Tonight it's Cheltenham... Can the Town train gather more momentum?
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town take on Cheltenham Town at Portman Road tonight. STUART WATSON previews the action.
Portman Road is becoming the proverbial football fortress.
The Blues have lost there just twice in the league this season (to Bolton and Rotherham). They've now won four straight games on Suffolk soil since Kieran McKenna was appointed (Wycombe, Accrington , Gillingham and Burton).
For five successive games there has been a 20,000+ crowd in attendance. There's certainly a buzz in and around the club.
You have to go back to August 2015 to find the last time Town won back-to-back home games on a Saturday-Tuesday (Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley).
Following up the weekend's impressive 3-0 win against Burton with another three points tonight would be massive for momentum.
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Will Town move to within one or two points of the top-six tonight? Or might that gap expand back to five, six or even seven? Those are the stakes as the games begin to run out.
Sheffield Wednesday's scheduled game at Fleetwood tonight has been called of due to storm damage at Highbury.
Elsewhere, third-place MK Dons are at Charlton (help us out please Scott Fraser), fourth-place Oxford are at Crewe (help us out please Rekeem Harper), fifth-place Plymouth have a long midweek trip to Cambridge, while sixth-place Wycombe (a side in freefall) host high-flying Wigan.
Stuttering Sunderland, in seventh, are at home to Burton, rapidly-rising Bolton host Lincoln, while Portsmouth (who have three games in hand) are at Shrewsbury.
The table will make for interesting reading tomorrow morning.
A NEW GAME PLAN?
The big question, when it comes to selection, is which front three McKenna will go with this time?
He's used six different variations of forwards players across 10 games so far.
Sometimes it's been a central striker flanked by two wide forwards. Sometimes it's been a traditional front two with one in behind. Sometimes it's been two No.10s in support of a lone striker.
For the last seven matches in a row, there has been at least one change in the forward positions when the starting XI has been announced. Sometimes it's been two and often it's been all three.
Will that be the case again following Saturday's 3-0 home win against Burton?
Kayden Jackson's one goal and two assists man-of-the-match display will make him very difficult to leave out. If he does start again, will he play wide left (as he did at the weekend) or through the middle (as he did at MK Dons)?
Did Sone Aluko and Joe Pigott do enough to keep their places? And will McKenna see those players' key attributes as best suited to a different type of game?
Bersant Celina, Conor Chaplin, James Norwood and Macauley Bonne are the oh-so-viable options to freshen things up.
It would be fitting if Bonne ended his goal drought (one in 18) by scoring against Cheltenham (who he missed a sitter against earlier in the campaign).
Confidence is high after the way mid-table Burton were dispatched. The external expectation will be that Cheltenham, down in 15th, will also be a routine three points.
Town can't afford to let their standards slip though.
The Robins come to Suffolk having lost just one of their last nine. That loss was to league-leaders Rotherham and came by a narrow 1-0 margin. During this recent run they've beaten Sunderland and drawn with Oxford, Wigan and Wycombe.
That game against Wycombe ended 5-5 at Adams Park on Saturday. Cheltenham fought back from 3-1 down and 5-3 to claim a share of the spoils.
The in-form Alfie May netted four of those goals. He's struck up a good partnership with up top alongside young 6ft 6in Tottenham loanee Kion Etete. Those two could well test a Town defence that has conceded only four goals in the last 10.
On the flip side, Cheltenham's back three (who are are all 6ft plus) conceded from a mixture of crosses, long balls and ground passes at the weekend. Town's array of attacking options should be licking their lips.
Looking ahead to tonight's game, McKenna said: "Saturday was an enjoyable day for everybody involved with Ipswich, but the message to the players in the dressing room was that it's only three points.
"We got three points against Gillingham here and we didn't play very well. We don't get any bonus points against Burton because everything went well. It's only three.
"There's now another three to play for on Tuesday night against Cheltenham, a massive game.
"Things can change quickly in football. We worked very hard to get that positive momentum in the second half against Burton and we need to do the same on Tuesday because momentum, with the position we're in, can be lost very, very quickly with a negative performance."