Blues Look to Revive Faltering Season Against High-Flying Sky Blues
Friday, 6th Mar 2020 14:42
Town face leaders Coventry City for the fourth time this season on Saturday looking for a home victory which could help revive their faltering campaign.
The Blues go into the game ninth, six points from sixth-placed Fleetwood, who have two games in hand, and 12 behind the Sky Blues, who have also played two fewer matches than Town and who lead second-placed Rotherham by two points.
Ipswich and Coventry got to know each other well in December when they played one another three times in 10 days with both an FA Cup tie and League One game at St Andrew’s ending in 1-1 draws and a replay at Portman Road won 2-1 by the visitors.
“We played really up there. Was it the first game where we should have been a couple of goals up?” manager Paul Lambert recalled.
“But to be fair to [manager] Mark [Robins] he’s done a great job, they’re sitting at the top of the league for a reason.
“They’ve been the most consistent team of the season so far, but we’re more than capable of winning, that’s the thing, we’re more than capable of winning.
“We’re going to have to play really, really well, we’re going to have to fight with everything we’ve got, we’re going to need everybody behind us to go and try and make that happen.”
Lambert believes the game is a massive test of personality and mental strength - “that’s a big factor” - as the Blues look for only their second win in their last eight games and just their fifth in 25 in all competitions over 90 minutes.
At home, Town have won only six of their 16 home games in League One, drawing five and losing five.
The Blues boss seems certain to make changes to his team after the hugely disappointing performance against Fleetwood having admitted that the first half was particularly flat.
Lambert seems likely to stick with his back three but Luke Woolfenden would appear certain to return on the right with skipper Luke Chambers in the centre and Josh Earl on the left. Gwion Edwards may be recalled at right wing-back with Luke Garbutt on the left.
In midfield, Lambert was hopeful that Cole Skuse and Emyr Huws would be OK having missed the Fleetwood defeat due to a gashed shin and a toe injury respectively.
Teddy Bishop could start in the more advanced midfield role having been a second-half sub on Tuesday with Flynn Downes serving the second game of his two-match ban.
Kayden Jackson will miss the third game of his three-match suspension with Will Keane likely to start up front with Freddie Sears, a half-time sub against Fleetwood.
Coventry are unbeaten in 17 in all competitions - 13 in the league, the longest in the top foour divisions - stretching back to December 14th when they lost 2-1 at Shrewsbury.
Despite the huge disparity in current form, Sky Blues boss Robins is taking nothing for granted.
“Ipswich are a good team with a lot of experience and Paul Lambert is a good manager who’s had success in the past no doubt,” he told his club’s official site.
“He’ll be wanting their players to have a right go from now to the end of the season and that’s what they do in fairness, that’s what he’s done he’s got them fighting and scrapping and that’s one of their characteristics.
“On top of that they’ve got a lot of experience in the side and like I’ve said they’re a good team and anyone who underestimates them in the run in will come a cropper there’s no doubt.
“It’s a tough league and I think there’s really not much between any of the teams and you saw that when we played against Sunderland and it was the one goal scored in the second minute that was the deciding goal in the end and thankfully we scored it and kept them at bay.
“They had a goal disallowed off the back of an offside decision that was correct but it’s small margins and it won’t be any different from now until the end of the season, we don’t focus on anybody else we just focus on ourselves.”
He added: “All games are different and the way that we’re approaching every game or the way we’ve approached every game will continue to be the case.
“I don’t look into anything other than our performance, you can control what you can control and the opponents are going to do what they’re going to do, what can we do to try and minimise that but also maximise our attacking threat.
“Those are the things we look at and try and exploit if we can. We know that all the teams are decent at the level and very game that we’ve got left is a tough game and it is what it is.
“What I’d say is stay focused and stay in the moment and do what we do, they’re good, they’re a good set of lads, they’re a good team and we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and keep doing what we’re good at.”
Town have a good record against Coventry over the years, winning 38 games (36 in the league), losing 23 times (20) and with 25 matches (23) ending in draws. The Sky Blues have won only four of the last 27 games between the clubs.
The teams last faced one another in an FA Cup second round replay at Portman Road in December, the third game in 10 days between the clubs.
Sub Garbutt pulled a late goal back but it wasn’t enough to prevent an understrength Town team from falling to a 2-1 defeat.
Jordan Shipley and Max Biamou have given Coventry a deserved 2-0 half-time lead, netting in the 18th and 33rd minutes, and Town never looked like getting back into the game until Garbutt’s 86th minute header.
In a League One fixture the Sky Blues’ temporary home at St Andrew’s on the previous Saturday, Keane gave the Blues the lead in the 31st minute and Biamou levelled for the Sky Blues on 56.
Six days prior to that the teams had met in the initial FA Cup tie, also at St Andrew’s, Keane again having given Town the lead before Callum O’Hare equalised deep in injury time.
The teams last met at Portman Road in the league back in September 2011 in the Championship when Town comfortably won 3-0 in live Sky game.
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.
Blues striker Sears spent four months on loan with the Sky Blues in early 2010, making three starts and seven sub appearances without scoring.
Due to Coronavirus concerns, the EFL have confirmed that the pre-match handshake between players and officials won’t be taking place.
“As a result of the ongoing concerns posed the by Coronavirus outbreak and following specific medical advice, the Fair Play handshake between players and match officials will not take place at this weekend’s EFL matches and until further notice,” a statement reads.
Saturday’s referee is Trevor Kettle from Rutland, who has shown 99 yellow cards and nine red in 27 games so far this season.
Kettle’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 home victory over Shrewsbury in August in which he red-carded Shrews midfielder Shaun Whalley in the 38th minute for a second bookable offence and showed yellow cards to three of his team-mates and Downes.
In addition, Kettle awarded the Blues a penalty after Kane Vincent-Young had had his legs taken away from him by Josh Laurent, which was converted by James Norwood.
Prior to that, he was in charge of the 2-1 win at Fulham in December 2015 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Before that, he was the man in the middle for the 4-4 draw at Derby in October 2013 in which he five Blues and one home player.
Kettle also refereed the 1-1 draw at Barnsley in September 2012 when he again booked five Town players.
He also officiated in the 2-1 win at Burnley in April 2011 when he showed seven yellow cards in total, four to Blues.
Overall, Town have lost just one of their 14 games when Kettle has taken charge, back in August 2006 when they were beaten 1-0 at Wolves despite the home side having been reduced to 10 men.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Earl, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Skuse, Dozzell, Huws, Bishop, McGavin, Judge, Nolan, Dobra, Keane, Sears, Simpson.
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