|Bristol Rovers 0 v 2 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 19th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: It'll Be a Hard Game, We Won't Treat Rovers Lightly
Friday, 18th Sep 2020 12:33
Town boss Paul Lambert says he won’t be treating Saturday’s opponents Bristol Rovers lightly despite the Blues comfortably defeating the Pirates 3-0 at Portman Road in the opening day Carabao Cup tie between the teams. The Blues travel to the Memorial Stadium for their first away game of 2020/21 having played four home matches on the trot.
“I never took them too lightly in the first game,” Lambert insisted. “They’re a good team, it’s a tough game. They’ve brought in a few players, good players, we know it’s a hard game. They’re a really good side who played some really good football themselves.”
The Blues manager says the Gas will have learnt from the game at Portman Road: “They will. They’re a good team, they’ll play the way they want to play and we have to try and find our way of playing.
“We’ve got a few injuries, so I need to look at certain things, whether that’s a change of system or personnel.”
Having been beaten by the Blues, Rovers were defeated 5-4 on penalties by Walsall following a 2-2 draw in the EFL Trophy before a 1-1 draw away against League One favourites Sunderland last weekend.
After Luke Leahy scored a third minute penalty, Ben Garner’s side frustrated the Wearsiders, who enjoyed 72 per cent of the possession, until the 82nd minute when Chris Maguire finally grabbed the equaliser.
Asked whether, in the context of those statistics, it might be an afternoon where his players may have to remain patient, Lambert said: “I never look at stats, the only stat I’m interested in is the one which says you win or lose. We try and win.”
Having had cup games dominate the first fortnight of the season, the Blues now have a run of three Saturday League One matches in a row and a chance to pick up points and build on the win against Wigan.
“If we can, it’ll be great,” Lambert said,. “But there’s an awful long, long way to go in this, that’s for sure, this isn’t a sprint.
“As I said before, we started last season like a whirlwind and ended up falling away, so I wouldn’t get caught up into a lot of stuff. It’s one game at a time and we’ll try to tick this one off and try and win it.”
With fans still absent, although with pilot events with 1,000 fans attending taking place elsewhere this weekend, Lambert believes home advantage probably has less of an impact at present.
“I know they’ve got the pilot games but for me playing in front of 1,000 people isn’t the same game.”
Lambert is unlikely to stray too far away from the team which started against Wigan last Sunday, although with Aaron Drinan unavailable for around two months due to this thigh injury and one or two other unnamed players potentially missing out due to knocks.
“I know who is starting, so it’s not a problem,” he said when asked which of his keepers would play on Saturday.
“David was really good the other night, Tomas has been really good and hasn’t conceded a goal, so I’m really happy with the two guys.”
At the back, Lambert praised central defensive pair Toto Nsiala and James Wilson following the game against the Cottagers and with Luke Woolfenden and Corrie Ndaba both still sidelined, they appear certain to continue.
Skipper Luke Chambers will again be at right-back with Stephen Ward at left-back, the duo, aged 34 and 35 respectively, having been rested for the Fulham match.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan were both subbed on Wednesday presumably to keep them fresh for Saturday and Teddy Bishop, who was on the bench against the Whites, appears set to return in place of Emyr Huws.
Flynn Downes will again be among the subs but seems likely to play a part at some stage.
Lambert has a decision to make regarding his central striker in Drinan’s absence with both Oli Hawkins and James Norwood short on match fitness.
Hawkins started against Fulham and may well get the nod again depending on how he came through that match. If that’s the case, Norwood will play a part from the bench.
Freddie Sears is again likely to start on the left with Alan Judge probably on the right unless Gwion Edwards has impressed Lambert enough to force his way into the League One XI. Jack Lankester will be hoping to make his first appearance since January 2019 from the bench having recovered from a concussion.
Bristol Rovers have former Town youngster Ed Upson back from a suspension, while winger Alex Rodman may return having trained this week after missing the Sunderland game as he was ill. The match will come too soon for midfielder Josh Barrett. Defender Tom Davies is also yet to feature this season.
