Game on! Shrewsbury's 'scary stat' and a selection headache
- Credit: stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town host Shrewsbury Town in a League One fixture this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
Ipswich Town regularly called off games in their first season following relegation due to the fact they had the likes of Alan Judge, Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell, Anthony Georgiou, Armando Dobra and Idris El Mizouni away with their countries.
Whether that was the right thing to do became a topic of debate given the Blues, just as was the case in the Championship, were consistently poor off the back of those breaks.
Last season, calling the games off was no longer an option (one fixture against Charlton was rearranged at their request). And that remains the case now.
That's because you need at least three players to have been called up and Ipswich currently have just one - Bersant Celina with Kosovo.
Captain Sam Morsy and Macauley Bonne were both included in the initial squads named by Egypt and Zimbabwe respectively only to then not make the final cut.
- 1 62-year-old arrested following incident in Ipswich town centre
- 2 Ipswich's Covid infection rate now the highest in England
- 3 'I'm very lucky' – Ipswich biker-chef lost arm and hand in A14 crash
- 4 Life sentence for man who stabbed and left woman in field near Ipswich
- 5 'An absolute honour' –Ipswich woman crowned Miss Universe Great Britain
- 6 Ipswich Town fan banned from Portman Road for racially abusing player
- 7 Inside a busy GP surgery: From daily abuse to the face-to-face debate
- 8 The Walk in Ipswich town centre cordoned off by police
- 9 Future of Swarovski in Buttermarket not crystal clear
- 10 'Devious' Ipswich doctor jailed for sending fake texts to flatmate
Albanian U21 international Dobra is, of course, on loan at Colchester now. El Mizouni, despite some good recent displays, isn't involved with Tunisia.
Interestingly, Wycombe, who called off their home game against Ipswich on last month's international weekend, have opted to play their game against Gillingham today, despite the fact that Daryl Horgan, Sullay Kaikai and Tjay de Barr are all again away.
There are only two other League One fixtures going ahead today - Plymouth v Burton and Sheffield Wednesday v Bolton.
A win has the potential to lift Town up to 13th in the table and close the gap on the play-off places to six points. Most teams will have played an equal 11 matches.
Then again, defeat could see Shrewsbury leapfrog the Blues. Lose by two goals or more and Paul Cook's men would be back in the relegation zone.
HOME FORM KEY
Town's required run rate to get themselves back in the promotion pack is around 1.8 points per game.
If they are going to achieve that kind of momentum, then you'd imagine that making Portman Road the proverbial fortress is a must.
The 5-2 loss to Bolton is the only majorly disappointing display the Blues have produced on Suffolk soil so far this season. Perhaps the 2-1 loss to West Ham U21s in the Papa John's Trophy falls in that bracket too.
In all the other home games though - Morecambe, Newport, MK Dons, AFC Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster - Town have posed a real goal threat.
Tuesday night's comfortable 2-0 win at Gillingham in the Trophy helped dampen some of the disappointment of last weekend's limp 2-1 loss at Accrington a little.
Making it back-to-back victories at Portman Road (something that hasn't happened since April) would reignite the feelgood factor generated by that 6-0 thrashing of Donny.
A crowd of close to 20,000 is expected this afternoon.
No-one in this division should be taken lightly. Accrington proved that last weekend.
The 'mini Championship' is quickly gaining the same reputation as the highly-competitive second-tier. Anyone can beat anyone.
Off the back of their heavy loss at Portman Road, Doncaster went and beat MK Dons last weekend. Sunderland, having barely dropped a point, were beaten 4-0 by a Portsmouth side that hadn't won in eight.
All that said, this is a fixture Town really should be targeting three points from.
Shrewsbury may have boss Steve Cotterill fighting fit again, following his lengthy battle with Covid, but they lost some big players in the summer.
Influential midfielder Oliver Norburn moved to Peterborough for £350k, seven-goal loanee Harry Chapman returned to Blackburn (and is now at Burton), goalkeeper Matija Sarkic went back to Wolves (and is now at Birmingham), while defender Ro-Shaun Williams moved to Doncaster when his contract expired.
To make things worse, they recently lost star man Josh Vela to a knee injury for several weeks meaning Luke Leahy has been forced to move inside from the left to operate as a makeshift central midfielder in a 3-4-1-2 system.
Having finished 17th last season, seven points clear of the drop, the Shropshire side look to be in a real relegation scrap this time around.
Experienced midfielder Dave Edwards, who also departed in the summer to finish his career back in Wales, wrote the following in his column for the Shropshire Star following last weekend's 2-1 loss at Bolton.
"Falling behind in every game but one this season is quite a scary stat - it means as a team and staff there’s always a mountain to climb.
"I do think Town start games reasonably well, but when that goal goes in it seems to suck the life out of them and takes a while to get going again.
"The imbalance in the squad is quite frightening.
"I have no doubt in my mind that the manager, tactically, can do the job. He knows how to set up a team and get results, but you have to look at what he has at his disposal and I don’t think he has enough in that dressing room to consistently pick up results at the moment."
This is a real selection headache for Cook.
Who will replace the unavailable Celina? Kyle Edwards, Conor Chaplin or Joe Pigott look the most likely contenders, the latter two having both scored in midweek, with James Norwood, Louie Barry and the fit-again Sone Aluko also options.
And will there be any more changes to the team that started both the games against Doncaster and Accrington? Those that were given a chance to impress at Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday night certainly took it.
“After the disappointing performance at Accrington it’s always hard to make changes because if you leave one or two out, it’s like you’re blaming one or two for a team performance," said Cook.
"We dropped below our standards at Accrington, but that was on the back of three performances we were delighted with.
“So, if you want to make changes, you have to temper that with correct and proper decisions.”