|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Sheffield United|
Saturday, 22nd December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: If You Have a Good Week in the Championship You Start to Move Places
Friday, 21st Dec 2018 10:10
Town take on Sheffield United on Saturday looking for their second home win in eight days as they enter the busy Christmas period.
The bottom-of-the-table Blues beat Wigan 1-0 last week to record their first Portman Road victory since April and only their second of the season anywhere. The win, their third at home during 2018, reduced the distance to safety to five points plus goal difference.
As they go into the first of four Championship games in 11 days, manager Paul Lambert says that the mood at the club is positive with everyone believing Town’s fortunes are beginning to change.
“The feeling that I get is that everyone’s right behind it, everybody who works here, everybody at the stadium,” he said
“They can see it slowly but surely turning, which is great. Five points is nothing, I said that a long time ago. If you have a good week in the Championship you find yourself starting to move places.”
Lambert was pleased to get his first Town win under his belt at the seventh time of asking last week but feels his team had played well in previous games and that there is much to be positive about in their displays.
“The way the lads are playing and their commitment to it and their drive and their energy to play the game of football,” he said. “Young lads that want to try and do well and I think they’ve improved as individuals, I think they’ve improved as a team.
“The way they’re playing, I can’t ask any more effort and the way they’re trying to do it, every decision I ask them to make, they make it.
“They may make mistakes but that’s no problem, that’s my problem. It’s not their fault I’m asking them to play this certain way and they’ve taken to it and I’m really pleased with the way they’re playing.”
Despite having one of the division’s lower wage bills Sheffield United are fifth having enjoyed an impressive 2017/18, their first season back in the Championship, before ultimately finishing 10th
“You don’t need to throw millions at it to get in the right player, but they’ve got good, experienced Championship players,” Lambert said.
“If you look at our team, Andre Dozzell, a young kid, 19, Flynn Downes, 19, Trevoh Chalobah, 19, Jack Lankester, 18, Teddy Bishop, 22, just come back from two years out. It’s incredible how long we are.
“And those kids should have come into a team where one or two were coming in but not as many as we’ve got. They’re actually carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders but they’ve done brilliant at it.”
Have the Blades created a model which other less-monied Championship clubs can follow? “I don’t know, a big factor is recruitment, I think it’s vital who you can get in, there’s that and you’ve got finances and all those sort of things, but recruitment is number one, who you can get in and what type of player you want.
“Whether Sheffield United have a chance this year, I don’t know. There are a lot of strong teams, there’s a long way to go.
“I’m not sure anybody really wants to copy anybody, you want to have your own identity, I think that’s important. There’s no point in copying anybody else. It’s like me coming here, I want Ipswich to have their own identity.”
Nevertheless, the Blades have followed Huddersfield’s lead in showing that it’s possible to compete at the top end of the Championship without having a huge budget.
“It can be done, you need a little bit of luck in a lot of aspects of it as well,” Lambert added. “There’s a lot of money in the division.
“The Championship is a knock-on effect of the Premier League. How much money is invested in the Premier League has a knock-on effect in the Championship. That’s the way the game’s going now.
“But money doesn’t guarantee everything. It’s your team spirit and getting players that know the league a little bit, which is important. In any division you have to have players that know the league, and then you’ve got a better chance of it. But you’ve got to get the recruitment right.”
Does he believe Sheffield United could be contenders come May? “You should probably be asking [Blades manager] Chris Wilder that, whether they can do it or not. But I know they’re a good side with a lot of Championship experience. It’s a tough game.
“They’ve a lad there who scored goals for fun for this club and he ends up at Sheffield United.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, we’re playing a good team but we’re playing well to try and win.”
Regarding McGoldrick, who left the Blues in May, he added: “He’s a goalscorer and goalscorers are worth their weight in gold. You tend to find goalscorers make the most money because they can put the ball in the net.”
At the other end of the field the Blues are likely to be facing a three-man backline. Will that impact on Lambert’s approach to the match? “I know the way we’ll try and play, so whether they play three or four we'll try and play our own way our own game and respect what Sheffield United have got.
"But I’ve got a great belief in my own team to go and play the way we ask them to play, so we go and try and win.”
Although Lambert has said he will make changes over the course of the four Christmas fixtures in 11 days, the Blues manager will probably field a side close to the one which beat Wigan a week ago, although that could be impacted by the knocks and illness some of the squad have been suffering from this week.
Dean Gerken will keep his place in goal with Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen again likely to be the full-backs and skipper Luke Chambers and Matthew Pennington the centre-halves.
In midfield, Chalobah will play in the deeper midfield role with Downes and Jon Nolan probably ahead of him, although with Grant Ward, Bishop and Dozzell all likely to be hoping for a recall to the XI.
Jack Lankester will be on the right and Freddie Sears on the left with Jordan Roberts again set to be the central striker.
