Blues Travel to Boss's Former Club Villa Looking to End Woeful Away Run
Friday, 25th Jan 2019 12:46
Town travel to boss Paul Lambert’s former club Aston Villa on Saturday looking to end their dismal run of away form.
The Blues, still bottom, seven points plus goal difference from safety, have lost their last five Championship games on the road - plus the FA Cup tie at Accrington - without scoring in any of those matches.
They last picked up a point - their only away point under Lambert - and a goal on their travels at Reading where they drew 2-2 on November 10th.
Their only away win of the season was the 3-2 victory at Swansea on October 6th, Paul Hurst’s only three-point haul while Blues boss.
The Blues have conceded at least twice in all of their away league games this season aside from their first of the campaign at Rotherham in August, a run of 13 on the trot.
Lambert admits the away form has been far from good enough - just like Town’s home form.
“The away form and the home form, it’s been pretty similar,” he reflected. “If things were a bed of roses here I wouldn’t be sitting talking to you.
“You try and rectify that the best you can, we’ve tried a short-term fix, but it’s not just the away form it’s the home form as well that has to be better. That gives you a better chance, your home form.
“But we won’t change our style, we’ll go and try and play good football, we’ll go and try and win.
"I think the fans enjoy watching us play, what we need to do is finish the good work off and that’s why I brought in the lads that I did to see if they can finish off that good work.”
Villa, 13th, seven points off the play-offs, aren’t in great form themselves having won only one of their last eight in the Championship, drawing five and losing two, both at home.
Overall at Villa Park this season they have won five, drawn seven and lost those two recent matches.
Is Lambert surprised to see his old club toiling in mid-table rather than challenging more seriously for a top-six place? “Obviously they’ve spent a lot of money to try and do it in the last couple of years but there’s nothing guaranteed in football.
“It doesn’t matter if you spend money or not, there’s nothing guaranteed, you can’t guarantee success.
“It’s still a big club and if they make a run at it that can happen. But it’s a really good club.”
Looking back on his near-three-year spell in charge at Villa Park, he added: “I enjoyed it, it’s a really big club. I had some really good moments there as well. It’s a big, big club, a big fanbase behind it.
“I probably went in there at a difficult time with the owner wanting to sell it at that time, which was his prerogative. But it’s a big, big club which does require big players to play for it.”
Lambert will probably largely stick with the team which was beaten 2-0 at Blackburn last Saturday as he looks to further bed-in his January additions.
That would see Dean Gerken continue in goal with Matthew Pennington at right-back, Callum Elder on the left - although Myles Kenlock is an alternative option to the Australian on loan from Leicester after a difficult game last weekend - and skipper Luke Chambers and ex-Villa man James Collins at the heart of the defence.
In midfield, Cole Skuse and Trevoh Chalobah will be in the centre with Alan Judge on the left and Freddie Sears on the right, although the pair could switch flanks either from the start or during the game as they did at Ewood Park. Up front, Will Keane is again likely to play just behind Collin Quaner.
Villa boss Dean Smith expects his side to have most of the possession and wants a repeat of the second-half display during last week’s 2-2 home draw with Hull, his side having come from two goals down to claim the point.
"Ipswich will be very organised. I expect us to dominate the ball like we usually do at Villa Park,” he told the Villa official site.
"We have to make sure we create enough chances to win the game. That's as well as being solid and making sure we're not open to a counter-attack.
"It'll be nice to go and keep a clean sheet. With the firepower we've got, we tend to win games if we can do that.
"The promotion race is still wide open. We have a host of the top teams still to come to Villa Park, where we've only lost once in the league since I've been here.
"We need to stop giving soft goals away first and foremost. If we can do that we'll certainly go on a run.
"You see the results in this division every week and everyone is beating everyone. We've got to be consistent in what we do. We have to show the togetherness we showed in the second half last week from the start."
Midfielder or defender Mile Jedinak is back after a calf problem while midfielder Glenn Whelan is expected to be fine despite having missed the Tigers draw with a shoulder injury.
