|Ipswich Town 1 v 0 Wigan Athletic|
Saturday, 15th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: It's Turning, We Just Have to Keep the Form Going
Thursday, 13th Dec 2018 18:14
Boss Paul Lambert is confident Town's fortunes will change if they maintain their recent performances as they prepare to face Wigan Athletic at Portman Road on Saturday.
The Blues go into the match bottom of the table, eight points plus goal difference from safety, with the Latics, last season’s League One champions, 16th, 14 points ahead of them.
Despite yet to record a victory since he took charge, Lambert has been pleased with his team's displays.
Asked whether Saturday’s match was a must-win game, Lambert countered: “If I was here at the start of the season and you’d asked me that I would have given you the same answer, every game’s a must-win.
“I’ve never played any game when it’s never a must-win, it doesn't matter whether it’s in August or whenever it may be, whether it’s the start of the season, you have to try and win games and this one is no different than when Ipswich played their first game of the season.”
Regarding Wigan, Lambert added: “They’ve done well. It’s a difficult game. But we’ll be at home and we’re playing well. That’s the thing that we’ve got.
“If we keep the form going, it’s turning, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and let’s see what happens.”
Wigan boss Paul Cook isn’t someone overly familiar to the Blues manager: “I don’t really know Paul that well, I’ve met him a couple of times and he seems to have done a good job but I’m more focused on us and what we’re going to do.”
If Town are to end an eight-month wait for what would be only their third home win of 2018, they will need the backing of their fans, something Lambert says they have given his team during his seven games following his appointment late in October.
“Since I’ve been here they’ve always been there, they’ve always been right on it,” he said. “I can’t ask any more of them. They’ve been absolutely brilliant for me right from the off.
“I think they’ve enjoyed the football, I think they enjoy everything that we’re trying to do.
"They’re not silly, they know exactly what we need as well, they know what’s happened throughout the course of the season, they know what’s happened in the summer, they know.
“I know they will be [behind us on Saturday] because they’ve been excellent for me and I can’t thank them enough for the support they’ve given and I know they’ll turn up and they’ll get right behind us.”
Lambert is unlikely to stray too far from the team which impressed him at Stoke despite the 2-0 defeat.
That would see Dean Gerken continue in goal with skipper Luke Chambers and Matthew Pennington the centre-halves and Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen the full-backs.
In midfield, Trevoh Chalobah will continue in the deeper role in Cole Skuse’s absence with Jon Nolan and Flynn Downes - or alternatively Teddy Bishop - ahead of him.
Freddie Sears will be on the left, Jack Lankester - who will be making his full home debut - on the right and Jordan Roberts - or perhaps Ellis Harrison - the central striker.
Wigan have winger Gavin Massey available again after a hamstring injury, although manager Cook is in no hurry to rush the former Colchester man back into his starting XI.
"We've got to be careful with Gavin," he told iFollow Latics. "He's been out for some time now, but he's a strong lad and has always been one of our fittest players, so his early return comes as no surprise.
"He played 45 minutes on Tuesday and he'll be on included on the bench for Ipswich that's for sure.”
Regarding other injuries, he added: "We've had more encouraging news as well this week with Michael Jacobs [hamstring] back out on the grass and Chey Dunkley making good progress from his knee injury, but Antonee Robinson [ankle] is going to be out until February."
Kal Naismith is suspended having been red-carded in last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to Derby County.
Nick Powell, a Town target during Paul Jewell’s time as boss, is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Cook says his squad will be travelling to Suffolk first thing on Friday: "We're just at that crucial stage now approaching the middle of December. There's still so much football to be played before January and points in the division are so tough to get.
"We just want to focus on Ipswich for now. We're going to travel down early in the morning and train down there. We want to do our best to win on Saturday and put ourselves in a very good position in the league by the time we play Birmingham City back at the DW."
Reflecting on Town's season, he added: "Paul Hurst went in there at the start of the season and the results didn't go as well as people there wanted in the amount of time he was given.
"They've turned to a very experienced manager in Paul Lambert now. He's got a great CV of managing and success.
"You can see Paul's commitment, passion and desire on the sidelines, he wants to win games and it's there for all to see.
"He's had a lot of success and he conducts himself very well like a lot of the best managers.
