ITEN Match Preview: Ipswich (A)
Rovers are back on the road this weekend, bizarrely playing away from home for the first time in a month. Ipswich Town, relegated from the Championship last season in miserable fashion but off to a good start in League One, are the hosts as Darren Moore looks to keep his side’s unbeaten start to the campaign going.
Due to the circumstances surrounding postponements against Bolton and Bury, Rovers will have only played two away games in their first eight fixtures but have made home comforts count so far with three wins and a draw. The trip to Portman Road will probably be the stiffest test yet for this young side against an unbeaten side sat 3rd in the table, but it’s worth mentioning that, had Rovers played the game at Bolton and won it – as Ipswich were allowed to do days later – then this would be a game between two sides tied on points.
Start as you finished?
Moore made the bold decision to leave out both Niall Ennis and Kieran Sadlier against Rotherham, but they were both instrumental in the second half comeback that inspired victory in that game after introductions off the bench. Surely this will add up to the pair being reinstated to the starting XI, even if Kazaiah Sterling returns to full fitness after suffering a dead leg in the first half of the South Yorkshire derby.
Sadlier’s dynamic play is vital to our attacking impetus and his new-found ruthlessness in front of goal could be the difference between success and failure at Ipswich. In addition, there is better balance with him on the field in that attacking quartet, allowing the team to get the best out of the likes of James Coppinger and Alfie May, if he is preferred to Jon Taylor after an off-colour display last Saturday.
Further back, things start to be gelling together with Reece James and Ben Sheaf in particular putting in their best performances in a Rovers shirt against the Millers. Defensive solidity and cohesion off the ball will be of paramount importance in a game against a top quality side with a big crowd behind them, so expect Moore to go with the same again as far as the foundation of the team is concerned.
Beware the firing front two
Ipswich had the weekend off last Saturday due to the international break, with Paul Lambert’s side knocked off the top of the table as a result. Unbeaten and the division’s top scorers, the Tractor Boys have marked themselves as promotion contenders early after an abysmal relegation from the Championship last term. The potency of forward pairing James Norwood and Kayden Jackson will be of chief concern to Darren Moore with the duo netting nine goals between them, although four of those goals did come in the ‘freebie’ 5-0 win at Bolton.
Behind them, the midfield is forming a consistency of threat that cannot be ignored either. Alan Judge is a top class player for this level on the left wing, whilst both of Lambert’s options on the other side, Gwion Edwards and Danny Rowe, brother of former Rovers midfielder Tommy, are dangerous themselves. Cole Skuse and academy graduate Flynn Downes have excelled in the middle, as noted by the fact Ipswich have enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in all but the first two games of the season, so the battle between them and the two Ben’s, Whiteman and Sheaf, will be key.
Lambert experimented with a 3-4-1-2 formation in the EFL Trophy last week, deploying wing-backs, but this may be a risky move for a league game without more refinement, especially with Luke Garbutt still injured. But Darren Moore will surely have scouted for the prospect of Lambert playing this wild card, and it may be a good set-up to stifle our speed on the counter.
This is the first meeting between the two sides in four years, although three-quarters of the 16 clashes in history were in this century owing to five years together in the Championship. Ipswich are on a four match winning streak against Rovers, the last being a 4-1 League Cup win at the Keepmoat that was level going into extra time. The only survivors on either side that night are Ipswich’s captain Luke Chambers, Myles Kenlock (who was playing only his second senior game at the time but is now a regular) and, of course, James Coppinger.
Coppinger also played in the last game Rovers won at Portman Road, a 3-2 victory on Guy Fawkes Day in 2011, a rare bright spark in a miserable year for the club. Billy Sharp and a brace from El-Hadji Diouf saw Dean Saunders’ men 3-0 up before half time, so anything resembling that fast start would be appreciated again this Saturday, however unlikely that may be.