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Ipswich Town 2 v 0 Huddersfield Town
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 4th May 2024 Kick-off 12:30
Town Host Huddersfield in Biggest Game For 22 Years
Friday, 3rd May 2024 19:47

The Blues host Huddersfield Town live on Sky Sports in their biggest match for 22 years on Saturday, knowing a point will take them back to the Premier League (KO 12.30pm).

It was in May 2002 when George Burley’s men saw their two-season stay in the Premier League ended by a defeat at Liverpool, beginning a long exile with a number of false dawns as well as more fallow periods along the way, not least the four-year spell in League One which ended a year ago.

Tuesday’s nervy 2-1 win at Coventry City saw the Blues move to within a single point of finally making the return to the Premier League after a remarkable first season back in the Championship.

Town are three points ahead of third-placed Leeds, who host Southampton, fourth, on the final day. A Whites win and Town defeat would see Daniel Farke’s side promoted on goal difference.

The Blues’ opponents Huddersfield go into the game second-bottom of the table and effectively relegated already. They’re three points behind Plymouth in 21st but with a goal difference 15 worse than the Pilgrims’.

The Terriers have the fifth-worst away form in the division, won three, drawn 10 and lost nine, picking up 19 of their 45 points on the road.

They most recently won on their travels at Watford on February 24th when the game ended 2-1, German head coach André Breitenreiter’s second match in charge having been appointed their third boss this season nine days earlier following Darren Moore’s sacking, Neil Warnock having been in the hotseat at the start of the campaign.

Since that win at Vicarage Road, the 1-0 defeat of Millwall at the start of this month is their only victory in 11 games and they are without a win in their last four, drawing two and losing two.

Town go into the match having lost only once in the league at home since October 2022, a 1-0 League One loss to Lincoln City, their only defeat at Portman Road in League One in 2022/23.

This season, they have the third-best home form in the division, having won 15, drawn six and lost one, 4-3 to Leeds in August. Overall in the league, Town have lost one home game in their last 38.

Town manager Kieran McKenna knows that despite their season being over and having ended disappointingly, the Terriers will be out to end on a high.

“For sure, every team in the Championship does and Huddersfield certainly do,” he said. “They gave us an extremely tough game away from home early in the season [which ended 1-1] and we had to fight really hard to get a point out of the game. They have done that against so many teams this season.

“The margins in the league are so tight and so tough every club will have their what-ifs. I'm sure Huddersfield will sit and think if they hadn't got the man sent off against Leeds, they probably would have gone on to win that game and they'd be in a different position.

“Last weekend, they had a couple of big chances late on against Birmingham [as the game ended 1-1]. If they scored a second goal last week in a good performance, they're coming into the game still with a chance.

“They had a 99th-minute penalty against Bristol City in their last away game that denied them three points after a very good performance [that match also ending 1-1] and that again would have put a completely different complexion on tomorrow. 

“So, the division's relentlessly competitive, the margins between winning and losing are so small and every team is competitive, so we don't expect anything different this weekend.

“We know we're going to be facing a motivated and proud group of players and football club, and they're gonna want to finish their season on a high on a big stage, and that's the team we've prepared for, and that's what we need to be ready for.”

Portman Road will once again be sold out with a crowd of around 29,000 roaring the Blues on, while Blue Action are staging a coach welcome from 11am in Sir Alf Ramsey Way as they did for last season’s Exeter fixture when a 6-0 win confirmed promotion to the Championship.

“It will be fantastic,” McKenna said when asked what he expects of the atmosphere created by the fans. “I've got no doubt about that. I know they'll be right behind us

“Of course, there will be an extra special atmosphere on top of the incredible home support we've had over the last couple of years.

“Tomorrow, we know there will be a full stadium and there will be people outside the stadium, they're all going to be 100 per cent behind us, they're all going to be trying to help push us to produce the performance that will get us what we want.

“So we'll enjoy that and we'll try to use that to give us even more energy to put into the performance.

“We know that they give us a real boost, we know that the supporters can make it really difficult for the opposition teams coming to Portman Road and we know that they'll play their part.

