|Fleetwood Town 0 v 1 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 5th October 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Table-Topping Town Make First Ever Visit to Fleetwood
Thursday, 3rd Oct 2019 17:02
The top-of-the-table Blues visit Fleetwood Town on Saturday afternoon for the first ever fixture between the sides looking to continue their unbeaten start to their League One campaign and aiming for their fifth away win of the season against the division’s third-placed side.
Town - whose overall unbeaten run in the league is 11 including the final day win against Leeds last season - are on their longest undefeated run at the beginning of a league campaign since 1980/81, widely viewed as the Blues’ greatest ever season, when they achieved a club record 14.
They have gone on a longer streak at the beginning of a campaign on only one other occasion since going professional when they reached 12 in their inaugural 1936/37 season in the Southern League. In the top four divisions only Coventry and Liverpool also remain unbeaten with West Brom having suffered their first loss on Tuesday, a 1-0 defeat at Leeds.
Town’s last league defeat anywhere was at now-Premier League Sheffield United on the penultimate weekend of last season when they were beaten 2-0.
The Blues last went 12 matches without a defeat in an overall run of 18 between November 1999 and March 2000, that season ultimately ending in promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.
Fleetwood have also made an impressive start to the campaign and sit only two places and four points behind the Blues with Wycombe Wanderers, who host Peterborough on Saturday, in second, two points off Town.
The Lancastrians are unbeaten at home since February when they were defeated 2-1 by last season’s eventual League One winners Luton, a run of 11 without a loss at Highbury.
Town manager Paul Lambert knows it’s not going to be an easy afternoon: “It's a tough game. Every game is hard and we're always going to be the big club that somebody is going to want to take on, and this is one will be no different.
“It's a tough game for us, but it's a tough game for Fleetwood as well, so if we play the way we've been playing and keep doing what we're doing, hopefully we get another win.
"It'll be a tough game as every game is, but we're in really good form at the minute, and we'll go and try and win.”
Lambert dismissed suggestions he might be happy with a draw away against one of the division’s other leading lights.
“No, we go to try and win,” he insisted. “I've been involved in games most of my career has been like that where, whether it was Dortmund or Celtic, people expect us to win.
“So I've had to live with that most of my life – winning games whether it's home or away. I won't change and we'll go to try and win.
“As I said before, it's a difficult game for us, but it's a difficult game for Fleetwood as well, but we're playing every so well so we'll try and do the exact same stuff.
“The only thing that's different is that it's an away game, it won't change my thinking of going to try and win.”
Fleetwood are managed by Joey Barton starting his career in the dugouts in the lower leagues, as Lambert himself did.
“I think Joey will know himself that the way the Premier League is now and the way the Championship is, it's very difficult to get in it [as a manager],” he said.
“And the way the game is going with so many different managers and nationalities coming into the game, it's difficult. I started in League Two myself, so I don't think you can have a divine right.
“Joey has done really well at Fleetwood, it's difficult because you have to be given a chance to go into the Championship or Premier League and if you can't do that then the only way you're going to do it is if you get teams up.”
Lambert began his management career with a short spell with Livingston in Scotland before joining Wycombe in June 2006 where his career as a boss really got up and running.
“I loved the time there,” he recalled. “Wycombe was great, I got a really great grounding there.
“It's a great learning curve and you get dealt so many different issues, but I had a really good group at Wycombe, really good honest guys that were great for me. And I'm pretty sure every manager if you can carry a big name behind you have to learn somewhere.”
After the much-publicised touchline run-in with Gillingham’s Steve Evans at the Priestfield Stadium recently, Lambert isn’t anticipating similar on Saturday despite Barton being another manager with a feisty reputation and Rangers history to the Blues’ boss’s Celtic past.
“I forgot about that until today,” Lambert laughed. “I only spoke to Joey on the phone last season and the lad has done really well.
“I forgot about him playing at Rangers and I'm fairly sure he found it different up there. I don't know how long he was there, but I was at Celtic for eight years – two huge football clubs.
“I don't expect anything like that, he's done really in the time he's been at Fleetwood and I don't visualise any problems like that.”
Lambert again dismissed the suggestion that his players’ success whatever personnel and whichever system he uses gives him a problem when it comes to picking his team.
“Not really no,” he said. “Guys could play well and find themselves out the team the next week. As I said before, and I'll go back to it, I'll pick a team that I think can win a particular game that I think might benefit us rather than the individual.”
One area of the team where particular players are starting to look like fixtures are the full-back or wing-backs, depending on the formation employed, with Kane Vincent-Young and Luke Garbutt impressing and both scoring goals, while Janoi Donacian and Myles Kenlock have dropped out of the 18 in recent weeks.
“Myles had been doing ever so well, and he's only a young lad,” Lambert said. “And even before our time Myles had Jonas [Knudsen, now at Malmo] to compete with and was in and out in and out.
“He started the season really well, but he was the only right-back we had and I needed someone different to push him as well, so we got Kane.
“The two of them are really quick footballers, Myles needed competition and I knew Luke from previous times, and I knew his set plays were really, really good.
