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The weight of expectation, mixing and matching and facing the man ‘Town should have signed’ - Ipswich face Crewe

PUBLISHED: 06:00 31 October 2020

Oli Hawkins is likely to start for Ipswich Town this afternoon. Picture: PA

Oli Hawkins is likely to start for Ipswich Town this afternoon. Picture: PA

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Ipswich Town take on Crewe Alexandra at Portman Road this afternoon. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert. Photo: PAIpswich Town manager Paul Lambert. Photo: PA

Same test, different day

Town got back to winning ways on Tuesday night with victory over Gillingham at Portman Road which, though it ultimately needed a late goal to secure the three points, was a game they were always expected to win.

That’s the way it’s been for Town in League One. With a few notable exceptions, Paul Lambert’s men have largely been able to beat sides mid-table and lower but struggled with opponents inside the top 10.

So there will be the same expectation of victory when a Crewe side, newly-promoted from League Two and currently sitting 15th, come to Portman Road.

Kayden Jackson is back in training after testing positive for coronavirus. Photo: ITFCKayden Jackson is back in training after testing positive for coronavirus. Photo: ITFC

It won’t be easy – the Railwaymen have stood their ground so far in the third tier and have taken the notable scalps of Wigan and Doncaster of late, but they’re a team Ipswich must surely be expecting a home victory against if they truly covet promotion.

But, at the same time, to expect an easy ride would be disrespectful to their opponents and manager Lambert has always stressed he will never take an opponent lightly.

MORE: ‘I want to get us back to the Championship... and beyond’ Woolfenden’s Town promotion dream

“I’ve never known an easy game and every game is hard in this division,” he said. “We give them every respect they deserve but it’s a hard game. They play good football and are a good team so this will be a tough game for us.”

The thousands watching at home in front of TVs and laptops will be expecting three points, though, while many will already have an eye on Tuesday’s visit to Sunderland as the Blues continue their bid to right the wrongs of last season.

Selection section

It’s likely Lambert will largely have the same pool of players to select from this afternoon as he looks to back up Tuesday’s win.

The only injury victim who could feasibly return to the starting XI is Alan Judge, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and will be a late call. If he’s good to go, he’s more likely to be on the bench.

Keanan Bennetts is getting close to a full debut.  Picture: STEVE WALLERKeanan Bennetts is getting close to a full debut. Picture: STEVE WALLER

One welcome returnee to the bench could be striker Kayden Jackson, who has trained this week following a 10-day isolation with coronavirus. He’s feeling much better but is highly unlikely to start, with a cameo as a substitute the most likely source of action for the pacey forward.

MORE: Norwood returns to training as Ipswich boss Lambert issues a string of injury updates

Emyr Huws could come into the equation to potentially add a little more solidity to the Ipswich midfield with Jack Lankester, who started as a No.10 on Tuesday, potentially moving to the right wing if Lambert decides to make a change there.

Keanan Bennetts is still pushing for a first start and, if he does play, could facilitate a move for Gwion Edwards to his favoured left flank.

Mix and match

Jackson’s return is a welcome one but patience will be required. As well as his coronavirus absence, he’s also missed a lot of football with a groin injury which has restricted him to just half-an-hour of league football.

But what his return does do is give Lambert some real options.

Oli Hawkins’ displays have been admirable. His hold-up play, ability to bring others into the action and willingness to run and occupy defences sometimes goes under the radar. The fact he is yet to score probably doesn’t help in that regard.

Alan Judge is battling to return from a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix LtdAlan Judge is battling to return from a hamstring injury. Picture Pagepix Ltd

He gives defenders a hard time meaning, should Jackson be introduced late in this game, the former Accrington man’s searing pace may just be a weapon they aren’t equipped to handle following the rough and tumble of their earlier battle with the 6ft 5in striker.

The current Town formation doesn’t allow the two to play as a central pair, but should they ever be on the pitch at the same time there’s every reason to believe they would link up well.

Testing frontmen

It’s not just the Ipswich Town strikers that are worth discussing.

Kane Vincent-Young hasn't played for Ipswich Town for over a year. Picture Pagepix LtdKane Vincent-Young hasn't played for Ipswich Town for over a year. Picture Pagepix Ltd

Crewe’s side is a young one. Eight of their starting XI against Lincoln on Tuesday night were 24 or under, but there is a smattering experience with much of it coming in forward areas.

MORE: Lambert on three ‘kicks up the backside’ which have helped Woolfenden get back on form

Manager David Artell could call on any of Mikael Mandron, Offrande Zanzala or 36-year-old Chris Porter this weekend, who would offer a real test to the central defensive pairing of Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness.

The youngsters did well against Gillingham on Tuesday night and offered an upgrade when it comes to Town’s ability to keep the ball at the back and play from defence.

Lambert was at pains to stress they’re far from the finished article, though, while admitting they will need to prove they are able to match the physical strengths of James Wilson and Toto Nsiala after replacing the pair.

They started well against Gills’ frontmen Dominic Samuel and John Akinde and can push their case once again in this one.

Wudda, Shudda, Cudda

It’s now more than a year since Kane Vincent-Young turned out for Ipswich Town.

Crewe manager David Artell believes Ipswich should have signed his right-back, Perry Ng. Picture: PACrewe manager David Artell believes Ipswich should have signed his right-back, Perry Ng. Picture: PA

It all started so well, too. He was dynamic, quick, composed and direct, giving Ipswich a new dimension from right-back following a £500,000 move from Colchester.

He was an instant hit and his signing looked like a masterstroke – though there was one man who made it very clear Ipswich had signed the wrong player.

Artell proclaimed his right-back, Perry Ng, as League Two’s best in that position, claiming whoever decided Ipswich should push the button on a move for Vincent-Young ‘should be handed their p45’.

Well, all at Ipswich will get a good look at Ng this afternoon at a time when groin and then Achilles injuries have sadly made Vincent-Young something of an afterthought.


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