Stuart Watson: It's a fool's errand trying to read into the fixture list

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna gives instructions to skipper Sam Morsy during a break in play.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna (right) and captain Sam Morsy. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town discovered their 2022/23 fixture list this morning. STUART WATSON picks out some talking points.

Cole Stockton (9) celebrates scoring his and Morecambes second.

Ipswich Town drew 2-2 with newly-promoted Morecambe at Portman Road on the opening day of last season. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

OPENING DAY

Would starting away from home have been a little less pressurised? Possibly. The Blues scraped a 2-2 draw when Morecambe came to Portman Road on the opening day last season remember.

This time, however, the visitors aren't newly promoted underdogs fired up for their first taste of a big crowd. This time, it's Bolton Wanderers - one of several big clubs in this division who will start the season feeling they have a shot at promotion.

This time, the hope must be that a packed Portman Road, crackling with anticipation as the players emerge (hopefully in the sunshine) looking resplendent in the new kit, acts as a motivator rather than a nerve-jangler.

All that was new for last season's chaotically assembled new group of players. This time, they should be better prepared.

Conor Chaplin, Cameron Burgess and Rekeem Harper after Bolton Wanderers had scored their fifth.

Cameron Burgess, Conor Chaplin and Rekeem Harper react after Ipswich Town's 5-2 home defeat to Bolton last August. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

These two clubs have history, of course. That classic two-legged play-off semi-final in 2000 will never be forgotten. Last season, the Trotters did the double over Town, winning 5-2 at Portman Road early on.   

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Could this game be picked for televised coverage? Derby v Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday v Portsmouth are other contenders. 

August also contains two more big home games against MK Dons (who finished third last season) and Barnsley (just down from the Championship). 

Town fans at head of the game.

A bumper crowd should be in attendance for Ipswich Town's Boxing Day home clash with Oxford United. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

FESTIVE FIXTURES

Everyone loves a home Boxing Day game. The visit of Oxford United on December 26 should attract a bumper crowd.

The trade off for that is a bit of travelling in the following days. The Blues go to Portsmouth on December 29 and then Lincoln on New Year's Day.

Easter weekend is often when things really start to hot up. As it stands, Town host Wycombe on Good Friday and then travel to Cheltenham on Easter Monday. 

Luke Chambers gives the North Stand a farewell thumbs up after his side's 4-3 penalties defeat at Po

Ipswich Town's long-serving ex-skipper Luke Chambers is set to return to Portman Road with Colchester United in the Carabao Cup. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

THE CUPS

A plethora of familiar faces will be returning to Portman Road for the first round of the Carabao Cup.

Town have been drawn at home to Essex neighbours Colchester United, that game to take place on August 9/10. 

The U's finished 15th in the League Two table last season, with the likes of Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse, Alan Judge, Freddie Sears, Tommy Smith and Frank Nouble all still at The Community Stadium.

Since facing Arsenal over a two-legged semi-final back in 2010/11, the Blues have won just five of the 15 games they've played in this competition, losing to the likes of Newport, Exeter, Stevenage (x2), Crawley, Carlisle and Northampton.

Will it be third time lucky against Arsenal U21s in the Papa Johns Trophy? (That's depressing to write). The young Gunners, who have twice beaten Town in the competition, have been placed in Southern Group H alongside Ipswich, Cambridge United and Northampton Town.


HOME DOUBLE HEADERS

Picking up six points in the space of a few days on home soil can really turbo-charge confidence and momentum.

Town did that three times back in 2014/15 on their way to a sixth-place finish in the Championship. It's happened just once since they've dropped into League One (1-0 wins against Gillingham and Crewe in October 2020).

There are two home double headers to look out for this coming season.

First we have Cambridge United and Bristol Rovers in mid-September (Sat 10 and Tues 13), then it's Charlton and Port Vale in mid-April (Sat 15 and Tues 18).

General View of The Fully Charged New Lawn before the Sky Bet League Two match at The Fully Charged

Ipswich Town's first away game of the campaign is at Forest Green's New Lawn Stadium. - Credit: PA

GROUND HOPPERS

Many Town fans won't have been to the grounds of newly-promoted sides Port Vale, Bristol Rovers and Forest Green.

The Blues, who have never faced Forest Green, head to the 5,147 capacity New Lawn Stadium on Saturday, August 6. Many will be intrigued to see what the eco-friendly Gloucestershire club is all about. 

Disappointingly for some, I'm sure, the trips to Port Vale (who Town haven't visited since 2000) and Bristol Rovers (where Town haven't played, in front of fans, since 1998) are both on Tuesday nights.

Exeter were the other team to come up from League Two, but Ipswich have twice played there in cup competitions over recent years.


TRICKY RUNS

A couple of 'tough on paper' three-game runs jump off the page.

In September/October ('moving season'), it's Sheffield Wednesday (a), Plymouth (a), Portsmouth (h).

In March/April, ('business end of season'), it's Barnsley (a), Derby (a) and Wycombe (h).

Wes Burns in Ipswich Town's new home shirt

Wes Burns will miss games for Ipswich Town if selected for Wales' World Cup squad. - Credit: Ross Halls

WORLD CUP

Unlike the Premier League and Championship, the third-tier will not pause for the World Cup in Qatar this November/December.

None of Ipswich's matches clash with England's group games against Iran (Nov 21), USA (Nov 25) and Wales (Nov 29), though there is potential for the home clash with Fleetwood on Saturday, December 3 to come on the same day/time as England playing in the first knockout round.

Ipswich are also set to play on the same day as one of the World Cup quarter-finals (Peterborough at home) and, potentially, will be in Papa Johns Trophy action on the day of a World Cup semi-final.

Will Wes Burns make the squad for Wales? If he does, he'll definitely miss a trip to Exeter and, most likely, the visit of Fleetwood too.


VERDICT

Ultimately, it's a fool's errand trying to read into the fixtures list.

We've seen Ipswich start well and fade, we've seen Ipswich start poorly and chase their tail.

This is season four of League One football and no-one should be under any illusions as to the size of the task ahead.

It's a 46-game slog which requires resilience, unity and fight as much as technical brilliance and tactical nous.

The kits are out, the fixtures are out... now bring on the really exciting stuff - football!