Fortress breached, let’s be Frank and time for Plan B? – Plymouth v Ipswich Town pre-match talking points
Ipswich Town take on Plymouth Argyle, at Home Park, in their latest League One clash this afternoon (3pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
That clinical 4-1 victory at Blackpool, back on October 10, is starting to feel like a long time ago.
Town’s away from since then has been poor. There have been defeats at Doncaster, Lincoln, Sunderland and Crawley (the latter in the EFL Trophy), plus Tuesday night’s goalless stalemate at struggling Oxford United.
Indeed, the overall form has been poor. It’s just three wins over the last 11 games across all competitions, while 10 points claimed from the last nine league games is better than only four other sides in the division (Burton, Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury and Wigan).
Today, the Blues take on Plymouth for the first time in more than a decade. The last time they made the 610-mile round trip to Home Park was back in October 2009.
This meeting between east and west was a Championship staple between 04/05 and 09/10. Town won five of the 12 clashes during that five-year period, just one of them coming in Devon – a 3-1 triumph in which Owen Garvan bagged a brace and Kevin Lisbie also netted.
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This is a fourth game in 15 days for Town.
Usually, you’d see a manager look to freshen up one or two areas of his team during such a schedule. Paul Lambert’s options are severely limited though.
Unbelievably, 13 players were out injured or ill in midweek. That list in full: Kane Vincent-Young, James Wilson, Toto Nsiala, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes, Teddy Bishop, Emyr Huws, Brett McGavin, Tristan Nydam, Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears, James Norwood and Ben Morris.
As a result, Jon Nolan was rushed into a return to action just 10 days on from limping out of the 2-1 win against Shrewsbury with a groin injury. Manager Paul Lambert has hinted he should be ok to go again, while McGavin and Nsiala are the only two players likely to return for this game.
To make matters worse, Andre Dozzell – who has started every league game he’s been available for this season – is suspended today after picking up his fifth league booking at the Kassam Stadium.
Are any of the cavalry coming? It doesn’t sound like it.
TIME FOR PLAN B?
After the 3-0 home loss to Hull, Lambert explained that he didn’t move away from his preferred 4-3-3 system (you can split hairs over the differences between 4-1-2-3 / 4-2-3-1 if you like) because ‘we are useless with two up top’.
The thing is, he has now has strikers fit and a real shortage of central midfielders.
When Oli Hawkins and Kayden Jackson came on together in the 60th minute at Oxford, the Blues did switch to 4-4-2. And they instantly looked more of a goal threat, with Hawkins winning plenty of towering flick-ons and Jackson running off of him. That has the makings of a decent strike partnership.
We all wanted Town to develop an identity this season, but now might be the time to try something different due to form and injuries. Having senior players sat on the bench during such a pressure period certainly seems counter productive.
Last season was a good one for Argyle.
Ryan Lowe was appointed manager at the start of pre-season and he signed several of his former Bury players during the northern club’s demise.
Plymouth were praised from playing some entertaining football on their way to automatic promotion and, following the lengthy Covid-19 break, appeared to take to League One football pretty well.
Home Park had been their fortress. Seventeen of their 19 points so far this season have been claimed on Devon soil, with victories against Blackpool, Burton, Northampton, Doncaster and Swindon, plus draws against Shrewsbury and Portsmouth. They’d gone 16 home matches across league, FA Cup and EFL Cup without suffering defeat (W12 D4) dating back to early January.
Then along came Rochdale on Tuesday night... And a 4-0 hammering.
Time and time again, the visitors got in behind Plymouth’s wing-backs. That’s now three successive league defeats, following on from a 5-1 thrashing at Fleetwood and 1-0 loss at Peterborough.
“I didn’t see my team there, what we are built on and how we play, especially in the first half,” said Lowe. “It wasn’t good enough, nowhere near. But what we have to do is we have to put it to bed quickly.
“We have got a good group but they need to learn fast because if you don’t you could end up on a slippery slope, and that’s what we don’t want to be.”
He added: “The game was won in both boxes. I think we had 18 shots and two on target. I don’t know how many they had, but they scored four goals, and they were definitely avoidable on our part.”
LET’S BE FRANK
Frank Nouble worked his socks off for Ipswich Town, but certainly isn’t remembered as one of the most technically-gifted strikers in the club’s recent history.
Today he faces the Blues for the first time since departing in 2015.
Plymouth became the 15th club of his career this summer after his contract expired at League Two side Colchester United. The 29-year-old has scored two goals in 19 outings so far this season.
Another familiar face in the Plymouth ranks is Conor Grant. The 25-year-old midfielder made seven appearances for the Blues during a short loan spell from Everton in 2016.
FANS ARE BACK
Today will be the first time that Ipswich Town have played in front of an audience since a 1-0 home loss to Coventry on March 7.
Being in a Tier 2 area (and having a near 18,000 capacity stadium), Plymouth will be able to welcome a maximum of 2,000 of their 5,000 season ticket holders to the game.
“They will make a difference,” said Lowe. “Any fans will. We played Fleetwood recently and it sounded like there was 2,000 fans behind our dug-out, believe it or not, in their boxes.
“I think there were probably only 50 people there, maybe a bit more, so I think 2,000 fans will definitely will help us.”