|Crunch Time - Next Two Games Likely to Decide our Fate|
Written by Pickersblue22 on Wednesday, 1st Apr 2015 18:42
This is undoubtedly the most exciting time to be an Ipswich Town supporter in a decade. For the first time since the days of Joe Royle, we have a chance of promotion, possibly automatic. Being sat in sixth place with seven games left, the task is in our own hands.
The Easter weekend is every season a vital period, and this is absolutely the case with us. Our next two games against Bournemouth and Huddersfield are likely to be crucial in deciding whether we make the top two, top six, or finish outside of the promotion picture.
Beating Bournemouth on Good Friday would send a massive message to our promotion rivals that we are serious contenders. With these two games being followed by home games against Blackpool and Cardiff, we have the chance to go into the final three games of the season in great form, and time our charge for the top two perfectly.
The Bournemouth game is huge. In my opinion Bournemouth have been the Championship’s outstanding team this season. They play by far the best football, score stacks of goals and have one of the best young managers in the country in Eddie Howe.
A key factor in this game might be the absence of the Cherries’ top scorer Callum Wilson through injury. Wilson has been in fantastic form lately so the injury he picked up in their 3-0 win against Middlesbrough might be crucial to deciding not just this game, but Bournemouth’s season.
They have signed Kenwyne Jones on loan from Cardiff as a different option up front, but I get the feeling Howe will start with the in-form Brett Pitman who fits in better with their possession-based style of play.
Alongside him will be Yann Kermorgant, another in-form player, who scored a brilliant scissor kick in the return game at the Goldsands in November, a goal that is in the shortlist of five for Mitre Goal of the Year. The former Charlton man will be a real handful for Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra, as his aerial ability is fantastic considering his height.
In Harry Arter and Matt Ritchie, Bournemouth have two players that are destined for the top. Both have been rewarded with their first international call-ups to the Republic of Ireland and Scotland respectively as a result of their stunning domestic form.
Arter has the tendency to score from range, so his battle with Cole Skuse will be pivotal in this game. As well as setting the tempo for our play, Skuse must stop Arter from influencing the game if we want to gain midfield superiority.
Ritchie is blessed with great pace and trickery, but he is never likely to go down the outside channel- he will always cut in onto his lethal left foot. Zeki Fryers is going to have a tough job keeping him quiet, but he will have help from Jay Tabb. Ritchie’s international team-mate Berra will more likely be in the winger’s firing line, as he will cut in at Berra’s channel of the pitch.
Another feature of Bournemouth’s play is the amount that their full-backs push up the wing all the way to the by-line. Simon Francis on the right and Charlie Daniels on the left are very dangerous players and have formed very threatening partnerships with Ritchie and Marc Pugh respectively, who both love to cut in onto their stronger feet.
This creates space for Francis and Daniels on the overlap, so Tabb and probably Paul Anderson have got to work very hard defensively as well as going forward. I worry about Luke Chambers on Friday. With Pugh and Daniels, he is never going to win a foot-race, so that could be a dangerous part of the pitch for us.
In terms of playing styles, we could not be two more different sides. Bournemouth love to get the ball on the deck and pass it, whereas we like to hit Daryl Murphy and play off him. Kenwyne Jones gives them a different dimension, though they are more likely to use him as an outlet if they are defending a lead, or chasing the game at the end.
It will be fascinating to see if Mick keeps faith with the 4-3-3 that worked so well at Watford, or goes back to 4-4-2. I think he will return to 4-4-2 for a number of reasons. Firstly, we went with 4-3-3 to counteract Watford’s wing-back system, which Bournemouth almost certainly won’t use.
Secondly, we are the home team in this game so there is more of an onus on us to set the tempo of the game, rather than sit with three in midfield and defend. Thirdly, Mick has a tendency to match up with the opposition’s formation, so particularly with Bournemouth’s dangerous width, he is likely revert back to 4-4-2 to match the Cherries.
As an occasion, this game should be one that the players will relish. If you can’t get up for a game like this, then you can’t get up for any game. Bournemouth start the day top, with us in sixth, but by the time we kick-off, both teams’ positions are likely to have changed. This puts extra pressure and importance on the game, and even more on Derby and Watford, who kick-off later on Friday evening.
For Town, the signing of Jonny Williams could be the final piece in the jigsaw, whether he is fully fit or not. He is likely to only play a small role, but he so good and so loved by the fans, that his role could be crucial. David McGoldrick’s return from injury is also perfectly timed. He will be champing at the bit after a lengthy spell out. Hopefully he will be on the bench on Friday and will be able to have a say on the game.
Our strike-force now looks strong with McGoldrick back, Luke Varney looking impressive, Chris Wood playing well, although he is unlikely to start against Bournemouth after playing for New Zealand on Tuesday. Freddie Sears is likely to come back in alongside Daryl Murphy, a partnership that has showed real promise.
Huddersfield on Easter Monday will be a very important game, especially if we don’t win on Friday. We must take at least four points from these two games, but a win on Friday followed by another on Monday would see us go into home games against Blackpool and Cardiff on the back of four straight wins. That should then become six straight wins with three games left, still with a chance of a top-two finish. That is why these next two games are crucial. They can either set us up for a last push at the top two, or we could fall away and see our chances evaporate.
Mick McCarthy deserves a lot of praise for the way we have ground out these last two wins. He has basically just not listened to any of the stick he has received, and has stubbornly stuck to what he has been doing, and it has eventually worked. We now have to make sure that this doesn’t go to waste.
Mick has pulled it out of the bag like he always does; we now have to kick on. Signing Fryers and Williams could be crucial. Mick has confirmed that Fryers will start on Friday, and he will almost certainly start on Monday as well. It will be interesting to see if he then keeps Tyrone Mings out of the team, who has not been playing that well recently.
Whether we are ready for promotion or not doesn’t matter, we must now get behind the team as much as possible for these last seven games, and see where it takes us. After Bournemouth, there is the possibility that none of our other six opponents will have anything to play for.
By the time we play them, Wolves and Forest could both be out of the play-off picture, which could play into our hands, or it could work against us, if our opponents go out and play with freedom, knowing they will be in the same division next season. Friday is make or break. This is crunch time for Town.
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