|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Aston Villa|
Saturday, 18th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Hurst: We're Going to Try and Be Positive Against Villa
Friday, 17th Aug 2018 11:21
Boss Paul Hurst says Town will take a positive approach against Aston Villa at Portman Road on Saturday, despite expecting the Midlanders to be one of this season’s promotion contenders.
Steve Bruce’s side, who were beaten by Fulham in last season's play-off final, are currently third in the Championship having won 3-1 at Hull City in their opening game before defeating Wigan 3-2 at home last weekend. They followed that with a 1-0 win at Yeovil in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Asked whether he was relishing the challenge of facing Villa, Hurst said: “Of course, each game you go into there’s only three points at stake, no more, no less, whether it’s Aston Villa or Rotherham.
“But at the same time you want to be involved in the games where you know there’s going to be a real atmosphere.
“The away fans will be there in numbers and I’m sure our fans will respond in return and you want to play against the best teams.
“There’s no better feeling than when you come out of the right side of the result against a team where they’re probably going to be favourites going into it. These are the wins you look forward to.
“Of course, it’s natural there’ll be a little bit of apprehension, but I’m interested in seeing how the players approach it.
“They’ll get some clear messages from myself and the staff and hopefully they can carry those out.”
Only a few weeks ago Villa were looking like a club in crisis but they ended the close season in a much more stable position.
“That seems to have settled, new investors coming in that have clearly given the club a boost,” Hurst continued.
“They’ve come out and said Steve Bruce is the man, in my opinion rightly so, that shouldn’t really have been up for discussion.
“Maybe bad news for the rest of us but those investors are going to allow him to bring in additions, I think he’s been linked with three players and they’ve already got a good squad anyway, let’s not kid ourselves.
“If they can add more quality to that with the crowds that they get, all of that, they’ve got to be one of the contenders.”
Hurst is keen that the pre-season positivity be maintained, despite the Blues having failed to win any of their first three games.
“I said that from the start, about getting into the season and how that can quickly disappear,” he reflected.
“There might be some people out there where that’s already happened. I can’t help too much on that side apart from to try and get the team to win a game of football and then everyone feels better about life.
“Hopefully we can do that sooner rather than later and certainly the game on Saturday presents a big challenge, but whatever the result, positive or negative, I think it’s a game I’ll learn a lot from because it’s a different type of game in terms of the three games up to now.
“And I think it’ll be interesting to see how some of the players react that get the opportunity to put the shirt on again or are in the starting line-up and also how they handle going up against a big club in what I’m sure will be a big atmosphere at Portman Road.”
Having expressed his disappointment at the manner in which his team have conceded goals in the opening three games, has additional work been put in on that front on the training ground?
“In general, they were quite easy to avoid,” he added, looking back at the goals. “The one at Rotherham, Michael Smith could hit that ball again I don’t know how many times and it wouldn’t particularly land where it did.
“It was a good finish, instinct, but a lot of times it might hit the bar or the player that was on the line or go over the bar.
“A couple I think we’ve certainly contributed to ourselves with silly mistakes. After that there’s not too much.
“In a couple of the games I didn’t really see the opposition scoring and that’s a positive. Blackburn, the goals aside, they had one attack in the second period when the game was becoming stretched where they perhaps should have scored.
“I don’t feel like we’re relying on Bart to make lots of saves or we’ve been cut open massively.
“That said, we’ve got the biggest challenge ahead on Saturday with a team who have scored three twice in their league games and clearly carry a big attacking threat.”
Despite that, Hurst says the Blues won’t just sit in and defend in depth, he wants them to be positive.
“I was asked before about whether it’s potentially too much change too soon and I stick by what I said, if it didn’t work out I’d rather have given it a go the way I wanted to do it rather than being careful, dipping my toe in and getting a feel,” he said. “Let’s have a go, that’s the motto I want for the players.
“And I want that on Saturday. We know we’re up against a good team but I’m not going to suddenly change and we’re just going to go, ‘Right, let’s get everyone behind the ball, no one does anything, no one move out of position and we’ll see if we can keep Villa out and hope we get a lucky goal’.
“We’re going to try and be positive. There might be things which are a little bit different from what you’ve seen before, perhaps, but overall a lot of the principles will remain the same and I want to try and get the crowd involved again.
“Everyone said on the opening day that the atmosphere was better than it has been, in recent times at least.
“I want to try and get that again and if we can get it even better. They’re a big part of the football club, fans. Playing at home, of we don’t give them anything to shout about, or at least try, then there’s no point in playing at home.”
Hurst says he has a decision to make up front with Kayden Jackson scoring at Exeter in his first start, fellow summer signing Ellis Harrison having impressed his manager in the previous two games, although without so far finding the net in a competitive game.
Asked whether Jackson meant his goal at St James Park, Hurst laughed: “I haven’t asked him. I saw a tweet that it was nice to get his first goal despite the result. I think it was his goal, hopefully he’ll score some better ones.
“I’ve got a decision to make between him and Ellis Harrison and that’s what I want because if we just had the one and Kayden had gone down injured the other night, we’d really have been scratching our heads and probably have had to come up with a different formation or change a lot of things.
“That competition’s what I want. He’ll be in good spirits. Ellis had done pretty well as well, so I’ve got a bit of thinking to do.”
Does he want his lone striker to get more support from elsewhere in the team? “At times, that’s something we’ve been looking at, whether that’s from the wide players or whether that’s from the midfield players.
