|Ipswich Town 0 v 2 Portsmouth|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 12th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Blues Host Pompey Aiming to End Top Side Hoodoo as Fans Return
Friday, 11th Dec 2020 13:25
Town host Portsmouth in a third-v-fourth clash on Saturday again looking to beat another of League One's higher flyers for the first time this season but on this occasion with the backing of 2,000 fans.
Season ticket holders who have been successful in a ballot will cheering their side on as they look for a change of fortune against teams in the top half of the division.
Of the sides in the top 10, the Blues have so far defeated only Accrington Stanley, currently seventh, 2-0 at Portman Road in October, and were beaten by leaders Hull City, 3-0, and sixth-placed Charlton, 2-0, in their previous two home matches.
They have also been beaten away by second-placed Lincoln, 1-0, Doncaster, who are eighth, 4-1, and 10th-placed Sunderland, 2-1.
Last season Town similarly struggled against teams in the top half of the table, beating only Fleetwood and Gillingham, both 1-0 away, of the 10 sides who finished above them in the points-per-game settled table.
Asked whether it would be good for the Blues to get that particular monkey off their collective back, he said: “It would be and it would be even better if we had a massive strong squad that gives us that chance.
“But that’s where we are at the minute and, as I’ve said before, we’re competing really well, not playing great every week.
“Last Saturday I didn’t realise we had 67 per cent of the ball away from home, which is a really good stat.
“So we’re forcing the issue with teams, we’re trying to play good football, and we’re trying to win games.
“I’ve been really happy, I’ve been happy with Armando Dobra coming in, Jack Lankester, Keanan Bennetts has contributed – all young kids – Brett McGavin, really good and really pleased.
Lambert knows what to expect from Pompey with the teams having met at Portman Road in the FA Cup only just over a month ago with the visitors running out 3-2 extra-time victors in controversial circumstances.
The Blues boss says it’s no shock to see Kenny Jackett’s side towards the top of the division having finished fourth last season.
“I think they’ll be around about it again,” he said. “Last year in the play-offs, a strong physical side, a good side.
“Kenny’s done a good job wherever he’s really been and this will be another tough game, and we have to try our best with the guys we’ve got.
“But as long as we keep competing the way we are at the minute in what we’re doing, then we’ll definitely be competitive, that’s for sure. The last game, the cup game, was a really good game.”
Quizzed on whether last week's 2-1 comeback success at Plymouth, which ended a three-game winless run, has added to his squad's self-belief, Lambert said: “Do you know what, the confidence has never really been away in training and everything.
“Everybody knows the injury situation we’ve got, that isn’t going to change. Everybody knows we’ve got big influential players, experienced players, really good players the ones that are coming in, and that’s why I said thank God the younger ones have come in and helped.
“As I said before, if I never was brave enough to throw them in, then there wouldn’t be that chance.
“And that’s the great thing about it, the kids have been given a chance in the first team, and they know how we want to play, they know the work-rate we demand from them.
“So everything being positive has never really been an issue. The league position is good. Ideally, you’d want to be first, but due to the circumstances of what’s happened, there’s never been a problem.”
Lambert probably won’t stray too far from the side which won at Home Park last weekend, particularly with his options limited by injuries.
David Cornell is again likely to be in goal with skipper Luke Chambers at right-back and Stephen Ward on the left. At the centre of the defence, Luke Woolfenden will probably continue to be partnered by Mark McGuinness.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell seems certain to return for Brett McGavin, who is likely to drop to the bench, with Jon Nolan and Alan Judge ahead of him.
Up front, Kayden Jackson will again probably play down the middle having scored his first goal of the season against the Pilgrims with Jack Lankester on the right and Armando Dobra on the left.
Striker Oli Hawkins will be hoping for some involvement against his old side and may well be used from the bench in the second half if Lambert opts to move to 4-4-1-1 as he did prior to the turnaround at Plymouth last week.