Since they faced the Blues in the Carabao Cup, Rovers have added striker Brandon Hanlan following his departure from Gillingham, last season's top scorer Jonson Harris-Clarke having moved on to Peterborough earlier in the summer.
Manager Ben Garner felt the display at Portman Road a fortnight ago was very much under par.
“It was the one game from pre-season to the Sunderland game where we fell away a bit,” he told Bristol Live.
“We were disappointed with our performance on that day, but we’ve worked hard to put it right and responded with a good point at Sunderland and a point in the EFL Trophy with a changed team.
“We’re looking to put that result right this weekend. We’ve prepared well this week for the game. We’ve had a full week of training.
“We know their strengths, we know what they’re very good at, but it’s up to us to impose ourselves on the game.”
Regarding Town, he added: “There weren’t too many surprises in what Ipswich did, I just think they were good on the day but we didn’t do certain things we should have done.
“It was more a case of us reflecting, looking at ourselves and putting those things right.
“I don’t see too many changes in what Ipswich will do, they’re very comfortable in their own game, they’ve got a really good set-up of their organisation, technically some really good players – particularly in central midfield.
“It’s more a case of us addressing what we need to do and making sure we put a strong performance on, making sure our house is in order rather than looking too much at them.
“A tough test, a very good team with a lot of experience in their squad. The majority of their squad have played in the Championship or even above.
“They have a really experienced manager in Paul Lambert and it was a tough game when we went to Ipswich recently, so we know what a good team they are and what depth they’ve got in their squad but we’re certainly looking to give a much better account of ourselves than we did when we went to Portman Road recently.”
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 14 (eight) occasions.
The teams last met in the Carabao Cup a fortnight ago when Sears scored twice and Chambers once as the Blues ran out 3-0 victors.
In December last year in League One, Rovers recorded their first victory at Portman Road since Boxing Day 1958 as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by the 10-man Pirates, their third league defeat of the 2019/20 season.
Tyler Smith and Tom Nichols gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before James Norwood pulled one back in the 37th minute and the Blues were unable to find a second even after visitors’ skipper Ollie Clarke was dismissed for a two bookable offences on 77.
Last season's game at the Memorial Stadium was due to be played in March, the day after football was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.
Town’s only game at Rovers’ current home was back in January 1998 in the FA Cup third round with the tie, which was played in freezing conditions, ending 1-1 with Micky Stockwell scoring for the Blues.
The Pirates’ last home victory over Town was a 1-0 success back in April 1991 at their former temporary home Twerton Park.
Rovers midfielder Upson was a Blues academy player and famously scored the winning goal in Town’s 2005 FA Youth Cup triumph while a 15-year-old schoolboy. Upson made two League Cup sub appearances for the Blues before being released in 2010
Currently injured 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 Craig Hicks from Surrey, who has shown 10 yellow cards and no red in three games this season.
Hicks’s last Town game was the 0-0 draw at AFC Wimbledon in which he booked Downes and one home player.
Prior to that he was in charge of another 0-0 draw, at home to Gillingham on Boxing Day last year in which he showed yellow cards to Nsiala, Edwards, Judge and Norwood.
Hicks’s only previous competitive Town match prior to that was the Leasing.com Trophy tie with Tottenham’s U21s in September last year in which he showed just the one yellow card to one of the visitors.
He also took charge of Town’s July 2017 pre-season friendly against Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium, which the home side won 2-1.
The Kent side, who had current Blues keeper Holy in goal, went in front via a soft penalty awarded by Hicks, who kept his cards in his pocket throughout, won by ex-Town midfielder Lee Martin following a challenge by Blues captain Chambers and converted by Tom Eaves.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Donacien, Ward, Kenlock, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Wilson, Dozzell, Bishop, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Lankester, Edwards, Sears, Hawkins, Norwood.
Photo: Matchday Images
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