Town Travel to Accrington Aiming for Sixth Successive Victory
Friday, 18th Oct 2019 10:54
League One leaders Town face Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium on Sunday aiming to record six successive wins in all competitions for the first time since 1999 (Sky Sports Main Event/Football from 11.30am). They will also be looking to end five years of post-international break blues.
If Town win on Sunday they will have won six matches in a row for the first time since a similar run starting with the 4-3 after-extra-time home victory over Bolton in the second leg of the play-off semi-final in 1998/99 and the first five games of 1999/00.
The Blues, whose current run of victories includes the Leasing.com Trophy win against Gillingham, last won five in a row in the league back in October 2003.
Town, who have already won five away matches this season, will also be looking to end a remarkable run which has seen them fail to win the first game following an international break on the last 20 occasions.
They most recently won immediately after a week off for internationals in September 2014 when they beat Millwall 2-0 at Portman Road. They have subsequently drawn 10 and lost 10.
The Blues have a similarly poor record in live Sky games having not won for 14 matches. Their last success was the 1-0 defeat of the MK Dons at Stadium MK in December 2015.
Paul Lambert’s men remain undefeated in the league since the penultimate weekend of last season, a total of 12 matches, 11 this season plus the final day win at home to Leeds in May.
The Blues last went 13 matches without a league 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.
If Town stretch their league unbeaten run from the start of the season to 12 matches on Sunday they will match their second-longest undefeated beginning to a campaign, achieved in their first year as a professional club in the Southern League in 1936/37.
That record is only surpassed by the 14-game unbeaten league run at the start of 1980/81, widely viewed as the greatest in campaign in the club’s history. Only the Blues and Liverpool remain undefeated in the league in the top four divisions this season.
“It’s nice to be up there challenging for those records and it’s up to us to try and keep it going,” Lambert said.
“We are certainly playing well enough to keep it going. We will see how far we can go.”
Town go into Sunday’s game top of League One but with their lead cut to one point following Saturday's fixtures, to which Lambert said he would be paying no attention with the Blues' performance his only concern.
“That's all I'm focused on,” he insisted. “I can't influence what happens on the outside, it's impossible, so I only concentrate on Ipswich. We're still top and we've got a game in hand, so it's been a not bad week.”
Reflecting on the Blues’ only previous game at Accrington, January’s 1-0 FA Cup third-round defeat, Lambert says his side will be very different to the reshuffled line-up he fielded that day.
“We changed the team and we expected the lads to step up, and it never happened,” he recalled.
“And credit to Accrington because they won the game. But for us, it wasn't good enough. But in this moment we're a different team.”
At the time he suggested his players may have felt they just needed to turn up to win against a side then a division below them.
“It's totally different,” he added. “We're a different team, and it's a different scenario and feeling towards it, so we'll go up there and try and win.”
Tomas Holy will continue in goal with Lambert likely to stick with the three-man backline which has become his preferred system in recent weeks.
James Wilson is suspended for one game following his red card at Fleetwood so Toto Nsiala will probably make his first League One appearance of the season alongside skipper Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden.
Kane Vincent-Young will start at right wing-back if he is over the groin problem he suffered at Fleetwood a fortnight ago with either Gwion Edwards or Accrington old boy Janoi Donacien replacing the former Colchester man if he doesn’t make it. Luke Garbutt will continue on the left.
Lambert has another injury concern in midfield with Flynn Downes having suffered a hip knock with the England U20s.
The Blues boss is unlikely to take any chances with the 20-year-old, particularly with Town having three games in seven days, and so Downes may well be left out or drop to the bench. That would probably see Emyr Huws join Cole Skuse and Jon Nolan in midfield.
Up front, ex-Stanley frontman Kayden Jackson will be partnered by James Norwood if the former Tranmere man has recovered from the groin operation he underwent in Germany at the start of last week.
Otherwise, Will Keane or Alan Judge, in a role behind the lone central striker, are two of Lambert’s alternative options. Again, Town are unlikely to take a risk with Norwood.
Accrington boss John Coleman, whose 20th-placed team were beaten 2-1 at Rochdale last week, has been impressed by the way the Blues have started the campaign following relegation.
“They’ve started the season unbelievably well, there’s not too many teams that get relegated and bounce back the way they have done. That’s credit to the manager and the players,” he said.
Reflecting on the Sunday kick-off, he added: “Your week gets halted and with Saturday’s performance, we want to get back on the pitch. We generally do well against big teams on the TV.
“It should be a cracking game, we don’t try and shut up shop, we try and score goals and we try and win games. “It should be a really good game, certainly for the neutral, but hopefully more so for our fans rather than theirs.”
Right-back Callum Johnson is a doubt, while left-back Jerome Opoku and midfielder Sam Finley are both training and could be involved. Winger Sean McConville is also back training but appears less likely to be included.
Striker Billy Kee has not played this season as he is undergoing treatment for depression, anxiety and bulimia.
The sides have met only once previously, January’s FA Cup tie at the Wham Stadium, which Accrington won 1-0 via Kee’s 76th-minute goal.
Striker Jackson joined the Blues from the Lancastrians for £1.6 million in the summer of 2018, while right-back Donacien moved to Town for £750,000 during the same close season. Both were members of Stanley’s 2017/18 League Two title-winning side.
Blues defender Nsiala had a loan spell with Accrington from Everton in the second half of the 2011/12 season and then joined them on a permanent basis the following summer, spending a further 18 months at the Wham Stadium.
No current Accrington player has been with the Blues, although keeper-coach Tony Warner had a trial with Town in 1998.
Sunday’s referee is Sebastian Stockbridge from Tyne and Wear, who has shown 35 yellow cards and two red in 11 games so far this season. Stockbridge will be refereeing his first Town match.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Vincent-Young, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Woolfenden, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Rowe, Georgiou, Jackson, Norwood, Keane.
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