“That was one of the things the other night. On a couple of occasions Tayo Edun broke for the goal, Jon Nolan’s burst forward created a chance. He had an attempt later on, but we have to get people willing to run forward and at times, and having looked back at the game in particular, the three midfield players were far too close together and therefore there wasn’t an option to come out and switch play as much.
“If three players are all wanting the ball, that means they’re not going to be able to get in the box.
“So sometimes as much as we want people to want the ball, there’s got to be an element of, ‘OK, on this occasion I need to think about where my team-mates are and maybe it’s time for me to get in the box and cause a problem’.
“That’s something we’ll look through tomorrow [Friday training] but also show on the DVD and hopefully that will help them when they see it and maybe just help them understand what we’re trying to say to them.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal and the back four is likely to remain unchanged unless Janoi Donacien isn’t over the knock he suffered at Exeter, although Hurst has said he expects the one-time Villa youngster to be OK. If not, Jordan Spence will come into the team at right-back.
Jonas Knudsen will be at left-back with skipper Luke Chambers and home debutant Toto Nsiala at the heart of the defence. In midfield, Cole Skuse will return, probably for Edun alongside Trevoh Chalobah.
Gwion Edwards will be back on the right if, as expected, he is over the quad injury which saw him miss the trip to Devon.
Grant Ward will probably get the nod over Freddie Sears on the left flank with Jon Nolan - another home debutant - in the middle.
Having found the net in midweek whether fortuitously or otherwise, Jackson may well also make his home debut from the start.
Teddy Bishop and Danny Rowe could be on the bench having made their returns to first-team action at Exeter.
Villa manager Bruce believes the new-look Blues have been unlucky in their games up to now.
“A new era, that’s exactly what you’d call it,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “I’ve watched them a couple of times and they’ve been a bit unfortunate in my view.
“They’ve brought in a few younger players from the lower leagues, the manager has obviously come from the lower leagues and those lads will desperate to do well and prove themselves at this level and the one thing they’ll do is roll their sleeves up and have a right good crack at us.
“Would be a big scalp for them, us coming. So we’ll guard against that and hopefully play as well as we did late on last year when we had one of our best performances away from home there last year. But I’m sure it’s going to be quite different this time.”
Villa will be without strike pair Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan due to hip and groin problems respectively.
Historically, Town have won 19 games between the sides (15 in the league), 14 (12) have ended in draws and Villa have won 25 (21).
Villa go into the match looking to win their first three league games at the start of a season for the first time since August 1962.
The teams last met at Portman Road in April when Villa inflicted Town’s heaviest home defeat in precisely seven years as the Blues were beaten 4-0 having had Grant Ward sent off just prior to half-time.
Ex-Blue Conor Hourihane put the Villans ahead on 25 and then in the second half, after Ward had been dismissed for catching Neil Taylor with a high boot, Lewis Grabban scored on 57 and 78 and sub Henri Lansbury in the 82nd minute.
At Villa Park in November last year, Albert Adomah netted a goal in each half as the home side defeated the Blues 2-0.
Adomah put Villa in front on 36 during an evenly-balanced first half, then added the second in the 66th minute with both goals largely the result of poor defending from Town.
New defender Janoi Donacien spent six years at Villa as a youngster between 2010 and 2016, progressing through their academy ranks and appearing on the first-team bench on two occasions but without making his debut. Blues academy coach Alan Lee was also a Villa youth player.
Midfielder Hourihane, who followed his former Town boss Roy Keane to Portman Road from Sunderland in the summer of 2010, is the only Villa player to have been with the Blues.
The Corkman was an unused sub for the Town first team on four occasions in 2010/11 but failed to make it on to the pitch.
He signed a new six-month deal in the summer of 2011 but joined Plymouth after a trial late in pre-season with new manager Paul Jewell not seeing him as being close to breaking into his first team.
Villa striker Keinan Davis had a trial with the Blues academy in November 2015 while a Biggleswade Town player, featuring for the U18s on a couple of occasions, before joining Villa, who had been showing interest prior to his stint at Playford Road, a month later.
Saturday’s referee is Tim Robinson from West Sussex, who has shown eight yellow cards and one red in two games so far this season.
The former PE teacher’s most recent Town match was the 1-0 home defeat to Norwich City last October in which he cautioned only Chambers, Spence and Flynn Downes.
A month earlier Robinson was the man in the middle during the 5-2 thrashing of Sunderland in which he booked Tristan Nydam and three Wearsiders.
Prior to that he took charge of 2017/18’s 1-0 opening day victory over Birmingham City when he yellow-carded Spence and one visitor.
The season before that he officiated in the 3-1 home win against Newcastle United in which he cautioned McGoldrick, Tom Lawrence and one Magpie.
Robinson also refereed Town’s 1-0 success at Aston Villa in February 2017, in which he booked only Knudsen and Toumani Diagouraga, and the 1-0 victory over Preston at Portman Road in August 2016, in which he booked Skuse and one visiting player.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 1-0 win at Derby on the final day of 2015/16 and yellow-carded skipper Chambers, Adam McDonnell and two Rams.
Before that he took control of the 2-1 home victory over Reading in February 2016 in which he booked Christophe Berra and two visiting players.
Robinson’s only other competitive Town game was the 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough in December 2015 in which he again cautioned Berra and two visitors.
He also refereed the pre-season friendly at Crawley in the summer of 2013 in which he awarded the Blues a penalty, which was converted by McGoldrick in a 2-1 victory.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Donacien, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Edun, Downes, Nydam, Edwards, Bishop, Sears, Ward, Roberts, Rowe, Nolan, Harrison, Jackson.
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