Town’s dirty dozen, sticking or twisting and a forgotten man - talking points as Ipswich host Oxford
PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 February 2020
Ipswich Town host Oxford United this weekend in another vital League One clash. ANDY WARREN looks at the major talking points heading into the contest
Twelve games remain as Ipswich Town bid to force their way into the play-off places.
Building momentum, especially at home, is going to hold the key to success or failure from here on in, meaning the Blues need to back up last weekend's victory over Burton Albion.
Paul Lambert's side have won back-to-back home games in the league just twice this season and they're surely going to have to repeat that trick several times over between now and the end of the campaign if they're going to get to where they want to go.
Eight of the remaining dozen are at home and only two of those (Coventry on March 7 and Portsmouth on March 21) are against sides currently above Ipswich in the League One table.
The highest-placed of Town's four away opponents are Doncaster, currently sitting 11th, with Ipswich still having six of the bottom eight to play.
The Blues aren't the only side with seemingly favourable run-ins, though and, given many of their rivals still have games in hand, Lambert's men can't rely on others.
They've got to make it happen for themselves.
Stick or twist?
Ipswich came good against Burton at the weekend after falling behind to an early Jamie Murphy goal, showing great character in the process as they battled their way back into the contest when they could easily have folded.
The response was excellent, as Kayden Jackson, Will Keane and Alan Judge combined superbly as an attacking triumvirate to score four goals which, while not always finished off in style, included incisive build-up play and a ruthlessness when it counted.
There can surely be no arguments if Lambert opts to field the same XI in this game, as he and his players looked to build momentum. But change isn't impossible.
Last Saturday's win came in part thanks to a system tweak which saw the Blues switch from a back three (or five, depending on how you want to look at it) to a back four to help deal with the threat posed down the Burton left.
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If Lambert opts to do that from the start of this game, he may just prefer the defensive insurance of Janoi Donacien over Gwion Edwards at right-back, while either Cole Skuse or Emyr Huws might just be preferable to Jon Nolan in a midfield two alongside Flynn Downes.
James Norwood, a major topic of conversation heading into last weekend's game following Lambert's admission about his striker struggling for confidence, looks set to have to make do with a role on the bench for now. Make no mistake, though, he's still got a major role to play between now and the end of the season.
The forgotten man
Andre Dozzell hasn't played a single league minute for Ipswich Town in 2020. He's also not made the bench on several occasions since the turn of the year, becoming something of the forgotten man in the process.
We know the talents he possesses. We know he's as comfortable on the ball as any player in the division, we know he can pick a pass which others don't even see and we know how highly regarded he is by so many at the club and those coaching at international level.
But those qualities aren't translating into regular minutes on the pitch for Ipswich Town.
A starting spot tomorrow is extremely unlikely given the midfield traffic ahead of him, with the 20-year-old facing a fight to even make the bench given Teddy Bishop's return to fitness.
His contract situation is interesting. His current deal expires in the summer but there's a 12-month extension clause certain to be activated by the club but, given his desire to play football at a vital time in his career, it remains to be seen where he'll be playing his football next season.
Standing in their way
Ipswich certainly didn't see the best Oxford had to offer when they met in the wind and rain at the Kassam Stadium last month.
Karl Robinson's side had been proclaimed by many to be the best footballing side in the league during the early months of the season, but neither side were able to produce anything near their best in horrendous conditions, on a night where the game almost fell victim to the weather.
While the Portman Road surface isn't perfect, it offers good conditions for both sides to play so we should get a better indicator of what the men from the Kassam Stadium are all about.
They'll arrive in Suffolk without two of their key men from this season, after Shandon Baptiste and Tariqe Fosu joined Brentford in a £3million double deal in January, while they've also been on a run which has seen them win just two of their nine league games since the turn of the year.
They did beat AFC Wimbledon 5-0 last time out though and, in the likes of Matt Taylor, James Henry and Marcus Browne, possess players who can pose a threat to any side.
The Blues will certainly be given a thorough examination tomorrow afternoon.