|Blackpool 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 29th February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Blues Visit Blackpool Aiming to Get Promotion Push Back on Track
Friday, 28th Feb 2020 12:23
Town visit Blackpool on Saturday looking to get their stuttering promotion push back on track against the managerless Tangerines.
The Blues dropped to eighth following last week’s 1-0 home defeat by Oxford, then to ninth after the midweek fixtures with only 11 matches left to play.
Town have won just four of their last 18 in the league - 22 in all competitions over 90 minutes - and need to find some consistency in the final months if they are to be in the reckoning for even a play-off place come May.
Manager Paul Lambert insists he isn’t giving up on a top-two position but the Blues have a nine-point gap to make up between themselves and Rotherham and Coventry in first and second. They are three points off the play-offs.
Blackpool sit in 14th, 11 points behind Town after a disappointing season which saw manager Simon Grayson sacked a fortnight ago after a run of one win in 12 games having only taken charge in July 2019.
“It’s crazy, football is crazy because I thought Simon was doing a good job up until then,” Town manager Paul Lambert said.
“How long do you give managers? You keep changing, changing, changing. It’s not good, it’s not healthy.
“But Blackpool made that choice, I’m pretty sure Simon has been in the game long enough to know what it’s like. But I found it a strange one because I didn’t really think it was justified that, a strange one.”
Former Blackburn Rovers stalwart David Dunn is currently in caretaker charge with Oxford boss Karl Robinson having been ruled out of the running. Brighton’s U23s manager Simon Rusk is a strong contender to take over.
Reflecting on the impact having a caretaker-manager in charge might have on a squad, Lambert said: “I don’t really know how they would feel, whether they would think ‘This is what it is’ or they’re waiting for somebody else to come in. I’m never quite sure.
“I guess if a team loses the easy answer is ‘We don’t have a manager’. If a team wins then it’s ‘OK, this guy’s good’. I guess they’ll probably blow with the wind.
“I know Dunny, he was at Blackburn when I was there, a nice guy, he did the kids up there at Blackburn. He’s a good guy.”
After last week’s defeat and with his lack of available strikers, Lambert has decisions to make regarding his team selection. Nevertheless, the Blues boss seems likely to stick with his 3-5-2 system having been happy with the first half display if not his team’s failure to take their chances.
Tomas Holy will be in goal behind a back three which again seems likely to be - from the right - Luke Woolfenden, skipper Luke Chambers and Josh Earl.
In midfield, Flynn Downes could be rejoined by Emyr Huws with Teddy Bishop looking likely to make his first league start of the season ahead of them behind front pair Will Keane and Freddie Sears, also in the league XI for the first time in 2019/20.
Youngsters Armando Dobra, Ben Morris and Tommy Hughes could all travel and perhaps play a part from the bench.
Blackpool will be without 18-goal frontman Armand Gnanduillet, who missed Tuesday’s 2-1 home victory over Bolton and last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at AFC Wimbledon with a hamstring problem.
Caretaker-boss Dunn says he doesn’t want to rush the Frenchman back too quickly and risk him breaking down again.
“He’s coming on and he’s back running again now, so hopefully he can be in with a shout,” he told the Blackpool Gazette.
“But I want to give Armand the best chance of playing more games for us, I don’t want to rush him and him end up doing his hamstring again.”
Former Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton man Gary Madine will continue up front despite an ongoing knee complaint, while keeper Jak Alnwick (arm) and midfielder Sullay Kaikai (groin/abductor) remain sidelined.
Reflecting on the Blues’ visit, Dunn, who has been in charge of the last three matches, one win, one draw and one defeat, added: “It’s another tough game. But we’re looking forward to it. I think you could see in the first half against Bolton the lads were enjoying themselves.
“I think in the last three games we could quite easily have had nine points, although I know we don’t.
“They’re looking like they’re playing with confidence but we have to keep playing with a high line to put pressure on the ball.”
Historically, Town have won 12 games between the sides (11 in the league), 10 have been drawn (10) and Blackpool have won five (four).
Town have won their last two at Blackpool, whose home record this season reads won eight, drawn two lost five.
The Blues, whose away form remains the second best in the division, are currently without a win on their travels in their last three, two defeats and a draw. They have won only one of their last nine away from home, at Tranmere last month.
In November at Portman Road, Town’s post-international break blues continued after they were held to a 2-2 home draw by Blackpool.
The Blues, whose run of not winning a league game after an international break stretched to 22 matches back to September 2014, went in front on eight via Gwion Edwards but the Tangerines levelled through Joe Nuttall on 22.
Blackpool took the lead from a disputed penalty converted by Jay Spearing eight minutes after the restart but Luke Garbutt equalised for Town, also from the spot, on 58.
In November 2014, Town celebrated Mick McCarthy’s second anniversary in charge with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Bloomfield Road, their most recent visit to Blackpool.
David McGoldrick put the Blues in the lead in the 26th minute and Daryl Murphy sealed it just after the hour, Bishop assisting both goals.
Ex-Town midfielder Grant Ward joined the Seasiders in December having been released by the Blues in the previous summer.
Ward, who made 75 starts and 23 sub appearances after signing from Spurs in August 2016, spent the first half of the season at Town recovering from the ruptured ACL he suffered at QPR on Boxing Day 2018. The Londoner has made two starts and four sub appearances for the Tangerines.
The Blackpool squad also includes former Town loan winger Liam Feeney, who made seven starts and two sub appearances, scoring twice, in a spell at Portman Road in the second half of the 2015/16 season.
Saturday’s referee is Christopher Sarginson from Staffordshire, who has shown 69 yellow cards and one red in 26 games so far this season.
Sarginson’s most recent Town match was 2-1 home defeat to Coventry in December’s FA Cup replay at Portman Road, in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 1-0 win at Gillingham in September in which he booked James Wilson and Alan Judge as well as one home player.
His only Blues fixture prior to that was the 2-0 home victory over Brighton in September 2014 in which he booked Skuse, Jonny Parr, Paul Anderson and three of the visitors.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Earl, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Skuse, Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Bishop, Judge, Nolan, Dobra, Hughes, Keane, Sears, Morris.
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