“The two of them have got unbelievable attributes, Kane runs that side with great energy and he does step-overs and all sorts of things and Luke has the guile with a freekick especially.
“So we have attacking options on that side, so I know we're a threat on either flank which is pleasing. The way I play the game is the high energy stuff, and those two fit into that category.”
Up front, James Norwood is without a goal in his last four games - although was a 77th minute sub at Gillingham - but Lambert says the five-goal joint-top scorer with Kayden Jackson has still had opportunities and has contributed in those matches.
“He's had chances, James,” he reflected. “I was delighted with him on Saturday because he took the heavy hits, so if he doesn't score, he takes an incredible amount of hits.
“He had a great chance, but he's not fully fit, but he's doing really well and his niggly groin thing is something we need to get to the bottom of, so hopefully the break will help him.”
Lambert may well stick with the 3-5-2 system in which the Blues have begun their last three games against Fleetwood, who have started recent matches in 4-3-3, although with Town having the facility to switch to another formation if required.
Tomas Holy will be in goal with the back three probably including two of skipper Luke Chambers, James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden with Cole Skuse between them at the centre and able to swap into midfield as he did last weekend against Tranmere. Vincent-Young and Garbutt will be the wing-backs.
Lambert will pick two from Flynn Downes, Jon Nolan, Andre Dozzell and Emyr Huws for the central midfield roles with Alan Judge again likely to be ahead of them off strike pair Norwood and Jackson.
Fleetwood boss Joey Barton isn’t getting too excited about his team’s position in the league table as he says it’s still relatively early days.
“We can’t get too carried away as it’s only 10 games into the season and there’s an awful long way to go. We have to go into a tough winter period where the surfaces change and that can be a huge factor,” he told the Cod Army’s official website.
“The early part of the season is building on the work done in pre-season and establishing the good principles in the team.
“We aren’t getting carried away after a decent start and to be honest, I’m a little disappointed we’re not sitting 10-0 because of how dominant we’ve been in the opening 10 games.
“I think that we’re still to hit our stride as a team and for the first time this season we got into third gear in the second half at Shrewsbury on Saturday [when they won 3-0]. There’s so much more to come from our team which is exciting.
“It’s a big month coming up as we’re playing teams with promotion ambitions – like us – but the great thing for us is that I know this group of players keep getting better every game, week and month.”
Regarding Town, one-time England international Barton added: “They are everybody’s favourites to win the league and are a huge club in League One. We remain clear in our objectives that we can’t compete with these teams financially, so we’ve got to be a lot smarter with the things that we do.
“It really is David against Goliath on Saturday. We have to be cute and efficient, and get everything out of our club and culture to be up there.
“We believe that if we keep doing what we’re doing, be humble and keep learning, we will get to where we need to be.”
Barton says he has an almost full-strength squad: “We’re looking really good and almost at full complement. Jack Sowerby came through a midweek game against Accrington which was a really good workout for him against a strong side.
“Conor McAleny is back on the grass but this game probably comes a bit too early for him, with Ash Eastham having a little niggle which will keep him out this weekend.
“He felt a bit of tightness in his calf following the Leasing.com Trophy match [last week’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool’s U21s], but it’s a matter of days rather than weeks for him.”
Town and Fleetwood will be meeting for the first time, the Cod Army having only reached the EFL in 2012 and with 2014/15 their first campaign in League One. They have remained in the division since then and finished 11th last season.
Saturday’s referee is Carl Boyeson from East Yorkshire, who has shown 18 yellow cards and no red in eight games so far this season.
Boyeson’s last Town game was the 2-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the 2013/14 season in which he booked Tommy Smith and one Owl.
Prior to that Boyeson was in charge of the 3-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest in January 2012 in which he booked only Grant Leadbitter, who also netted a spotkick which had been awarded after Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had been fouled.
He also refereed the 4-2 defeat at Leicester on the final day of 2010/11 when Leadbitter netted another penalty, awarded after Jeffrey Bruma punched away a corner. Leadbitter was one of three Town players yellow-carded that day along with Damien Delaney and Lee Martin.
Earlier that season Boyeson had been the man in the middle for the 2-1 win at Derby in which he cautioned Carlos Edwards and one home player.
In April of the previous campaign Boyeson had been in charge of the 2-2 draw at Newcastle in which he awarded the Magpies a penalty after Leadbitter had fouled Nicky Butt that Shola Ameobi tucked away. David Norris and David Wright were the only players booked.
Boyeson also took charge of the 2-1 win at Barnsley in January 2009 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
In February 2007 Boyeson red-carded Owen Garvan for a reckless challenge late in a 2-0 home defeat to Leicester City in which future Blue Gareth McAuley scored both goals, the midfielder having already been booked along with one visiting player.
Boyeson also refereed the 4-2 win at QPR in December 2004, the 3-1 victory at Walsall in March 2004 and the 3-0 home defeat of Preston in January 2003.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Vincent-Young, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Edwards, Rowe, Georgiou, Jackson, Norwood, Keane.
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