“That will help us and other than that it will be about us executing as well as we can when the whistle blows to do our jobs to the highest level possible for 90-plus minutes.”

While a draw would be enough, McKenna says the preparations going into the fixture has been all about winning the match, as it always has been.

“Of course, it has,” he said. “I don't know what that would look like, to be honest, in terms of our messaging going into tomorrow, given how we've approached our home games for last two and a half years, how we've approached every game really. We’re certainly going not to veer from that tomorrow.

“We know that we have to defend well, we don’t want to concede unnecessary goals and that will give us the best chance to win the game, but we have also built a really clear identity which serves us really well at home and we’re going to try and go and get that on the pitch tomorrow.”

McKenna believes the experience of last season’s game against Exeter, in which the Blues romped to a 6-0 victory to confirm promotion from League One, will stand his squad in good stead ahead of tomorrow’s match.

“I think so,” he reflected. “It’s not something we’ve spoken about in relation to Exeter but it’s a really similar scenario and so many things about our run-in have been very similar with the back-to-back away games that we’ve had Tuesday and Saturday, having that at a similar time of the season as well, the challenge, the scale, the league positions of those teams we were up against bore a lot of similarities.

“I think the experience that the group lived through last year has certainly been a benefit to us. I think the players have done a fantastic job in terms of their composure, I have to say.

“I know we haven’t won all of our games but for me that’s the challenge of the level, the difficulty of the level.

“Certainly since the Norwich game, Watford, Middlesbrough, Hull, Coventry, if you look at the level of those teams, where they were last year, the scale of the challenge, I think the performances, the bravery of our performances across those four games has been fantastic and we deservedly went unbeaten through that stretch and probably realistically could have won another couple of the games.

“I think the boys have handled themselves, the way they’ve handled the run-in has been fantastic.

“A different challenge tomorrow with it being the last league game but we’ve got some good characters in there, we’ve got some strong shared memories and some strong shared beliefs and we’ll hopefully utilise those to our benefit tomorrow.”

McKenna may tweak his side a little from the one which won at Coventry in midweek with one or two unnamed players to be assessed on Saturday morning ahead of the match due to minor knocks and niggles.

Vaclav Hladky is set to be in goal, completing an ever-present Championship season unless McKenna gives Christian Walton some time on the pitch late on in the game as he did with the Czech once the Exeter game was effectively won last May.

Leif Davis, assuming his ankle injury isn’t causing him too many issues, will be at left-back with Axel Tuanzebe on the right with Harry Clarke more likely to be on the bench if he has overcome the knee problem which kept him out against the Sky Blues.

Luke Woolfenden may well come back in at the centre of the defence for George Edmundson, although the former Rangers man had an impressive game in midweek. Cameron Burgess, scorer of the winning goal on Tuesday, will be on the left of the central pairing.

In midfield, skipper Sam Morsy is likely to be partnered by Massimo Luongo, while ahead of them Conor Chaplin will probably come into the centre of the three having remained on the bench throughout on Tuesday.

Wes Burns looks set to start on the right, the Wales international’s injury on Tuesday having been cramp rather than anything more significant. Otherwise, Omari Hutchinson will be in that role.

McKenna has options on the left with Hutchinson, Nathan Broadhead and Jeremy Sarmiento all alternatives and the Ecuadorian international may well get the nod having done well off the bench in recent matches.

George Hirst, who made his return and started at Hull a week ago before coming off the bench at Coventry, seems likely to start as the number nine ahead of Kieffer Moore, who will play a role in the second half looking to complete his second promotion from the Championship in three seasons.

Huddersfield boss Breitenreiter confirmed at yesterday’s press conference that he would make changes to his team to face the Blues with keeper Chris Maxwell returning to the XI for the first time since December among them.

Historically, Town have won 22 games between the sides (including the only cup tie), the West Yorkshiremen 14, with 10 ending in draws.

Town’s most recent win against the Terriers was a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory under Mick McCarthy in February 2016, while the Blues last beat them at Portman Road in December 2013 when Daryl Murphy headed home a late winner as the Blues came from behind to win 2-1.

