|Leeds United 2 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Wednesday, 24th October 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Hurst Aiming to Surprise Doubters at Leeds
Tuesday, 23rd Oct 2018 16:51
Under-pressure Town boss Paul Hurst admits few people will be expecting his table-propping side to take anything from Wednesday’s game against Leeds United at Elland Road (Sky Sports Red Button/iFollow Ipswich).
Hurst has been impressed by the Whites, fifth following Tuesday's games having been the Championship’s early-season pace-setters before dropping away in recent weeks after winning only two of their last eight, having cited them as one of the division’s top sides.
“I said some weeks ago in the build-up to the Brentford game that Brentford and Leeds are the two best teams I’ve seen consistently but one or two others have also certainly impressed,” Hurst said.
“I think the way they’ve played and the game that they played against each other prior to our Swansea game was a such a good game of football with lots and lots to admire from both teams.
“We’re going to have to be really at our best to make sure we’re really competitive tomorrow night, if not there’s only one outcome.”
After Saturday’s dismal display in the 2-0 home defeat to QPR, Hurst wants a performance and a ideally a victory but knows few will be anticipating his team taking anything from the match.
“I want to go there and get a point or three points. But the reality of it is not many people, if anyone, will expect us to go there and get anything, but we’ve got to try and prove those people wrong,” he said.
“But Leeds are a very good team with lots of very good individuals. They’re just getting one or two back from injury, one or two they’ve lost, they’re having to deal with that.
“That’s probably made it so they haven’t quite got the results they would have liked in some of the games more recently.
“But again, watching the games, they’ve still had more than enough in those and have been unfortunate in some.”
Asked whether the first 15 or 20 minutes will be key, he responded: “No, the 95 or whatever minutes we play will be key. But you want to try and get through that period without making the task any more difficult.
“One thing we’ve certainly got to do is not make basic silly errors that make the task more difficult, whether it’s Leeds or whether it’s QPR that we’re playing.
“But particularly somewhere like that where there’s going to be a big crowd, a very vocal crowd, a crowd that when things are going well for their team most people would say is one of the hardest places to go and play.
“Flip that around and maybe when things aren’t going as well as they want for the home team, it can be the reverse of that and it can be difficult for the Leeds players. We’ve got to try and make it one of those nights.”
Hurst has previously said that he’d love his team to play in a similar manner to Leeds, even if he concedes his side is a distance from being able to do that at present.
“It is some way and ultimately you’ve got to have the players that can do that and, let’s be honest, there’s a big difference, a big disparity in terms of what they’ve been able to assemble compared to ourselves,” he said.
“But I like the positivity in their play, I like the way they look after the ball and the forward runs, the energy and I think sometimes there are certain aspects to their play that aren’t simply about money and that’s what we’ve at least got to try and bring to our game.”
Hurst has a decision to make regarding his goalkeeper, Dean Gerken having made the error which led to QPR’s first goal, following another mistake which resulted in Birmingham’s equaliser at St Andrew’s.
Having switched his keepers after Bartosz Bialkowski had made a couple of early season slips, the Blues boss may well be inclined to recall the Polish international.
Hurst has said he has planned to make changes and could look at shuffling around his back four with Town having kept only one clean sheet all season.
Toto Nsiala, who had a tough game against QPR, could drop out to allow former Leeds loanee Matthew Pennington to return to the centre of the defence alongside skipper Luke Chambers with Jonas Knudsen at left-back and Janoi Donacien on the right.
In midfield, Cole Skuse and Trevoh Chalobah will probably stay in the deeper roles but with Andre Dozzell perhaps dropping to the bench.
The 19-year-old, only just back from his long spell out injured, might struggle to play three games in just over a week - he featured for the England U20s last Monday - which could see Jon Nolan or Flynn Downes return to the starting line-up.
Gwion Edwards was subbed after just over an hour against QPR, presumably in part to rest the Welshman for the trip to Leeds and is likely to be on the right, while Grant Ward or Jordan Graham will be on the left.
Freddie Sears looks set to start up front again with Kayden Jackson playing a part from the bench in the second half.
Leeds central defender Pontus Jansson has been slapped with one-match ban having pleading guilty to a charge of misconduct after criticising referee Jeremy Simpson following the Whites’ 1-1 draw with Brentford earlier this month.
Jansson wasn't expected to start against Town having spent the last few days in Sweden with his wife, who gave birth to a baby daughter over the weekend, although might have been in the 18 but for the FA announcing the suspension late this afternoon.
Full-back Barry Douglas is not expected to be ready to return from a hamstring problem, but winger Jack Harrison is likely to be involved following a muscle injury.
Another winger, Pablo Hernandez, is expected to start having overcome a hamstring issue of his own, while full-back Luke Ayling is back from suspension. Patrick Bamford and Izzy Brown are long-term absentees due to knee injuries.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa won't be underestimating Town despite their lowly position.
"They might be in the lower part of the table, but when you have a look at the games they played they didn’t lose many games with a big difference in the score," he said.
"I’m not exaggerating the resources of the opponent. I don’t think it is meaningful to take into account the ranking of the team to make an evaluation."
Historically, Leeds have the superior record in the fixture, winning 32 (31 in the league) clashes between the teams. Town have been victorious on 28 (23) occasions and 21 (18) games have ended in draws.
The teams last met at Portman Road in January when Bersant Celina’s brilliant 30-yard second-half strike saw Town to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Leeds.
Whites midfielder Eunan O’Kane was dismissed on 37 for head-butting Knudsen and Celina sealed the Blues’ first win of 2018 in the 67th minute.
In September last year at Elland Road, David McGoldrick and Joe Garner were on target but couldn’t prevent the Blues from falling to a 3-2 defeat.
The Whites went in front via Pierre-Michel Lasogga on 13, McGoldrick equalised on the half hour, before Kalvin Phillips’s goal two minutes later gave the home side a 2-1 half-time lead.
Town improved after the break but went 3-1 behind when Bartosz Bialkowski dropped a corner over the line in the 67th minute. Garner pulled one back four minutes later but the Blues couldn’t find an equaliser.
Blues loan defender Pennington spent 2017/18 at Elland Road, making 15 starts and nine sub appearances.
Currently injured Town midfielder Tom Adeyemi spent 2015/16 on loan with Leeds, making 17 starts and seven sub appearances, scoring two goals.
Wednesday’s referee is Craig Pawson from South Yorkshire, who has shown 32 yellow cards and three red in eight games so far this season.
Pawson’s last Blues match was the 4-0 home victory over Middlesbrough back in February 2013 - the game then-manager Mick McCarthy missed through illness - in which he booked only Guirane N’Daw.
Prior to that he refereed the 3-1 FA Cup defeat to Hull City the previous season when he booked Tommy Smith and one home player.
Earlier that campaign he was in charge of the 3-0 home win over Coventry, booking only one Sky Blue.
In February 2011 he refereed the 1-1 home draw with Hull, yellow-carding Grant Leadbitter.
In March the previous year he took control of the 0-0 draw at Swansea, in which he booked one home player.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Donacien, Pennington, Spence, Knudsen, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Edun, Edwards, Ward, Graham, Nolan, Sears, Jackson, Lankester.
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