for television coverage.
There's also the possibility of one or two games being rearranged due to the weather along the way too. Accrington, Rochdale and Blackpool have all had games abandoned or postponed since the start of 2018.
Town are at home on Boxing Day (a Thursday), with Gillingham the visitors to Portman Road.
It's then a trip to newly-promoted Lincoln City during that weird in-between bit of the festive period (Sunday, December 29), followed by the modest 231-mile round trip to Wycombe on New Year's Day (a Wednesday).
The Easter weekend sees the Blues face Bolton at home on Good Friday, then travel to Shrewsbury on Easter Monday.
Thankfully, the five longest trips of the season all fall on a Saturday.
Fleetwood (566 miles round trip) is on October 5, Accrington (497 miles) is October 19, Tranmere (500 miles) is January 18, Sunderland (533 miles) is February 8, while Blackpool (558 miles) is February 29.
CROSSING THE BORDER
Southend is now the closest thing Ipswich have to a 'derby'.
The Blues head to Roots Hall on Saturday, October 26 then host the Shrimpers on Saturday, April 4.
Gillingham, Peterborough, MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon are the next shortest journeys.
The start may look tough, but the run-in looks - on paper at least - seems not too bad.
Four of the last six matches are at home. Four of those six teams are tipped to finish in the bottom half by the bookies.
April begins with back-to-back games at Portman Road against Southend (stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season) and Bolton (who knows how things are going to pan out for them).
Then it's a trip to Shrewsbury (18th last season), the visit of Rochdale (16th last season) and a trip to Doncaster (sixth last season).
The season concludes with the visit of MK Dons - automatically promoted from League Two last season - to Suffolk.
Unless, of course, the Blues find themselves in the play-offs...