However, star man Jack Grealish (shin), Axel Tuanzebe (foot) and Henri Lansbury (hamstring) remain sidelined.
Historically, Town have won 19 games between the sides (15 in the league), 15 (13) have ended in draws and Villa have won 25 (21).
At Portman Road in August, 10-man Town battled to a 1-1 draw against Villa, Tayo Edun having been harshly sent off for two bookable offences six minutes before the break.
Jonathan Kodjia headed the visitors ahead on 21 but Chalobah equalised with his first senior goal in the 36th minute prior to Edun’s dismissal and the Blues were well worthy of their point during the second half despite the numerical disparity.
Last time at Villa Park in November 2017, 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.
Blues boss Lambert was in charge at Villa between June 2012 and February 2015. In a total of 115 games as manager at Villa Park the Midlanders won 34, drew 26 and lost 55.
Former Town boss Roy Keane was Lambert’s assistant at Villa between July and November 2014.
Town fitness-coach Jim Henry worked at Villa between October 2006 and July 2010 under Martin O’Neill’s management.
Centre-half James Collins was at Villa Park between September 2009 and August 2012, making 103 starts and six sub appearances, scoring six goals.
He also signed a contract with them in December last year following a trial but ripped it up after suffering a calf injury the same morning he put pen to paper on the deal.
New winger Simon Dawkins had a spell on loan at Villa between January and May 2013 during Lambert’s spell as boss there, but made only four sub appearances.
Town defender Janoi Donacien, who is back on loan at Accrington, 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 Conor Hourihane, who followed his former Town boss Roy Keane to Portman Road from Sunderland in the summer of 2010, is the only current 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 Keith Stroud from Hampshire, who has shown 59 yellow cards and two red cards in 17 games so far this season.
Stroud’s last Town match was the 3-0 loss at QPR on Boxing Day in which Pennington, Chambers and one home player were cautioned.
He also refereed the 2-1 defeat to West Brom in November in which he again yellow-carded Pennington and three visiting players.
Prior to that he took charge of the 4-0 victory at Reading in April in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
He also refereed the 4-1 defeat at Fulham in January last year in which he red-carded Jordan Spence and booked Chambers, Joe Garner, Callum Connolly, Martyn Waghorn and three Cottagers.
Before that he took control of the 2-2 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday in November 2017 when he booked Skuse and one Owl. However, he failed to issue a card of either colour for Glenn Loovens’s groin-high horror challenge on David McGoldrick.
He was also the ref for the Blues’ 1-1 draw at Leeds in February of the same year in which he booked only Jonas Knudsen.
Stroud was the man in the middle of the 3-2 win at Wigan in December 2016, awarding the Blues a contentious penalty, which was converted by Brett Pitman, and booked the striker, Andre Dozzell, Tom Lawrence and three home players.
Before that the veteran official was in charge of the 4-2 victory over Barnsley at Portman Road on the opening day of 2016/17 when he also awarded the Blues a penalty which was converted by McGoldrick. He booked Kevin Bru, Teddy Bishop and three Tykes.
He refereed the 3-2 home victory over the MK Dons in the final home match of 2015/16, in which he cautioned Tommy Smith and one opposition player and awarded the visitors a spotkick.
Stroud officiated in the 1-1 home draw with Birmingham in September 2015 in which he gave the Blues another penalty, again netted by Pitman, which was bitterly disputed by the visitors when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was felled by Jonathan Spector. He yellow-carded Christophe Berra, Jonathan Douglas and two visiting players.
A former Premier League referee and one-time FIFA assistant, Stroud also refereed the 3-2 defeat at Brighton in January 2015, the 1-0 derby defeat to Norwich at Portman Road in August 2014 and Town’s 1-0 home victory over Birmingham in March of the same year.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Pennington, Spence, Kenlock, Elder, Chambers (c), Collins, Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Sears, Keane, Quaner, Jackson, Harrison.
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