"It's a great opportunity for Paul, not many get to manage Norwich and Ipswich do they?
"They will see this game as a very important game that's for sure. In the position they're in it's so difficult. It's scary how rarely teams get two or three victories in a row in this league.
"Saturday's a bigger game for Ipswich than it us for us, but there's no denying we'll be right up for it. If we win at Ipswich it will put us in a very healthy position in the league."
The teams last met at Portman Road in April 2017 when Sears scored twice and David McGoldrick once as Town eased their relegation concerns by beating doomed Wigan Athletic 3-0.
McGoldrick put the Blues in front in the 22nd minute, Sears made it 2-0 on the half hour and then sealed the three points five minutes from time.
In the preceding December, McGoldrick netted an 88th minute winner as the Blues beat the Latics 3-2 at the DW Stadium in what was a rollercoaster game.
Brett Pitman put Town in front from the penalty spot in the seventh minute before Yanic Wildschut scored two goals either side of the break to give the Latics the lead.
But Pitman’s second of the game and then sub McGoldrick’s header won the points for the Blues.
Overall, Town have beaten the Latics five times (four in the league), have lost six times (five) and the teams have drawn once in the league and one League Cup tie. The Blues have won three of the last four league games between the sides.
Wigan have won only once away this season, at Stoke in August, having drawn one and lost their other eight games on their travels.
They made a strong start to the campaign, hitting fifth at one point, but have won one in their last eight and two in their last 12.
Currently injured Blues midfielder Emyr Huws was with the Latics between the summers of 2014 and 2016, initially on loan, but made only 15 starts and one sub appearance without scoring.
Town keeper Bartosz Bialkowski had a trial with Wigan as a teenager prior to joining Southampton.
Blues club secretary Stuart Hayton is a Wigan fan who worked at the Latics for more than 20 years.
Ex-Town winger Gary Roberts, now 34, followed manager Cook to Wigan from Portsmouth in August 2017.
Roberts joined the Blues from Accrington Stanley, initially on loan, in October 2006 and made 45 starts and 14 sub appearances, scoring four goals before moving on to Huddersfield in July 2018.
Midfielder Callum Connolly, 21, is on loan with the Latics from Everton having been with Town on a similar basis last season when he made 30 starts and five sub appearances, scoring four goals.
Striker Joe Garner moved to the Latics for £1.25 million on the final day of the transfer window having joined the Blues the previous summer from Rangers and making 29 starts and three sub appearances, scoring 10 goals.
Former Town defender Alex Bruce signed for Wigan on a free transfer in the summer of 2017 having spent time on loan with the Latics the previous season.
Bruce, 34, who has made one appearance this season, in the Carabao Cup, made 123 starts and four sub appearances for Town in four years from August 2006.
Ex-Blues boss Joe Royle was recently appointed a director of the Latics following their takeover, while his son, Darren, is the club’s executive chairman.
Wigan goalkeeper-coach Nick Colgan was with Town between January and July 2008 without making a first-team appearance.
Saturday’s referee is Scott Duncan from Northumberland, who has shown 58 yellow cards and five red in 17 games so far this season.
Duncan’s last Town game was the 2-0 defeat at Derby in August in which he booked Skuse and Toto Nsiala as well as two Rams.
He was also in charge of the 1-0 pre-season friendly victory at the MK Dons and the 1-0 win at Preston in February in which he booked Skuse, Martyn Waghorn, Garner and one Lilywhite.
Duncan, who shares a name with a former Town manager, was also in control of the Blues’ visit to Pride Park last season when, during the 1-0 win, he booked Chambers, Adam Webster and Downes as well as three Rams.
Before that he was the man in the middle for the 1-1 home draw with Brentford in March last year in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Prior to that Duncan refereed the 3-0 away win at Charlton in November 2015 in which he booked two Addicks and no Blues.
He also took control of the Blues in the 4-1 after-extra-time win at Doncaster in the Capital One Cup in August of the same year in which he booked Myles Kenlock and two home players, and was also the man in the middle of the 1-1 home draw with Brentford the previous season and the November 2013 1-0 victory over Charlton at The Valley.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Pennington, Nsiala, Donacien, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Ward, Lankester, Rowe, Roberts, Sears, Jackson, Harrison.
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