|Oxford United 0 v 0 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 1st December 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Injury-Hit Town Look to Bounce Back at Oxford
Tuesday, 1st Dec 2020 06:00
Town visit Oxford United this evening aiming to bounce back after back-to-back home defeats to Hull City and Charlton but with 13 players potentially missing due to injury.
The Blues are down to sixth in League One following the losses to the Tigers and Addicks and are still to beat anyone in the top eight in the division.
Town have had more success against teams lower down the table with Oxford currently in 19th having had a tough start to the campaign after reaching the play-off final last season where they were beaten 2-1 by Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley.
Boss Paul Lambert knows the significance of his side showing character and bouncing back against the U’s.
“Massively, we have to stick together, it’s important,” he said. “A few weeks ago they were playing really well, they’ve lost a bit of confidence because they’ve not picked up a couple of results but you know we’re capable of playing that way.
“We have to get that back, but, as I’ve said before, we have to get guys back to fitness.”
Town are likely to go into the game without 12 players due to fitness issues. Toto Nsiala picked up a hamstring injury on Saturday, joining fellow central defender James Wilson on the sidelines, along with right-back Kane Vincent-Young (achilles).
In midfield, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes (both knee), Teddy Bishop (ankle), Emyr Huws (back/hamstring), Jon Nolan (groin) and Tristan Nydam (ankle) have all missed recent games. Few of them other than Huws appear likely to return tonight.
Up front, Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears and James Norwood are all out with hamstring problems and youngster Ben Morris suffered a second cruciate knee ligament in the summer.
Asked whether he has ever known an injury situation like it either as a player or at his previous clubs as a manager, Lambert says the current issues are down to the coronavirus crisis and the impact of the long break players were forced to take over the summer.
“Only because of the pandemic, that’s the only thing,” he said. “Six months out, you couldn’t do anything at all. Guys are in the house, they can’t go out, they can only do a little bit of exercise.
“As I said before, it takes three weeks to de-train. Even when you come back from pre-season you were doing it in isolated groups, you can’t tackle, you can’t get near anybody, you can’t do much just because of the way it is.
“I’ve never experienced this type of football before with no fans and training like that, it’s been difficult.”
Do Town do anything to try to mitigate injuries? Are adjustments made to training? “We try everything with regards to recovery as well [as trying to] get the balance of guys who have not had much game time training a little bit more than other guys to top them up. We try and look after them the best we can in really hard circumstances.
“We train in a dome, it’s freezing cold. The guys have breakfast at home then as soon as they finish training they’re away. They don’t eat at the training ground after training.
“They can’t recover with baths and all those sorts of thing, they just jump in their cars and they’re away. Maybe that’s a factor. At the moment we can’t do anything else.”
Tonight’s match should be Town’s last without fans with the lockdown ending tomorrow and 2,000 fans expected at Saturday’s game at Plymouth with the same number at Portman Road for the Portsmouth match the following week.
“You feed off it, the players feed off it,” Lambert said. “The staff feed off it, everybody. You need them back. It’s so tough, for every team up and down the country and around the world. It’s so tough.
“You need the supporters, you need that without a doubt, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you need an atmosphere.”
Lambert’s side to some extent picks itself given the injury situation. David Cornell couldn’t be blamed for either of Saturday’s goals and will keep his place.
Mark McGuinness seems set to come into the back four for the injured Nsiala alongside Luke Woolfenden with skipper Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward the full-backs.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell will take up his deeper-lying role with Lambert likely to pick two from Brett McGavin, Jack Lankester and Alan Judge ahead of him.
Liam Gibbs, 17, who made his league debut on Saturday, appears unlikely to start two games in such a short space of time but may well be on the bench.
Lankester and Judge are also candidates for the wide right role in the front three with Keanan Bennetts probably on the left with Aaron Drinan set to make his first start since the opening day of the league season as the central striker having come on as a sub at the weekend.
Armando Dobra, a surprise omission from the 18 in recent games, may finally get a call with numbers so stretched.
Oxford go into the match having fallen to a 2-1 derby defeat to Swindon Town at home on Saturday. Their record at the Kassam Stadium during 2020/21 is less than impressive, the U’s having won two and lost three.
Like Town, Oxford have only drawn once in the league this season, away from home at Portsmouth last Tuesday, and are still to keep a clean sheet in the league this season.
U’s manager Karl Robinson is looking for a reaction from his team after Saturday’s disappointment against their rivals and criticism regarding the performance.
“I’ve had chance to look back at the game on Saturday and it was a hard one for all of us,” he told his club’s official website.
“I know ex-players make comments, having made the same mistakes when they played, and I know fans will have strong opinions on style, formation, players and so on. I respect that and we all do that.
“I can take criticism but people can’t say we don’t care. That’s just not true. We were desperate to win that game and having spoken to the players it hurt us all deeply.
“We were so desperate to win and keep a clean sheet that we started doing things we never do.
“We are embarrassed and feel we have let people and our club down. We made small mistakes in a big game and those become the headlines that everyone reads. We know we made mistakes but we now have a chance to put a few things right.
“We are back into action straight away against a really good club and a good team so what better way can there be to put a few things right?
“There will be one or two changes, I think we have to do that but we also have to give the players their chance to put the record straight.
“We are maybe a quarter of the way through a very long season now and we know we have to start getting results regularly now.
“But we have to use the pain of Saturday and we have to be on the front foot and ready to show what we are all about.”
Historically, the Blues have had the better of the U’s, winning eight (six in the league) of the games between the teams, drawing six (six) and losing six (six).
The teams last met at Portman Road in February when Matty Taylor’s goal a minute before the break saw Oxford United to 1-0 victory over 10-man Town.
The Blues dominated the first half but were unable to find a goal and were hit by a sucker punch just before the break.
Town huffed and puffed for the most part in the second half and had Kayden Jackson red-carded for an alleged stamp in injury time.
In January in monsoon conditions at the Kassam Stadium, the sides drew 0-0, play having been interrupted for 15 minutes in the first half.
Once the game had resumed the Blues were the better side for the most part but were unable to turn their superiority into goals with Norwood having a very good shout for a first-half penalty turned down.
Tonight’s referee is former Premier League official Bobby Madley, who has shown 34 yellow cards and no red in 10 games so far this season.
West Yorkshire-based Madley left his top flight role in August 2018 after making and texting a video which made fun of a disabled person which was then made known to his employers.
He returned to refereeing in this country earlier this year following a spell officiating in the lower leagues in Norway.
Madley’s most recent Town game was the 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in April 2016 in which he yellow-carded Chambers, Kevin Bru, Brett Pitman and one Owl.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth in April 2015 in which he again booked Chambers and one home player.
His only other Blues match was the 1-0 home victory over Blackpool in February 2013 in which he cautioned only Guirane N’Daw.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Donacien, Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Dozzell, McGavin, Gibbs, Huws, Judge, Lankester, Bennetts, Dobra, Hawkins, Jackson, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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