Sheffield United boss Wilder is looking for his side to get the win which will break the 40-point mark.
“If we get a positive result on Saturday at Ipswich we will have picked up 40 points from 23 games,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“If we can – and I believe we can – replicate the second part of the season as we have done the first, in terms of performances and results, there’s no reason why we can’t do well.
“If we replicate that we put ourselves in a really good position. We are in the race after 22 games. It’s been good, but we want to be better. We want to kick-on.”
He added: “We have always had that mentality that we are up against the big boys. For the majority of games we are going to be underdogs.
“That’s not a tactic used by me, that’s a fact. But it doesn’t stop us from wanting to achieve.
“We will keep racing our car against the Ferraris. Our car has got a bit better, but it’s still not a Ferrari.”
The Blades will be out to get back to winning ways having been beaten 2-1 at home by West Brom, presumably one of those Ferraris, in their last fixture.
“We were disappointing in the second half because it wasn’t our usual up-and-at-them performance,” Wilder continued.
“We are competing at the top end of the Championship. It’s really difficult for me because I don’t want to be too critical of the players.
“Their record over the last two and a half years, a lot of those players came up from League One are still with us.
“It’s quite a tough one to talk about after the game because I think everyone recognises we are really close to these top clubs, really powerful clubs. Against West Brom for 35 minutes we were outstanding.
“I will flag it up, we felt a little bit sorry for ourselves. So it was a chat to the players, we have done fantastic, and we have to go again.”
Sheffield United hope to have Leon Clarke back in their squad, the striker having missed the last three games due to a hip problem.
Wales international Ben Woodburn is back at his parent club Liverpool having suffered an ankle injury.
The Blues have had the better of the Blades over the years, winning 23 times (22 in the league), drawing 25 (22) and losing 21 (18) of the meetings between the sides.
The Blades have won six, drawn one and lost four on their travels this season. They are unbeaten in three away from home, winning the last two.
In March, Town’s hopes of reviving their play-off challenge were dealt a significant blow as they drew 0-0 at home with Sheffield United.
The Blades came closest to breaking the deadlock in the second half when sub James Wilson struck a post and skipper Billy Sharp failed to turn in the rebound, while Town have now gone four home games without scoring a goal.
The teams also met in the FA Cup third round at Portman Road in January when the Blades won 1-0, Nathan Thomas smashing the winner in the 25th minute.
The Blues never looked like getting back into the game, failing to register a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, and the visitors, who fielded a very young side, might have added to their lead in the second half.
At Bramall Lane in the Championship in October last year, Chris Basham’s goal four minutes after half-time saw the South Yorkshiremen to another 1-0 victory over the Blues.
Martyn Waghorn went closest to scoring for Town with a shot against the bar shortly after the Blades’ goal, but the home side deserved their victory.
Sheffield United signed ex-Blues striker McGoldrick in the summer after a trial following his release by Town in May.
McGoldrick, 31, has made 17 starts and five sub appearances scoring five goals this season.
The Irish international joined Town from Nottingham Forest in January 2013, initially on loan but with the deal becoming a permanent switch the following summer, McGoldrick scored 45 goals in 126 starts and 33 sub appearances for the Blues.
The Blades’ squad includes former Town loanee Richard Stearman, who moved to Bramall Lane from Fulham in the summer of 2017.
Stearman spent the second half of 2012/13 on loan with the Blues from Wolves, making 15 appearances.
Canadian-born striker Caolan Lavery, a former Northern Ireland U21 international who is currently on loan at Bury, joined the Blades from Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2016, having signed for the Owls in the summer of 2012 after turning down a professional contract with the Blues having come through the Town academy.
Saturday’s referee is Andy Woolmer from Northamptonshire, who has shown 35 yellow cards and three red in 11 games so far this season.
Woolmer’s most recent Town match was the 1-1 home draw with Preston in Lambert’s first game in charge of the Blues in November in which he red-carded Lilywhites keeper Chris Maxwell for a second bookable offence and also showed yellow cards to Chambers, Pennington, Sears, Gwion Edwards and two other visiting players.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 3-0 victory over QPR in November 2016 in which he booked Tom Lawrence and three opposition players.
Before that he was in charge of the pre-season friendly at Cambridge United in July the same year and the 1-0 home victory over Nottingham Forest in the Championship in the previous March in which he booked Luke Hyam and four of the visitors.
Two months earlier he had taken control of the 2-1 FA Cup replay defeat at Portsmouth in which he red-carded Piotr Malarczyk for two bookable offences - the only yellow cards of the night - and also awarded a penalty against the Polish defender.
He also took control of the 2-1 win at Wigan in September 2014 in which he booked only Tyrone Mings and Christophe Berra.
Woolmer also refereed the 3-3 pre-season friendly draw at Notts County in July 2013 and the 3-0 victory over Bristol City at Portman Road in the Championship in March 2012 in which he booked three Town players and four Robins.
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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