|Hull City 0 v 1 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 23rd February 2021 Kick-off 19:00
Gill: Real Opportunity to Build on Saturday's Performance
Monday, 22nd Feb 2021 13:02
Town face third-placed Hull City at the KCOM Stadium on Tuesday again looking to beat one of the division’s top sides and also aiming to end a 14-match winless run against the Tigers stretching back to May 2008.
The Blues, who go into the game 12th in the table following Saturday’s 0-0 home draw with League One form side Oxford United, a vastly improved display from their stalemate with Northampton five days earlier, have beaten only Accrington when placed in the top 10 this season, although also defeated Plymouth, presently 10th, when they were lower down the division before Christmas.
Of the teams currently in the top six, Town have taken no points from the eight games they have played against those sides in the league this season.
Last year, the Blues had a similarly poor record against the division’s better teams, beating only Fleetwood and Gillingham once each of the 10 who finished above them during the curtailed season which was eventually settled on points per game.
Town last beat the Tigers in May 2008 under Jim Magilton's management when sub Alan Lee, a future Hull City player, netted the only goal in a 1-0 win at Portman Road.
Since then the Blues have gone 14 games in all competitions without a win against Tuesday's opponents, 11 defeats and three draws.
Town are in the midst of a long run in which they play two fixtures a week which stretches until late March - their next free Tuesday is March 23rd - but first-team coach Matt Gill says there are positive aspects to games coming with such regularity, not least building on positive results.
“I’m OK. I like it, I like the games coming thick and fast,” he said. “I think I said previously that you get the opportunity to build on the weekend’s performance on the Tuesday or you get an opportunity to get over a disappointment pretty quickly.
“I think if I was a player I’d just want to get on to the next game, review the previous performance, learn from it and move on from it quickly.”
The frequency of matches means there’s not too much time on the training field between fixtures.
“We prepare, we review each game, we’ll then show the lads bits and pieces from the previous game,” Gill continued.
“You then try and combine it with the next fixture and how that can lead into the next game - what things you need to take into the next game, that you did well in the previous game and what things you need to do better.
“You’re constantly in that loop of reviewing and taking it into the next game. Obviously it’s hard, the lads can’t be on their feet loads and do loads of training. You’re getting into a bit of a maintenance cycle, but there’s still plenty of work you can do for upcoming fixtures.”
Asked whether the players are feeling the pressure with the Blues expected to be much further up the division than they currently are and with manager Lambert under fire from fans, Gill said: “I think the lads know the situation they’re in. It is high pressure, I’m not going to shy away from that, we want to win football matches and we want to be higher up the table.
“But I think it’s about seeing that pressure as a privilege and to try and thrive on it and show real courage in trying to achieve something in this latter part of the season.”
Turning to Hull, the Tigers have been on an inconsistent run, winning only one of their last five in the league. On Saturday, Doncaster claimed an equaliser deep, deep into injury time to grab a 3-3 draw at the Keepmoat Stadium.
“Obviously we’ll look at ourselves, we’ve done a bit of research on Hull, know the staff there quite well,” Gill said.
“They’ve been there or thereabouts the whole season. They know the pressure they’re under to try and get out of the league at the first attempt.
“It’s a real opportunity for us to build on Saturday’s performance, and there’s probably no better place than Hull away, I suppose.”
There are a couple of familiar faces in the Hull squad, including left-back Callum Elder, who was with the Blues on loan during the second half of the 2018/19 Championship relegation season, without ever really making his mark at Portman Road, injury having hampered him.
“Callum’s done alright, you keep an eye on it, you keep an eye on a lot of the players you’ve either worked with or played with and Callum’s certainly one of them,” Gill said.
“He was a really good character in the dressing room in his short spell here. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a groin/stomach injury while he was here. I’m not sure there’ll be too many friendly conversations on Tuesday though.”
Manager Paul Lambert may make one or two tweaks to his side but perhaps not wholesale changes as he looks for what would be only a second win in eight matches.
Tomas Holy will continue in goal, while Lambert has plenty of options in defence. He could stick with the back four which played at the weekend - from the right skipper Luke Chambers, Toto Nsiala, James Wilson and Myles Kenlock - despite Wilson in particular having been out of action for a long spell prior to the Oxford match.
However, Luke Matheson and Stephen Ward could return in the full-back roles, while Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness may hope Lambert is cautious with Wilson and/or Nsiala.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop will probably continue with Lambert likely to stick with the same system employed on Saturday with Troy Parrott behind main striker James Norwood.
Alan Judge and Keanan Bennetts impressed in the wide roles at the weekend and could keep their places, although the on-loan Borussia Mönchengladbach man may not be considered ready for two games in four days having been out since mid-December prior to the weekend. If fit, Gwion Edwards and Luke Thomas are alternatives, as is Freddie Sears.
Hull have midfield injury concerns following Saturday’s draw at Doncaster with George Honeyman requiring hospital treatment following a collision with Jason Lokilo, which led to the game being held up for 12 minutes and the former Sunderland man leaving the field on a stretcher in a neck brace.
Greg Docherty also looks set to miss the game having suffered a groin injury at the weekend, while skipper Richie Smallwood, the third member of their regular midfield, is already sidelined with a knee problem.
Forward Tom Eaves (calf) is closing in on a return but Tuesday is expected to come too soon for the one-time Gillingham man, and defenders Brandon Fleming (pelvis) and Festus Arthur (thigh) remain sidelined.
Historically, Hull have the edge on the Blues having won 19 of the games between the teams (18 in the league), while Town have been victorious eight times (eight) and a further 11 (11) matches have been draws.
In November at Portman Road, Hull left Suffolk comfortable 3-0 victors.
Mallik Wilks put the visitors ahead in the second minute, Josh Magennis made it two in first-half injury time and sub Eaves made it three with 13 minutes left with the Blues, who never looked like they would get anything from the game.
The teams last met at the KCOM Stadium in the Championship in September 2018 when Town continued their wait for their first win under Paul Hurst as goals at either end of the match saw Hull to a 2-0 victory.
Jarrod Bowen struck after three minutes, then sub Jackson Irvine sealed the three points a minute from time with the Blues dropping to bottom of the table.
Former Blues right-back Josh Emmanuel joined the Tigers last summer having left Bolton Wanderers and has been a regular in their side this season.
Emmanuel, 23, came through the academy at Town and made 24 starts and five sub appearances for the Blues before being released in the summer of 2019.
Former Blues loanee Elder, 26, was with Town between January and May 2019 and made four starts and one sub appearance.
Town’s Wembley 2000 play-off man of the match Richard Naylor is head of academy coaching at Hull.
Tuesday’s referee is Tom Nield from West Yorkshire, who has shown 74 yellow cards and two red in 21 games so far this season.
Nield’s last Town match was the 0-0 draw with Oxford at the Kassam Stadium last season when he took the players off for 15 minutes due to monsoon conditions and booked Edwards and one home player.
Prior to that his only other Blues match was the 4-0 Leasing.com Trophy victory over Gillingham at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded Emyr Huws and two Gills.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Kenlock, Chambers (c), McGuinness, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Judge, Huws, Harrop, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Thomas, Sears, Parrott, Norwood, Drinan.
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