|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Nottingham Forest|
Saturday, 16th March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Town Face Forest Looking to Build on Draws
Friday, 15th Mar 2019 12:38
Town face Nottingham Forest looking to build on their recent performances and succession of 1-1 draws by winning only their fourth game of the season.
The Blues, who following the midweek games, are now 13 points plus goal difference from safety with nine matches left to play, have drawn five of their last six games 1-1. They are without a win in 10.
Manager Paul Lambert believes his side played well enough to claim all three points in a number of recent matches, including the 1-1 draws at West Brom and Bristol City over the course of the last week.
“You could say that about a few games, that we should have taken maximum points,” he said. “I think the last two games because we played that well and the way it’s happened, if we’d have come away with six points I don’t think anybody would have flinched really.
“There have been certain games where I’ve wondered how we’d drawn them, let alone lost them.
“I think that it’s important to keep up this momentum, or the way we’re playing, albeit we have to try and get the wins. But performance-wise they’ve been really, really high.”
Lambert admits that both Rotherham and Millwall winning on Wednesday and increasing the gap to safety by a point has made Town’s already very tough task of staying up even more difficult.
“It’s always hard but there’s no point in looking at anybody else,” he said. “If we can keep the form we’re in at the moment and start to pull people into it. If we can get a few wins under our belt and make a fist of it, then let’s see what happens.
“That’s why I say it’s never over until somebody says it’s mathematically over because we’re playing well enough to win, we’ll have to just finish the chances that we’re creating.”
Lambert insists he still believes Town can retain their Championship status: “Until somebody tells me [it’s mathematically impossible] absolutely, absolutely. Anything can happen in football. It’s the most unpredictable game ever.
“All you need to do is go on a little run. It’s going to be unbelievably tough to do it but we’re playing well.
“It would be different if we were sitting here thinking we’re not playing well, we’re not creating, the crowd are against us. It’s the total flip-side. The crowd are right behind us, it’s not a normal situation where you’re getting that level of support.
“They’re right with us, we’re playing well and we’re creating chances, we just need to take them. That’s probably been the downside of the whole season really, not taking chances.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal but Lambert has decisions to make regarding his back four with Matthew Pennington expected to return after missing the Robins game due to illness.
The on-loan Everton man will probably come back in at the centre of the defence alongside skipper Luke Chambers with Toto Nsiala dropping out, while Myles Kenlock is likely to continue at left-back.
At right-back, Lambert may opt to take another look at Josh Emmanuel having been pleased with the academy product’s display at Ashton Gate, his first game for the Blues since May 2017, rather than recall James Bree.
In midfield, the Blues boss again has options. Trevoh Chalobah impressed on Tuesday and seems likely to keep his place with Teddy Bishop probably returning to the team having been rested in midweek.
Lambert may consider giving Jon Nolan a game off having played at both West Brom and Bristol City which could see Flynn Downes, who is over the illness which saw him miss the visit to the South West, return to the starting line-up.
Collin Quaner is expected to be fit after his recent knee strain and could replace Kayden Jackson as the central striker with Alan Judge and Gwion Edwards again set to play in the wide roles.
Dean Gerken is likely to return to the bench as the sub keeper having also been unwell in midweek.
Forest, who are 10th, three points off the play-offs following Wednesday's 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa, have defender Jack Robinson back from a two-match ban.
Striker Lewis Grabban and midfielder Matty Cash (both achilles) could return, while defender Sam Byram is getting closer to making his comeback after a knee injury.
Forest boss Martin O'Neill says Town are playing with freedom with relegation all but assured.
"Ipswich have got into that 'it doesn't matter anymore' kind of mood," he told his club's website. "It looks like they would have to go on an incredible run to pull themselves out of it.
"I do believe they are playing with that 'freedom'. I went to watch them a couple of weeks ago against Derby and they played very well that day.
"I watched their game against Bristol City and, again, they deserved that point so they will be playing with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of drive and determination but that is something that we do not lack.
"What we have to do is, against any side we play against, match their intensity. I want to, eventually, have other manager's turning round saying that they need to match our intensity."
Historically, Forest very much have the upper hand, winning 38 of the games between the two sides (35 in the league), with 18 (17) ending in draws and Town winning 22 (21).
Forest have won four of the last five games between the teams but only one of their last six matches at Portman Road.
The Tricky Trees have won two of their last six matches but were last victorious away from home at Hull City in November - 2-1 - one of only three away wins in the Championship this season. They have, however, drawn 10 times on the road.
At the City Ground in December, two first-half Grabban goals saw Forest to a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Grabban followed up with a rebound to open the scoring in the ninth minute then, after Kayden Jackson had headed the Blues’ best opportunity wide, added the second on 38.
Last time at Portman Road at the start of December 2017, Callum Connolly, Dominic Iorfa, Martyn Waghorn and Bersant Celina all scored as Town beat Nottingham Forest 4-2.
Connolly netted his second goal in two games in the seventh minute, Forest equalised via Kieran Dowell’s freekick on 29, then Iorfa’s first senior goal restored Town’s lead in the 37th minute before Tyler Walker made the scoreline 2-2 six minutes later.
Eight minutes after the break Waghorn made the most of some hesitant defending to make it 3-2 and Celina sealed a deserved three points on 67.
Blues captain Chambers joined Town on a Bosman free transfer after departing the City Ground in the summer of 2012 and was targeted by his old club on deadline day in January 2017.
Chambers made 209 starts and 20 sub appearances for the Tricky Trees, scoring 21 goals, having joined them from Northampton in January 2007.
Saturday’s game marks Forest assistant boss Roy Keane’s first return to Portman Road since his tumultuous reign as manager between April 2009 and January 2011.
Keane was in charge for 81 games while with Town, winning 28, drawing 25 and losing 28. He was also Paul Lambert’s assistant at Aston Villa between July and November 2014 alongside his role as O’Neill’s deputy with the Republic of Ireland.
Lambert played under Forest boss O’Neill during the Northern Irishman's five years in charge at Celtic, while Blues fitness coach Jim Henry worked under O’Neill at Parkhead, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Ex-Town striker Daryl Murphy joined Forest from Newcastle in the summer of 2017 for £2 million. The former Irish international has scored five times this season.
Waterford-born Murphy scored 67 goals in 207 starts and 18 substitute appearances for Town in three loan spells and a permanent stint - June 2013 to August 2016 - at Portman Road.
Out-of-favour Forest keeper Stephen Henderson was on loan with the Blues from West Ham twice in the 2012/13 season making 24 appearances.
Another ex-Town loanee, Jack Colback, joined Forest on a second loan spell from Newcastle in the summer having had two similar stints with the Blues when a Sunderland player making a total of 46 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring five goals.
Saturday’s referee is Keith Stroud from Hampshire, who has shown 79 yellow and three red cards in 23 games so far this season.
Stroud’s most recent Town match was the 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa in January in which he awarded a highly contentious penalty against Judge after John McGinn had gone to ground in the area, while denying the Blues what looked a more obvious spot-kick when Quaner’s goalbound shot was handled by Tommy Elphick. In addition, Stroud booked Kenlock and three home players.
He was also in charge of the 3-0 loss at QPR on Boxing Day in which Pennington, Chambers and one home player were cautioned.
Stroud was the man in the middle for 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 Bishop, Kevin Bru 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: Bialkowski, Gerken, Wright, Bree, Emmanuel, Spence, Kenlock, Pennington, Collins, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, El Mizouni, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Quaner, Jackson, Harrison.
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