|Coventry City 1 v 1 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 7th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: Last Week's Game Has No Bearing on Saturday's Match
Friday, 6th Dec 2019 15:26
Blues boss Paul Lambert believes last Sunday’s FA Cup tie between the sides, which ended in a 1-1 draw, will have no bearing on Saturday’s League One game against Coventry at St Andrew’s.
Town led through Will Keane’s 51st minute goal until on-loan Aston Villa forward Callum O’Hare equalised deep in injury time.
While Coventry weren’t too far away from their full-strength team - manager Mark Robins made two changes from their previous League One match - Lambert is likely to field a very different XI on Saturday and says last week’s game will have little effect on the teams’ second meeting of three in 10 days.
“No, none whatsoever,” he said. “It’s a different game. It’s totally different, so we’ll decide what we do.”
Asked whether last week’s match provided him and his staff with greater scouting knowledge than they would usually have, he added: “It’s not great when you play somebody three times in 10 days. It’s not great, but we try and know as much as we can before we play them.
“They’re a good side and a good football side. It’s a strange environment because it’s not their ground and we have to go back up there again, and then we’ve got them on Tuesday again.
"Hopefully it’ll be another good game and hopefully we get one step further.”
Although they won on penalties at Peterborough on Wednesday, the game itself ended 1-1, the Blues fourth successive draw over 90 minutes in all competitions. Overall, Town have won just one of their last seven.
Lambert feels his side were unfortunate not to pick up victories from some of those games.
“We drew with Wycombe which we should have won, everybody knows we should have won," he said. "Blackpool I thought we were the better team and should have won.
“The lads have been playing really well, there’s not an issue, we’ve lost two [league] games in 20-odd. We’re doing really well, we’re sitting in second and a few points off it.”
The Blues could edge nearer to leaders Wycombe this weekend with the Chairboys not playing as they were due to host Bury. Gareth Ainsworth's side are currently five points ahead of Town with the Blues having a better goal difference by one. Coventry are fifth, a further five points behind the Blues.
Town will be without James Norwood on Saturday due to the striker having amassed five yellow cards.
Following last week’s FA Cup tie Sky Blues manager Robins said he felt that Town, again without Norwood, had played differently to how he anticipated they would, taking a more possession-based approach not having the former Tranmere man as their central striker.
“The great thing about the team is they can adapt to anything I put to them,” Lambert said in response to those comments.
“I think that’s a great compliment I can give them, whether I play three at the back, four at the back, Norwood plays up front or he doesn’t play up front.
“I can adapt with them and they can adapt to what I’m asking them to do, so I was really happy with the guys.
"Losing James is a blow because he’s been doing well, but I’m happy with everybody and the way they fit in, so it’s OK.
“James is different to what we’ve got in that way, but we’ve got some really good footballers in the side, so I’m quite happy with how we play different games with different systems – they adapt to it.”
Is it a compliment that other bosses aren’t sure of the approach your team is going to take? “You can get that as a manager, ‘I wonder how they’ll go’ or ‘I wonder what system they’ll play.’
“I’ve got lads coming back that didn’t play last week that can play in different positions so I can do that.
“That’s the great thing about it, having adaptability where they can go and play differently. As I said before, I’m happy with how we’re going about it.”
Given his rotation policy, players can never be sure whether they are going to be involved in a particular match. When does he tell them his team?
“They probably have sleepless nights,” he joked. “It’s not a bad thing, never knowing. Sometimes I’ll tell them on a Friday and sometimes I’ll tell them on a Saturday, it’s just whatever way I think is going to benefit the team.
“Everything always evolves around the team. I try and do the best for the team. It’s never what’s right for me, it’s what’s right for the team and what’s right for the club, we try and get a result. So sometimes I’ll name it on a Friday and sometimes I’ll name it before the game.”
Lambert has said he has a few unnamed injury concerns, particularly at the centre of the defence, so his XI on Saturday will very much depend on who of those doubts is fit.
The Blues boss may want to stick with the 3-5-2 system he utilised in their last league game, the 0-0 draw with Wycombe, however, the availability of centre-halves may force him to switch to a four-man backline.
