|Ipswich Town 0 v 1 Sunderland|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 26th January 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Blues Continue Search For End to Top Side Hoodoo as Sunderland Visit
Tuesday, 26th Jan 2021 06:00
Town host Sunderland live on Sky this evening again trying to end their hoodoo against teams in League One’s upper reaches (KO 7.45pm).
The Blues have beaten only Accrington of the sides currently above them - Crewe were well down the table when they were defeated 1-0 at Portman Road in October - having only recorded two wins against the 10 sides who finished above them during the curtailed 2019/20 campaign.
Town dropped to ninth in the table following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Peterborough United, their fifth home defeat in six games.
Having topped the division after winning five and drawing one of their first six matches, Town have won just six of their subsequent 15.
As well as their winless form against teams towards the top of the division, the Blues will be looking to improve on a poor record in front of the Sky Sports cameras which has seen them win just once – 2-0 against Wigan in August last year – in their last 18 appearances on the satellite channel.
Already-under fire boss Paul Lambert has come under increased pressure since the defeat to Posh with Blue Action again calling for his departure via a poster on the Portman Road gates and then a local newspaper editorial similarly backing his exit.
Having been pleased with his side’s display against Peterborough, if not the result, Lambert believes the Black Cats will have a tough evening if Town put in a similar performance tonight.
“Any game I’ve played, whether I was a player or whether I was a manager, I always go and try and win,” he said. “I never sit back and wait for a team to come at us. I’ve not been brought up that way.
“I don’t want to sit there, I want the lads to go and express themselves and try and win. If we do what we did on Saturday, then Sunderland will have a hard game.”
Lambert is likely to make one or two changes to his team with the Blues having three games in eight days and with a number of players having only just returned from injury.
Tomas Holy will continue in goal not having face a single Peterborough shot on target at the weekend with skipper Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward once again set to be the full-backs.
Lambert could look at bringing Luke Woolfenden back at the centre of the defence for Toto Nsiala, who conceded the penalty that Posh striker Jonson Clarke-Harris blazed over in the first half on Saturday, next to Mark McGuinness, whose own goal decided the weekend match.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell seems likely to continue in his midfield role, with Flynn Downes or Jon Nolan alongside him.
Alan Judge could be in line to move into the more advanced midfield role with Teddy Bishop perhaps rested having played two games since returning from two months out with an ankle problem. Recent loan signing Josh Harrop is out of tonight’s match and Saturday’s visit to Crewe having tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday.
Luke Thomas seems likely to make his debut on the right of the front three with Gwion Edwards on the left, while Lambert’s central striker choice will depend on the fitness of James Norwood and Kayden Jackson.
Norwood was absent from the 18 on Saturday as he had felt some fatigue in his hamstring in the previous game at Burton, while Jackson had missed training early in the week due to thigh and hip issues. If either are fit then one of them is likely to start with Aaron Drinan dropping to the bench. Oli Hawkins is out for around six weeks as he is to undergo knee surgery.
Sunderland, seventh, a point ahead of Town, beat Shrewsbury 1-0 at home on Saturday and have lost just once in their last seven in League One, once in nine in all competitions.
The Black Cats are yet to lose on their travels in the league this season having won five and drawn five of their 10 away games.
Manager Lee Johnson took charge in December and has a record of played 10, win five, drawn three and lost two.
Sunderland are expected to have USA international midfielder Lynden Gooch available again after 10 days away from the club having tested positive for Covid-19.
Striker Danny Graham was back in the squad for the Shrewsbury game at the weekend after a knee problem, but defender Tom Flanagan is getting closer to a return from a broken foot.
Boss Johnson hints that he could shuffle his squad with games coming thick and fast and his team having looked a little tired in the latter stages on Saturday.
“Lynden Gooch comes into contention for that game, although he only comes out of isolation on Tuesday. He might be able to be on the bench if we needed him to.
"We're getting a set of players who are fit. It's a tough league and a tough team. You saw against Shrewsbury that as the pitch cut up, everyone was leggy.
“Sometimes the entertainment factor falls away a bit but at the same time, everyone will have had that nice feeling of three points on a Saturday night."
Historically, the sides are closely matched with Town having won 23 of the games between the teams (23 in the league) and Sunderland 22 (20) with eight (eight) having ended in draws.
The teams met most recently at the Stadium of Light in November when Dozzell was controversially red-carded as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by the Wearsiders with former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter winning the game with a late penalty.
The Black Cats took the lead on eight via Charlie Wyke but Jack Lankester levelled for Town seven minutes before the break and the Blues were on top on the second half until Dozzell was harshly dismissed for a 72nd-minute challenge on Leadbitter, who netted the winner from the spot 12 minutes later after McGuinness had handled.
The teams last met at Portman Road in August 2019 when they drew 1-1 in an entertaining game.
Loanee left-back Luke Garbutt netted his second goal in two games for the Blues on the quarter-half mark but Lynden Gooch levelled for Sunderland in the second half.
Garbutt shot low under Wearsiders’ keeper Jon McLaughlin in the 15th minute as the Blues dominated the first half but Gooch profited from Town captain Chambers’s error on 64 to claim an undeserved equaliser for the visitors.
Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter rejoined his boyhood club from Middlesbrough in January 2019.
Leadbitter, now 35, signed for Town from the Black Cats in September 2009 for £2.65 million and went on to make 120 starts and six sub appearances before leaving for Boro on a Bosman in the summer of 2012.
Keeper Remi Matthews spent time training with the Blues last summer and was understood to have been offered a contract but ultimately joined the Black Cats.
Striker Danny Graham was also believed to have spoken to Town in the summer following his release by Blackburn but was always expected to sign with a club in the North.
Blues keeper-coach Jimmy Walker was at Sunderland before joining the Town staff in November 2018.
Tonight’s referee is Charles Breakspear from Surrey, who has shown 77 yellow cards and four red cards in 20 games so far this season.
Breakspear’s last Town match was the 2-0 Papa John’s Trophy victory over Gillingham at Portman Road in October in which he yellow-carded Armando Dobra, Liam Gibbs and three visitors.
Prior to that he was in charge of the Blues’ 4-1 home victory over Burton in February last year in which he booked Nolan and Luke Garbutt.
His previous Blues match also ended in a 4-1 victory to Town, over Accrington Stanley a month earlier in which he booked Chambers and one of the visitors.
Before that he was the fourth official on the end of Cardiff defender Sol Bamba’s outburst which led to his red card when the Bluebirds visited Portman Road in December 2016.
Breakspear refereed the 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Stevenage at Portman Road in August 2016 in which he booked Tommy Smith and two visiting players.
He was also in charge of the 1-0 defeat at QPR in February of the same year in which he yellow-carded Kevin Bru and two home players.
Before that, he officiated in the 0-0 home draw with Wigan in January 2015 in which he booked Smith and three Latics.
He also took control of the 1-0 home victory over Bolton in February 2014, the winning goal a 55th-minute David McGoldrick penalty awarded after the striker had been hauled back by Trotters’ keeper Andy Lonergan, who had dropped a high ball.
Breakspear also refereed Town’s 3-0 pre-season friendly victory at Colchester in July 2013 in which he also awarded the Blues a spotkick, which Daryl Murphy scored after he was fouled by U’s keeper Sam Walker.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Dozzell, Downes, Nolan, Judge, Bishop, Huws, Lankester, Thomas, Bennetts, Sears, Edwards, Norwood, Jackson, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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