|Ipswich Town 0 v 2 Middlesbrough|
Tuesday, 2nd October 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Hurst Considering Changes as Blues Continue Search for First Win Against Boro
Monday, 1st Oct 2018 15:31
Town boss Paul Hurst is considering making changes as the Blues continue their search for their first win of the season when third-placed Middlesbrough are at Portman Road on Tuesday (Sky Sports Football/Main Event from 7pm, but not iFollow).
Having drawn 2-2 at Birmingham City on Saturday, Town, 22nd in the Championship, have a long trip to Swansea later in the week following Tuesday’s tough game against the Teessiders.
Asked whether he might shuffle his pack as a result of three tough games in eight days, Hurst admitted it is something he has been considering.
“Possibly, that’s still something I’m giving some thought to, I have over the weekend,” he said.
“You’d also like to get a feel from the players themselves, see how they’re feeling, whether that’s through a chat or just through observing them in training.
“We can’t name the same again because Matthew Pennington is suspended [for one match following his weekend red card], so we’ve definitely got one change.
“The other thing that we have here, and it’s not an excuse it’s just the way it is, is the travelling.
“And certainly coming into the weekend and that journey, that is going to impact on how we prepare and what work we put the lads through. There are things to take into consideration, certainly.”
Before he turns his thoughts to the Swans, Hurst is concentrating on Boro, who he says have one of the division’s outstanding squads.
“You could argue it’s the strongest, maybe West Brom's possibly,” he reflected. “It might sound silly [given their position] but Stoke’s.
“The teams that have come down are naturally going to be a bit stronger and I think there are a lot of teams like Leeds and Brentford etc, but I think if you wanted to put your money on a team who are definitely going to be up there, I think you’d not get much wrong to say Middlesbrough. I think they’re the safest bet with the experience that they’ve got and the squad.”
While many of the Town squad are still finding their feet at Championship level, the Middlesbrough squad is full of players with years of experience at this level.
“I’m aware of who has been playing and have watched the games and I’m struggling to think of too many who haven’t got a lot of experience in there,” he said.
“That’s why I think they’re a very safe bet to be in that top six certainly, and perhaps one of the automatic places.”
Their manager Tony Pulis is also among the most experienced in the game having passed the 1,000-match mark.
“I’m sure he’s been through a few emotions and he’s got his way of playing. It’s not for everybody but it’s certainly got results over his career,” Hurst continued.
“He’s put together a squad with lots of quality and they're a very physical side to play against, something we’re going to have to try to stand up to if we’re going to have any success from the game. He’s top drawer manager.”
Looking at the game, Hurst hopes his side can make a bright start and impose themselves on the Teessiders.
“That would be the ideal and I think away teams always guard against that,” he said. “When we go to places we expect the home team to be looking to get off to a good start.
“That would be the ideal scenario for us. We certainly want the crowd to be involved on the evening. We’ve got to try and influence that by giving them something to shout about.”
Having played 10 league games plus the Carabao Cup tie at Exeter, the Blues are still to record a win and despite those results Hurst hopes fans will continue to keep the faith.
“Yes, I think we’ve the same points as Millwall but they’ve had victories but have suffered more defeats and we’re above Preston, who have also had a victory,” he said.
“I guess it doesn’t matter in some ways where the points come from, but if you’re going to get enough points in the end we know you do have win games.
“But for the second week running we’ve got a result and have moved up a place. As I’ve said before, it’s tiny steps but we want that to try and continue.
“It doesn’t get much tougher than the game tomorrow night but at the same time it’s a game we’ve got to look forward to and enjoy the challenge that it poses.
“It’s on national TV as well and I’m hoping that can inspire us just that little bit more to try and get that.
“But from what I’ve witnessed, the fans have been great and were again yet again on Saturday.
“A bit of humour in some of the chants as well, so it’s good that they’ve still got that to them and are cheering the players on because you always need that.
“It’s a long, hard season and I’m sure we’ll be able to give them some good moments along the way.”
