|Ipswich Town 1 v 2 Bristol Rovers|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 14th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Town Look to Get Back to Winning Ways as Bristol Rovers Visit
Friday, 13th Dec 2019 15:36
Town host fifth-placed Bristol Rovers at Portman Road looking to return to winning ways having drawn their last three games in League One and not won over 90 minutes for six matches in all competitions.
The Blues are currently 11th in the League One form table over the last six games overall and 12th on home form over the same period.
Town lost only their fifth game in all competitions this season 2-1 to Coventry in their FA Cup second-round replay on Tuesday when they put in what manager Paul Lambert admitted was their poorest display in his 13-and-a-half months at the club.
Asked how the team have been since that game, he said: “They’ve been alright.You’re down after the game and things like that but I think that’s a natural thing when you lose a game, you’re down and then the following day you’re back at it again.”
The Blues manager is confident that they’ll be fine on Saturday: “I’ve got no doubt whatsoever. It’ll be a different game tomorrow with a different atmosphere, different surroundings and we’ll be ready.
“They recognise that it wasn’t good enough [on Tuesday] and I think everybody does. So they’ll be ready for it, whatever team I put out they’ll be ready for it.”
Regarding that selection, has he got a dilemma whether to stick with those who played on Tuesday and will be determined to make amends for that display or to return to the players who particularly impressed in the first half of 1-1 League One draw with the Sky Blues on Saturday but ultimately failed to claim all three points?
“I always say I’ll pick a team that I think is going to win a particular game,” he said. “I’ve always done that, even in the Premier League or any league I’ve been in, I pick a team that’s going to try and win.”
Having had a period in which Town have played only three league games in their last eight matches, they now go on a run of five League One fixtures in a row prior to the Leasing.com Trophy visit to Exeter on Saturday 4th January.
“The league is always the most important thing,” Lambert added. “If you do well in the cups, great, and you get something at the end of it, great, but the league is the most important thing.
“Now we’re in a run of league games let’s see what happens in these next few before we have to go and play Exeter.
“That’s probably the best run we’ll have for a spell. Christmas time and New Year time, you always have that problem.
“Those games will come thick and fast and we’ve got one or two injuries, so you’re going to need everybody to be ready to play.”
Lambert says he’s taking each match as it comes rather than looking at the run of five fixtures en masse.
“No, I go game by game,” he said. “Some staff members do that, but I don’t do it, I go with game by game because there’s no point looking at this one and then looking at Accrington a few weeks later or whoever we’re playing.
"There’s no point, you have to take care of the one that comes to you next, that’s the most important. Then we move to the next one.”
Bristol Rovers are in good form at present, unbeaten in nine in all competitions and having won their last three in the league.
“Yes, very good,” Lambert said. “But you can ask me that about every team we play. Every team will raise their game against us, we have to go above that, which we have done most of the season and hopefully we’ll go back to the way we were playing prior to that Coventry game.
“They’ll be a handful. They’ll be strong. They’ll be big and they’ll be organised, everything you expect of a team coming here. This is not an easy game.”
As ever second-guessing Lambert’s side is not an easy business but it seems likely he might return to an XI featuring those who impressed against Coventry in the league game last Saturday.
That would see Will Norris return in goal with Lambert perhaps opting to move to a back three given his lack of wingers - Gwion Edwards is suspended for amassing five yellow cards and Danny Rowe a big doubt with a knee injury - which could perhaps see Cole Skuse join Luke Woolfenden and James Wilson in the defensive trio, the veteran Bristolian having started the Peterborough Leasing.com Trophy tie in that role 10 days ago.
Skipper Luke Chambers is not expected to be ready after his neck problem and Toto Nsiala seems unlikely to start having played the full 90 minutes on Tuesday on his return from his hamstring problem.
Luke Garbutt and Janoi Donacien would be the wing-backs, while Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan could be the midfield three.
Up front, Will Keane, the most impressive of the three main strikers in the last two games, may be partnered by Kayden Jackson with James Norwood on the bench.
Bristol Rovers go into the game fifth in the table, five points behind Town with manager Graham Coughlan looking forward to the game and to visiting Portman Road.
“It’s a stern test, to be fair, one we’re looking forward to,” he told the Pirates club site. “It’s one of those fixtures that when they come out you look forward to it, you look at it first, you see when and where.
“It’s a great test, a great opportunity, a great football club, a lovely stadium, so it’s one we will relish and, as always, we’ll roll our sleeves up and give it our best shot.”
Asked about Town’s recent lack of wins, the former Plymouth defender says he concentrates largely on his own team rather than the opposition.
“As I said last season, I think I was fairly confident with it, 90 per cent ourselves, 10 per cent the others,” he said.
“You do have to have a game plan, you do have to have a system, you do have to have personnel in place to counteract what the opposition will throw at you.
“But we’re in good form, we’re in confident mood. We’re looking forward to getting on the bus, we’re looking forward to going up and taking on one of the giants of English football, one of the bigger teams in this division, and we’ll relish the challenge. It’s a great game for us to play in.”
Centre-half Tom Davies is out with tendinitis in his knee, while midfielder Abu Ogogo is suspended having picked up five yellow cards. Another midfielder, Ollie Clarke, and defender Rollin Menayese are back after serving bans last weekend.
Rovers have had the better of the games between the clubs overall, winning 15 (15 in the league), drawing nine (seven) and with Town victorious on 13 (eight) occasions.
However, the Pirates' last win at Portman Road was on Boxing Day 1958 when they beat the Blues 2-0 and their last victory over Town anywhere was a 1-0 success back in April 1991 at their former temporary home Twerton Park.
The teams last met in a Capital One Cup tie at Portman Road in August 2012 when goals from Jason Scotland, Tommy Smith and Aaron Cresswell saw the Blues come from behind to beat then-League Two Rovers 3-1.
The visitors had gone in front against the run of play in the first half with the Blues eventually making their superiority tell, despite Michael Chopra missing a penalty.
Rovers midfielder Ed Upson was a Blues academy player and famously scored the winning goal in Town’s 2005 FA Youth Cup triumph while still a schoolboy. Upson made two League Cup sub appearances for the Blues before being released in 2010
Town midfielder Cole Skuse was with Rovers as a schoolboy, while first-team coach Matt Gill was a Pirates player between June 2011 and May 2014.
Saturday’s referee is James Adcock from Nottinghamshire, who has shown 33 yellow cards and two red in 11 games so far this season.
Adcock’s last Town match was the 1-1 draw with Cardiff at Portman Road in December 2016, in which he red-carded Bluebirds defender Sol Bamba for a second-half temper tantrum. He also booked Jonas Knudsen, Tom Lawrence and four Cardiff players.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle in October of the same year in which he again booked Knudsen and two home players.
He also refereed the 1-0 win at Leeds United in September 2015 in which he booked Jonny Parr and three home players.
Before that he took control of the 1-1 home draw with Blackburn in October 2014 in which Matt Kilgallon was red-carded for a second bookable offence and Skuse and former Blue Ryan Tunnicliffe were both also cautioned.
Prior to that Adcock officiated in the 2-0 loss at Wigan in September 2013 in which he booked Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra.
Adcock’s first Town game was the 3-0 home victory over Leeds earlier that year in which defender Tom Lees was red-carded for a wild challenge on Jay Tabb midway through the first half. Three other Whites, Chambers and Aaron Cresswell were also yellow-carded during that match.
Squad from: Norris, Holy, Donacien, Cotter, Garbutt, Kenlock, Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Skuse, Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Georgiou, Jackson, Keane, Norwood, Roberts.
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