Repeating the trick, making a statement and avoiding a lock-out - talking points as Town travel to Oxford
PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 January 2020
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town travel to the Kassam Stadium this evening to take on promotion-contending Oxford United. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game.
Same again, please.
The Blues' performance against Accrington Stanley on Saturday was a joy to watch, especially in the first half, as they blew their opponents out the water with three excellent goals.
The football was good, the tempo was high and the plan was clear. It was an emphatic way to end an increasingly concerning winless run which had stretched back to Bonfire Night.
So, as the show moves on to the Kassam Stadium, the same again would do just fine.
That goes for the team selection, too.
For the first time this season Paul Lambert named an unchanged side between league games and, while it's perhaps too simplistic to suggest this was the driving force behind the win, it had to help.
The previous game at Wycombe had included bright moments, particularly from Alan Judge and Emyr Huws, as well as a clever goal from James Norwood. Those three played well again at the weekend and surely benefited from the continuity.
So is there any reason to go with anything other than those 11 players tonight?
It may be a little naïve to think Ipswich can play with the same level of dominance against promotion-chasing Oxford as they did against mid-table, injury-hit Accrington, but the game represents another opportunity to put building blocks in place.
Watching Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden get up and beyond wide players Gwion Edwards and Luke Garbutt was a joy and added a new dimension to a Town attack which had gone a little stale.
Judge's attacking play from the middle of the pitch, working off Norwood and Kayden Jackson was what we expected from the Irishman at the start of the season and the front two were constant pests to a backline which didn't look ready to handle their energy, pace and drive.
We must remember the Accrington win was Ipswich's first after eight winless league games, but it's exciting to imagine what's possible if they are able to build on their first success of 2020.
If there's one potential change to the starting XI, it could perhaps be in the centre of midfield.
Emyr Huws was excellent at the weekend, looking much more like the player we knew before his two years out with a troublesome knee injury.
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His recovery has meant he's not played two consecutive games on too many occasions this season, so it remains to be seen whether he can handle a second start in four days tonight.
Cole Skuse and Teddy Bishop are potential replacements but the Welshman will be hoping to show he can cope with the demands of Saturday-Tuesday football.
He has managed that once this season, starting the FA Cup game with Lincoln and EFL Trophy clash with Colchester which followed, and has shown increasing signs of being able to handle the workload of a busy League One campaign.
He was replaced (by Skuse) after 70 minutes on Saturday which hopefully was a sign sent by Lambert that his midfielder will be good to go again tonight.
There was a new face on the coach as the Blues left Playford Road yesterday afternoon, with new signing Josh Earl joining up with his team-mates for tonight's game.
The loan signing from Preston is a left-back by trade but during his temporary stay at Bolton during the first-half of the season he operated as a left-sided centre-half.
He's comfortable on the ball and seems like a perfect fit, given the Blues' new penchant for getting central defenders into advanced positions, but will almost certainly have to make do with a place on the bench tonight.
Making a statement
Tonight's game sees Ipswich take on the only side they've not faced so far this season.
But of the nine games they've already played against League One's top 10, only one has resulted in success - the 1-0 win at Fleetwood in October.
They've drawn four and lost four of the other eight, with tonight's game offering Lambert's men the chance to make a real statement as they get their promotion bid back on track.
Sunderland, Rotherham and Peterborough lie in wait in the coming weeks, at a time when Town will be looking to flex their muscles.
It's a lock out
Hopefully the Blues will be able to get into the Kassam Stadium when their coach arrives later today but, if they find themselves in the same position as Rotherham did on Saturday, it may just add fuel to the Ipswich fire.
"The stadium was locked when we got here, we couldn't get in, so that was my team-talk done," Rotherham boss Paul Warne said after his club's 3-1 win. "So, that was good, that fired the lads up a treat.
"We just had to knock and wait for someone to come and unlock the door which is unheard of. I've never seen that in professional football.
"I would like to think that it hasn't been done on purpose but I used it in my team-talk as if it had been."