Despite his error for the second goal at Birmingham, it seems likely Hurst will stick with Dean Gerken in goal as the Blues look to continue their unbeaten home record and pick up that elusive first win.
Pennington misses out due to his one-match ban and Janoi Donacien seems likely to get the nod ahead of Jordan Spence at right-back with Jon Walters’s injury meaning the Blues boss no longer has to decide which loan player to leave out.
Skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala will continue at the centre of the defence with Jonas Knudsen at left-back.
In midfield, Cole Skuse could again be partnered by Trevoh Chalobah but Hurst could opt to bring Tayo Edun or Flynn Downes back into his XI.
Left midfield is the other area where there could be a change with Jordan Graham or Freddie Sears perhaps coming in for Grant Ward. Kayden Jackson will again be the lone striker.
Middlesbrough will be without midfielder Adam Clayton, who is banned having already amassed five bookings this season, while striker Britt Assombalonga is a doubt.
"Clayts is suspended, so that gives us the opportunity to bring in another midfield player or whatever we decide to do," manager Pulis told Boro's official site.
"Adam's done really well for us this year. He's been exceptional in the games he's played.
"We'll miss him, but again it's an opportunity for someone else to step up.
"Britt's the only other one. He's had a kick early in the game [Saturday's 1-1 draw at Hull City] and played on with it. He couldn't train yesterday so we'll wait and see."
Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter joined the Teessiders on a Bosman transfer in the summer of 2012 having turned down a contract at Town after three years at Portman Road.
Town have had the better of Middlesbrough over the years, winning 30 games (28 in the league), drawing 16 (16) and losing 21 (20).
Although third, Boro have won only one of their last five league games, their last three matches having ended in draws.
The Teessiders have won only one of their last 12 matches at Portman Road.
On the final day of last season at Portman Road, Boro sub Patrick Bamford’s goal deep in injury time saw Middlesbrough grab a 2-2 draw.
Sears had put Town ahead with his second goal in two games but Stewart Downing equalised for the Teessiders on 71.
Martyn Waghorn thought he’d scored the winner with his 16th of the season from the spot after Championship debutant sub Shane McLoughlin had won the penalty, but Bamford headed the leveller six minutes into time added-on.
At the Riverside Stadium in December last year, goals either side of the break from Martin Braithwaite and Bamford saw Middlesbrough to a 2-0 victory.
Braithwaite profited from a series of Town defensive errors to give the Teessiders the lead on 44 with Bamford adding the second with a low shot off the inside of the post six minutes into the second half.
As the game is Sky’s main Championship match on Tuesday, the fixture is not available on iFollow.
Tuesday’s referee is Andrew Madley from West Yorkshire, who has shown 24 yellow cards and one red in nine games so far this season.
Madley’s last Town match was the 3-0 home victory over Preston in November last year in which he booked David McGoldrick and three Lilywhites.
Two months earlier he refereed the 2-0 home victory over Bolton in which he cautioned Joe Garner and three visiting players.
He also took charge of the 1-1 home draw with Birmingham in April of the same year in which he yellow-carded only one of the Midlanders.
Before that he refereed the 3-0 home defeat to Derby three months earlier in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Madley also officiated in the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday in November 2016 when he booked Skuse and Ward and one home player.
Before that he was the man in the middle for the 1-0 defeat at Cardiff in March of that year in which he again issued no cards.
He also refereed the 2-1 home victory over Wolves in November 2014 in which he showed yellow cards to Chambers, Luke Hyam and Kevin Bru as well as two visiting players.
In 2013/14 he took control of the 1-1 home draw with Nottingham Forest and the 2-0 victory over Reading at Portman Road.
The season prior to that he refereed his first Blues game, the 2-1 home defeat to Derby County, which turned out to be Paul Jewell’s last match as manager of Town.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Donacien, Spence, Knudsen, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Edun, Edwards, Ward, Graham, Nolan, Sears, Jackson, Lankester.
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