|Ipswich Town 2 v 0 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 26th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Blues Out to Continue 100 Per Cent League One Start Against Rochdale
Friday, 25th Sep 2020 14:21
Top-of-the-table Town will be looking to make it three wins from three at the start of their League One campaign when Rochdale visit Portman Road for the first time in their history on Saturday.
The Blues followed up their opening weekend 2-0 home victory over Wigan Athletic with a win at Bristol Rovers by the same scoreline last Saturday.
Town last won three league games in a row at the start of a season in Mick McCarthy’s final year in charge, 2017/18 when they were victorious in their first four, plus another in the League Cup.
They most recently won their first three without conceding in the Premier League in 1993/94 when they defeated Oldham 3-0 away, then both Southampton and Chelsea 1-0 at Portman Road.
With Dale yet to win in the league, they lost 3-1 at Swindon before drawing 0-0 at home to Portsmouth last Sunday, although they have won two cup ties this season, boss Paul Lambert knows the Blues are firm favourites to beat the Lancastrians, who are fourth bottom of the early-season League One table.
“It's a tough game, but it's a tough game for Rochdale,” he said. “If we play the way we have been playing and keep that momentum up then hopefully we can get a good result.
“You've got to earn everything in football, it doesn't just come to you really easily. We know the task, we know how hard it will be, we know what we want to do and we'll go and try and get the result.”
Reflecting on his side's impressive start to their league campaign, he added: “I’m really happy, really pleased with how we've approached everything, the training since we've come back in a really difficult situation, how the guys have looked after themselves during the lockdown, which would have been tough, a lot of them are really young guys. I'm happy how they've done that.
“I'm happy how they've come back training and I'm really happy with how they've started to play football. They learn different things which is great and without a doubt winning helps you and the confidence is really high at the minute.”
The Blues made a strong start to last season, of course, before eventually falling away but Lambert believes is team is in better form this time around.
“I don’t see similarities because the way we play is different and we had four points from the first two games. And we’ve got six points from two games this year,” he said.
“I think we’re playing a lot better, I think we’re playing really good football at the minute. That’s a little bit of difference.”
He admits it’s disappointing that fans won’t be at Portman Road for some while with the Blues having hoped to hold a test event on Saturday with 1,000 supporters present until the Government announced earlier in the week that their plans for limited crowds had been put on hold due to the increase in coronavirus.
“With no fans I think it’s a dangerous scenario. It’s no good because you don’t have the joy or the excitement of a matchday,” Lambert said.
“They can only come back when it’s safe and the Government saying that they can’t [return now] has moved everything again. I just don’t see fans coming back this calendar year.”
Lambert dismissed the suggestion that Saturday’s match is of the type which might be easier for his side with no supporters present and the pressure perhaps reduced.
“I don't buy into all that nonsense,” he insisted. “You need fans and it doesn't matter what you say, it's not the same game.
“You need fans to live off and you need fans to have the joy with, you need fans to have the emotion, you need fans to disappoint. All the things that happen you need them.
“And if anybody turns around and says it's great playing without fans, they're not comfortable playing in front of fans and they don't want to do it, my view is you need the fans because that gives you the joy, it gives you the highs and when the highs come there isn't a better sport.”
Turning his attention to the XI he will select for Saturday’s game, Lambert says his choosing his team is not too difficult at present: “It's easy to pick. Not a problem there, that's for sure.”
Tomas Holy again seems set to start in goal with the centre-halves against Toto Nsiala and James Wilson and the full-backs skipper Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward.
Luke Woolfenden may be on the bench having trained this week having been sidelined with a groin injury, as may new loan signing Mark McGuinness.
In midfield, Jon Nolan, who scored his second goal of the season last weekend, and Andre Dozzell are certain starters but Lambert may be considering whether to swap Teddy Bishop, who had a quieter game at Bristol Rovers, for Flynn Downes, who impressed from the bench.
However, it seems likely Bishop will again be given the nod with Downes playing a part as a substitute.
Up front, Lambert has similar dilemma regarding Oli Hawkins and James Norwood but will probably continue with the former Tranmere man with the summer signing also likely to come off the bench at some stage.
Freddie Sears and Gwion Edwards will probably continue in the wide roles, while Alan Judge could be on the bench having missed last week’s game at Bristol Rovers due to a hamstring problem.
It’s possible Kayden Jackson could also be among the subs having started training with the squad last week following his groin problem.
Rochdale go into the game with forwards Stephen Humphrys (damaged medial ligament) and Kwadwo Baah (ankle) and defender Yeboah Amankwah (knee) definitely out and defender Ryan McLaughlin (hamstring) a doubt, while skipper Eoghan O'Connell is expected to be over an impact injury to his knee.
On Thursday Dale added striker Jake Beesley to their squad for an undisclosed fee from Solihull Moors.
Manager Brian Barry-Murphy knows his team go into Saturday’s match as underdogs but felt they gave a good account of themselves in their draw with Pompey, another of the division’s more fancied sides.
“We’re going away to one of the biggest clubs in the division and nobody will give us a chance,” he told the Dale official website.
“Everyone has spoken about our difficult start to the season, but we gave Portsmouth a lot of problems like we wanted to on Sunday and we’re very much hoping that we can do the same on Saturday.
“If we’ve got guys missing, we know that we have younger players who are developing into something very special and this could be the first part of their journey.
“The league is stacked with those kind of clubs this season, so we’re going to face these names on a regular basis where, like last week, we’re given no chance, but we’re not going to have to succumb to that storyline and we can definitely try and make our own narratives and prove people wrong.”
He added: “And that’s more than just the result itself. If we see that commitment towards the way want to do things as a club, that we saw last Sunday, I think we’ll be forgiving of anything that happens in terms of the result.”
Last season’s Bonfire Night game at Spotland is the only time the teams have met in competitive action with the Portman Road fixture among those which was due to take place after the campaign was curtailed in March.
Danny Rowe’s first and ultimately only Town goal was enough to see the Blues to a 1-0 win. The winger reacted quickly to turn a defensive error past home keeper Jay Lynch in the 53rd minute.
Saturday’s referee is John Busby from Oxfordshire, who has shown five yellow cards and no red in three games so far this season.
His last Town match was the 2-1 win at Tranmere in January when he showed yellow cards to Emyr Huws and Will Norris as well as three home players.
Busby was also in charge of the Blues’ 2-0 defeat to Rotherham at Portman Road in October last year when he booked Gwion Edwards and three Millers.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Donacien, Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Wilson, Dozzell, Bishop, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Lankester, Edwards, Sears, Hawkins, Norwood, Jackson.
Photo: Matchday Images
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