Town Set to Be Unchanged Against Middlesbrough
Saturday, 11th Feb 2012 08:55
Boss Paul Jewell looks set to name the same side for the third game running when the Blues take on Middlesbrough at Portman Road on Saturday. Two wins in two games have seen Town move 10 points clear of the relegation zone but while remaining in 19th in the table.
Jewell has been pleased not just with the victories and the six points but for the most part with the way his team has played: “It’s been a terrific two results for us and the performances, certainly against West Ham and for large parts against Coventry, were very good.
“But we’re not getting too excited or too carried away as there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us and a lot of improvement that we need to do. Just as we try to keep a lid on things when they aren’t going well, we’re just trying to get the balance right.”
The Blues manager admits that he wasn’t too disappointed to see Boro’s FA Cup fourth round replay at home to Sunderland went into extra-time, the Wearsiders eventually running out 2-1 winners: “We were watching the game and it was a tough game for them because it was a derby and there was a lot at stake.
“I thought they played exceptionally well at times, Middlesbrough, and they were a bit unlucky not to at least get a draw and take it to penalties. But I was sitting there delighted when they equalised.
“I think last year they came down and everyone expected them to go straight back up but it didn’t quite work for them.
“They had a strong finish for the season, from February onwards they had really good form. They took that into the start of the season and they’re going to be somewhere close at the end of the season.
“They’ve got a very decent defence, they’ve brought Lukas Jutkiewicz in from Coventry and paid a million for him and they’ve got Marvin Emnes up front, so they’re a threat. Like every game in this league, it’ll be difficult.”
He says former Town skipper, coach and caretaker-manager Tony Mowbray is not someone he is close to but is aware he has a lot of time for his old club: “I don’t know him very well. I played against him when he was at Middlesbrough, him and Gary Pallister. They had a good team and they went through a lot when the gates got locked at Ayresome Park and all that.
“He loves Ipswich Town. He used to live in the Dedham area and I spoke to him when they played here last year and he speaks very highly about the club. He’s a deep thinker about the game and he’s done really well at Middlesbrough this year.”
Arran Lee-Barrett looks set to keep his place in goal ahead of loanee Alex McCarthy with Carlos Edwards and Aaron Cresswell the full-backs and Tommy Smith and Ibrahima Sonko the centre-halves.
In central midfield, Luke Hyam and Andy Drury are likely to keep Jimmy Bullard and Grant Leadbitter on the bench with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the right and Daryl Murphy on the left. Lee Bowyer is back in training after his groin injury and is around a week away from being considered for selection. Recent signing Ryan Stevenson is probably not ready for first team involvement at this stage despite featuring for the reserves in midweek.
Lee Martin will continue in his role behind lone striker Michael Chopra, who will be looking to continue his run of three goals in two games.
Belgian international midfielder Faris Haroun, who was linked with the Blues before joining Boro in the summer, hasn't travelled due to a hamstring problem, while Barry Robson has also stayed in the North-East due to a hand injury.
Keeper Danny Coyne misses out with a calf problem, midfielder Merouane Zemmama having undergone hernia surgery, ex-Charlton and Southend man Nicky Bailey due to a knee ligament problem and Australian striker Scott McDonald after suffering a medial ligament injury.
Teessiders boss Mowbray admits that he’s short on senior players due to those injuries with youngsters such as striker Andy Halliday, 20, midfielder Adam Reach, 18, and another frontman Curtis Main, 19, all drafted into the squad: "We're getting close to having a strong group to choose from but at this moment we're still a little bit stretched and you'll see by the team there will be one or two surprises, one or two omissions that you maybe don't see coming.
“But as against Sunderland, we'll have a team competing and playing with pride for the shirt."
Boro skipper Matthew Bates spent time on loan with Town in the 2006/07 season, making two appearances before a cruciate knee ligament injury saw him return home.
Mowbray is a former Town skipper, coach and caretaker-manager. His assistant manager is Mark Venus, who was also part of George Burley’s Blues side. No current member of the Town squad has played for Boro.
The Blues have had the better of Middlesbrough over the years, winning 27 games (25 in the league), drawing 13 (13) and losing 16 (15). Boro are currently without a win in six matches in all competitions and also in their last six league games.
In September, Town recorded their first draw of the season as their visit to the Riverside ended scoreless.
Jason Scotland went nearest to breaking the deadlock with a shot against the post in the second half, while Michael Chopra and Ibrahima Sonko both went close in the first period.
When the sides last met at Portman Road in April, they drew 3-3 in a game which boss Paul Jewell said at the time could have ended 7-7.
Grant Leadbitter put the Blues in front early on, but two goals in a minute just before the break from Andy Halliday and Scott McDonald saw the visitors into a surprise lead.
The Teessiders extended their lead after the restart via Andrew Taylor but Connor Wickham and then Leadbitter from the spot levelled with both teams having opportunities to win it late on.
The club have cut prices for the game by 25% in what they describe as “a major ticketing trial”. To take advantage of the offer, you must order tickets before Saturday.
This weekend's match programme is available in an online electronic version here as well as in its traditional format at the game.
Prior to kick-off, the Supporters Trust will be collecting signatures for their petition calling on the club to commit to Category One Academy status by Sir Alf.
Town are confident the game will go ahead despite the snowy recent conditions but it’s worth keeping an eye out for developments if the weather deteriorates between now and Saturday afternoon.
The match is now one of the main games on Saturday night's Football League Show (BBC1 11.55pm).
Saturday’s referee is Dean Whitestone from Northampton, who has shown 73 yellow cards and four red in 25 games so far this season. Whitestone’s most recent Town match was the 2-2 draw at Cardiff in October, in which he awarded the Bluebirds a highly contentious penalty for handball against Carlos Edwards and booked two players from each side.
Squad from: Lee-Barrett, McCarthy, Edwards, Cresswell, Ainsley, Smith, Sonko, Delaney, Drury, Hyam, Bullard, Leadbitter, Emmanuel-Thomas, Murphy, Carson, Martin, Chopra, Scotland, Ellington.
Photo: Action Images
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