Town's New Era Gets Under Way as MK Dons Visit
Friday, 9th Apr 2021 14:17
Town’s new era gets under way on the field on Saturday afternoon when the Blues host the MK Dons at Portman Road. New chairman Mike O'Leary will watch his first game in his new role.
Paul Cook’s team go into the game on a three-match unbeaten run, albeit having claimed one win and two draws from meetings with the bottom three. Town are eighth, three points off the play-offs with eight fixtures remaining having played once more than Lincoln in sixth.
Saturday's match will be Cook’s fourth at home since he took charge at the start of last month and he is unbeaten at Portman Road with the Blues having won two and drawn one of the previous three, most recently the 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers on Good Friday.
Cook cancelled this morning’s pre-match conference last night so he and his players could concentrate on Saturday’s match following the week’s tumultuous events at Portman Road. The Blues boss will speak to the media about the takeover after the match.
After the underwhelming 0-0 draw at bottom club Rochdale on Monday in what proved to be Marcus Evans’s last match in charge of the club, a game in which neither side managed a shot on target, it would be little surprise if Cook made changes to his XI.
The Town boss also has players coming back from injury who could potentially be involved. Following the Dale match Cook said that James Norwood’s thigh injury wasn’t too bad but didn’t give a return date.
The Blues manager also revealed that Kane Vincent-Young was due back on the Playford Road turf this week following his hamstring injury, while Flynn Downes is also closing in on a return, also from a hamstring problem. It seems more likely that the duo would be on the bench rather than in the XI.
Tomas Holy will probably continue in goal with Cook again having a decision to make with his system.
At Rochdale, the Blues started in 3-5-2 before moving to a formation which was a variation on his preferred 4-2-3-1, but more 4-2-2-1-1.
Cook may well opt to start with a four-man backline with Luke Woolfenden at right-back - unless Vincent-Young is deemed ready to start - with Stephen Ward or Myles Kenlock at left-back and skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala the centre-halves.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop could continue, although Cole Skuse is another option and Downes may play some part.
Alan Judge and Gwion Edwards were the widemen at Rochdale but Armando Dobra is an alternative, while Keanan Bennetts is also available having played the full 90 minutes for the U23s on Tuesday following a knock.
Up front, Norwood will start if fit with Troy Parrott probably playing behind him. Otherwise, Kayden Jackson or Oli Hawkins wil be the main striker.
MK lost 2-0 at home to Crewe on Monday having won their previous four. Prior to that they had gone five without a win, four defeats and one draw.
They sit 12th in the division, four points behind the Blues having played a game more, with a league away record of won seven, drawn two and lost 10. Last time on the road they won 2-1 at Burton.
Dons boss Russell Martin says he’d have expected some stick from Town fans had they been present having spent much of his career at Norwich City.
“It’s Norwich’s biggest rival so I’m sure I would’ve got stick going there.” he told MK Citizen.
“It’s a really good challenge for our players. They are a fantastic team and a big scalp in this division. It’ll be a tough game for us but I’m really looking forward to it. We need to go there and enjoy it.
“They are a team in transition with the change in manager and he’s probably not had as much time on the training ground as he’s wanted. I think we can go there and do what we do, be us, and look to win the game.”
Reflecting on the 1-1 draw at Stadium MK in October: “That was at a time Ipswich were in top form at the top of the division. It was one of our most dominant displays and one of many frustrating games early in the season. I think we’ve replicated them performances with the results this year.”
On-loan Norwich midfielder Louis Thompson and ex-Canary striker Cameron Jerome picked up knocks in Monday’s 2-1 home defeat to Crewe Alexandra and are doubts, while midfielder Ben Gladwin and forwards Kieran Agard and Jay Bird remain sidelined.
The Blues and the Dons have only ever met on five occasions, four times in the league - three Town wins and the draw earlier in the campaign - and once in the Carling Cup in 2007 when the game ended 3-3 before the Buckinghamshire side won a penalty shoot-out 5-3.
Town dropped points and conceded in League One for the first time this season as they drew 1-1 away against the MK Dons in October having ended the game with 10 men after sub Downes was forced off with an injury.
Jon Nolan gave Town the lead in the seventh minute, Daniel Harvie scored a deserved leveller for the home side five minutes after the break and the Blues, who dropped to third, held on for a point.
Last season's Portman Road fixture was among those due to be played after 2019/20 was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The only time the teams have met on Suffolk soil was in April 2016 when Town ended their home campaign with a 3-2 victory over the Dons.
David McGoldrick put the Blues in front on 16 but conceded a penalty just before the break from which Alex Revell equalised.
Brett Pitman put Town back in front on 68, Revell equalised again six minutes later before Luke Varney won it in the final minute.
In line with all other EFL games this weekend, there will be a two-minute silence ahead of the game to pay tribute to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died earlier today aged 99.
Saturday’s referee is Tom Nield from West Yorkshire, who has shown 102 yellow cards and two red in 28 games so far this season.
Nield’s last Town match was the Blues’ 1-0 win at Hull City in February in which he booked Nsiala, Kenlock, Bennetts and two Tigers.
Before that he took control of 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, Vincent-Young, Chambers (c), Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Judge, Harrop, Bishop, Downes, Edwards, Lankester, Bennetts, Sears, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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