Portsmouth, who beat fellow challengers Peterborough 2-0 at home last Saturday then won 3-0 away at Cheltenham in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday, host Fleetwood on Tuesday and then travel to Hull City next Saturday.
Reflecting on that run of tough fixtures manager Kenny Jackett told Hampshire Live: “It looks pivotal when you look at the standard of the opposition. They should be three really good games inside eight days.
“One, we'll look forward to it and two, we shouldn't be worried about anybody in terms of standard of opposition.
“Then overall you want to keep the pace with the sides in and around the top. That means winning on a consistent basis and you can't go too long without putting some wins together.
“When you're looking at the standard of the opposition in the short term and the nine points on offer, it's an exciting time and a big challenge. We're looking forward to it.”
Reflecting on whether last month’s FA Cup tie between the sides will have any impact on Saturday’s fixture, he added: “It was a very tight game and it went to extra time. Both sides, I thought, were good quality teams and both teams went for it on the day as well.
“So I think this will be a very good game and quite a tight one so we'll have to be at our very best to win it.”
Asked about the pressure his Town counterpart Lambert has come under from fans, he added: “It's not something I have necessarily studied and would have to look at and come back to you.
“Paul is somebody I know very well and he has been in management for a long time. In terms of the overall situation, I've looked at their games and their team selection but not the bigger picture quite so much.
“I always feel the top eight of League One is very good competition. They are either big clubs or clubs that are being funded very highly.
“To compete in and around that, you need to be in a good team and a good side. Both are in that bracket at the moment and trying to get into the Championship.
“Both sides are well-positioned in the league and will be looking to push on. We know we're going to be at our best to get the result we want.”
Pompey have a fully fit squad with winger Michael Jacobs available again after recovering from a knee injury he sustained in October.
Historically, the Blues have won 19 games between the two clubs (18 in the league, one in the League Cup), 12 have been draws (11 in the league) and Pompey have won 14 (10 in the league).
Pompey have an impressive away record in League One this season having won four, drawn two and lost once on their travels so far this season.
Town have won only one of their last six home games against Portsmouth, a 1-0 victory under Paul Jewell’s management in October 2011.
The teams last met in the FA Cup first round last month when Sean Raggett scored a controversial 111th minute winner for Portsmouth in a 3-2 after-extra-time victory over the Blues at Portman Road.
Pompey scored two goals in two minutes via Ronan Curtis and Tom Naylor in the 11th and 13th minutes before Nolan pulled a goal back for the Blues two minutes before half-time,
Then, after Town had been denied a clear penalty for a foul on Hawkins, sub James Norwood made it 2-2 on 66 before Raggett won it for the visitors in the second half of extra-time when he stabbed home from close range following a free-kick but having very evidently strayed offside.
Last season, Portsmouth beat the Blues 1-0 at Fratton Park with the Portman Road fixture not taking place due to the campaign being curtailed.
Curtis’s second-half goal was enough to see Pompey to their victory over 10-man Town.
The Irish international found the net from 20 yards five minutes after the break and the Blues were unable to find an equaliser before captain Chambers was red-carded for a second bookable offence with two minutes remaining.
Portsmouth striker Ellis Harrison left the Blues for Fratton Park in June 2019 after a year at Town, in which the former Bristol Rovers man scored once in nine starts and seven sub appearances, for a fee of £450,000.
Hawkins joined the Blues on a free transfer last summer having left Pompey after three years after scoring 18 goals in 71 starts and 25 sub appearances.
Saturday’s referee is Thomas Bramall from Sheffield, who has shown 29 yellow cards and two red in 14 games this season.
Bramall’s only previous Town match was the 2-0 opening day of the League One season victory over Wigan at Portman Road in which he booked Chambers and one Latic.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Chambers (c), Donacien, Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Dozzell, McGavin, Nolan, Judge, Lankester, Bennetts, Dobra, Hawkins, Jackson, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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