However, assuming he sticks with three at the back, Town are likely to start with Will Norris in goal, the on-loan Wolves man having been hugely impressive in last week’s FA Cup fixture.
The back three would be skipper Luke Chambers, Luke Woolfenden and James Wilson if they’re all fit with Cole Skuse - who is expected to be fit after being withdrawn as a precaution at half-time at Peterborough due to a minor hip problem - and Myles Kenlock - who moved into the middle after Skuse’s departure - alternative options. Luke Garbutt and Janoi Donacien are all but certain to be the wing-backs.
In midfield, Skuse will take up his usual deeper role unless required in the defence with Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan also probable starters. Andre Dozzell may join them if Skuse is needed at the back. Up front, Will Keane seems likely to partner Jackson in Norwood’s absence.
If Lambert goes with a back four, two of Chambers, Woolfenden and Wilson will start, if fit, with Garbutt and Donacien the full-backs.
The Blues would probably still field a midfield three but with Alan Judge and Danny Rowe either side of lone striker Kayden Jackson.
Coventry wideman Jodi Jones was back in action as a sub in Tuesday’s 2-0 Leasing.com Trophy exit to the MK Dons after a year out with an ACL injury, while summer signing Jamie Allen also made his first start for the Sky Blues after a deep muscle tear in the pelvic/hip region.
Striker Matty Godden is out with a groin problem, while Wesley Jobello, Dan Bartlett and Reise Allassani are all sidelined for the season with ACL injuries.
Sky Blues manager Robins says he picked up a lot about the Blues and his own team from Sunday’s fixture.
“We learned a fair bit about ourselves and we learned a fair bit about them and we will try and implement what we know, I’m certainly not going to discuss it but we’ve got a lot to take from the game and I thought we did alright,” he told his club’s official site.
“I thought we created more chances than they did which has been clearly outlined in the stats, although the stats suggest they had more possession, we had decent possession and created good chances so there a things to build on.
“It’s a different game, every game is different. We don’t know what they’re going to do, they’ve got a big squad and they rested some in the week, changed a lot around, but so did we.
“It’s going to be an interesting game, I enjoyed the game on Sunday, I thought it was a good game and I don’t see any reason not to look forward to this game.
“For us we’ve got to go and relish it, we’ve got to go and try and understand what they do but also be true to ourselves.”
Town have a good record against Coventry over the years, winning 37 games (35 in the league), losing 22 times (20) and with 24 matches (22) ending in draws. The Sky Blues have won only three of the last 25 games between the clubs.
Coventry have a good record at their adopted home this season, winning seven of their 10 league games at St Andrew's, drawing two and losing just the once, a 1-0 loss to Tranmere last month, the only one of their four defeats in all competitions to have been at home.
The teams last faced one another last Sunday in the FA Cup but the sides most recently met in the league at the Ricoh Arena in the Championship back in February 2012 when Michael Chopra’s last-gasp winner saw Paul Jewell’s Blues to a dramatic 3-2 victory.
Town went ahead through a deflected Jay Emmanuel-Thomas shot but allowed the home side back into the game before the break via a Sammy Clingan penalty and Gary Deegan.
However, in the second half Chopra followed up Lee Martin’s penalty to equalise, then clinched all three points at the death.
Earlier that season, at Portman Road in September 2011, Town got back to winning ways with a comfortable 3-0 live Sky victory over the Sky Blues.
A Martin Cranie own goal opened the scoring in the first half with Keith Andrews adding the second soon after and Jason Scotland sealing it after the break.
Saturday’s referee is Darren Drysdale from Lincolnshire, who has shown 76 yellow cards and two red in 21 games so far this season.
His most recent Town game was the 2-1 home win against QPR at Portman Road on Boxing Day 2015 in which he booked Tommy Oar and two of the visitors.
Earlier that season he was in charge of the 5-2 win at Rotherham in which he booked only one Millers player.
Prior to that Drysdale took control of the 2-0 away win at Brighton in March 2014 in which he booked Tommy Smith and one home player. Earlier that season he was in charge of the 1-1 draw at Birmingham.
Squad from: Norris, Holy, Edwards, Donacien, Cotter, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Henderson, Skuse, Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Rowe, Georgiou, Jackson, Keane, Roberts.
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