At the John Smith’s Stadium in September, Town hit the top of the Championship after sub Brandon Williams netted his first goal for the Blues and only the second of his senior career three minutes from time as the game ended 1-1.

The Terriers had had the best chances, while the Blues had been denied what looked a certain penalty after Hutchinson was fouled, before Delano Burgzorg gave the home side the lead on 61, but Williams nodded in a deserved leveller in the 87th minute.

Huddersfield were most recently at Portman Road in October 2016 when the Terriers recorded their first win at Portman Road for 20 years as Christopher Schindler’s second-half header saw the visitors to a 1-0 victory.

The Blues, who were beaten at home for the first time in the league that season and failed to score for the fourth successive match, never looked like getting back into the game after the German centre-half had put the visitors in front from a 58th minute corner.

Huddersfield have two former Town strikers on their books, Jordan Rhodes and Tyreece Simpson, however, the duo have both been on loan in League One at Blackpool and Northampton respectively.

Saturday’s referee is Premier League official Simon Hooper from Wiltshire, who has shown 131 yellow cards and three red in 32 matches this season.

Hooper’s most recent Town match was the 4-0 home defeat to Aston Villa in April 2018, the Blues’ heaviest home defeat in seven years.

Town, with Bryan Klug and assistants Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg in caretaker charge, were reduced to 10 men in the 42nd minute when Grant Ward was dismissed for catching Neil Taylor with a high boot as he looked to take the ball down on the turn. Hooper showed no other cards that afternoon.

A few months earlier, in the January, he had refereed the 1-0 defeat to Wolves at Portman Road in which he booked Callum Connolly, Stephen Gleeson, Martyn Waghorn and one of the visitors.

He also refereed the 2-1 win at Burton Albion in October 2017 when he booked Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse and Bersant Celina - for his shirtless goal celebration - as well as one Brewer.

He also took charge of the previous month’s 3-1 home defeat to Bristol City in which he yellow-carded Jonas Knudsen, Joe Garner and one Robins player.

Prior to that he was the man in the middle of the 1-1 draw at home to Preston in January 2016 when he showed yellow cards to Brett Pitman and three Lilywhites.

In the preceding September he was the man in the middle during the 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United in which he booked only Jonny Parr.

Before that he refereed the Blues’ 2-0 home victory over Burnley at Portman Road in August of the same year in which he yellow-carded visitors’ winger Michael Kightly and no one else.

Hooper officiated in the 1-0 defeat at Reading in August 2014 in which he booked Tommy Smith, Tyrone Mings, Christophe Berra and two home players.

He also took control of the 1-0 win at Yeovil the previous season and the 3-0 home win against Crystal Palace in April 2013.

Squad from: Hladky, Walton, Clarke, Davis, Humphreys, Tuanzebe, Woolfenden, Burgess, Edmundson, Morsy (c), Luongo, Taylor, Travis, Ball, Chaplin, Harness, Burns, Jackson, Aluko, Hutchinson, Sarmiento, Broadhead, Moore, Hirst, Al-Hamadi.

Photo: TWTD

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HighgateBlue added 19:51 - May 3
Squeaky bum time, ladies and gents!

What a time to be alive.


MoscowBlueMule added 20:17 - May 3
Ha, forgot about Tyrese Simpson. Playing for Northampton now, his career has definitely gone on leaps and bounds! Have no sympathy at all, especially after the way he left us. The grass isn’t always greener is it Tyrese?!

Marcus added 22:00 - May 3
Are we there yet?

JewellintheTown added 00:13 - May 4
Considering the date, I hope the force is strong with us & there's not a disturbance in the force.
Huddersfield, this is not the win you're looking for.

delias_cheesy_flaps added 02:49 - May 4
The one thing we've all learnt from KM's tenure is he will be calmer than all of us fans!
I have no doubt we will do it and in style as well, lets get that early goal to settle any nerves and this could well be done and dusted by half time. COYB

shakytown added 04:02 - May 4
We better beware of the Ref he obviously hates ipswich. could cost us everything.

bobble added 04:03 - May 4
but if leeds lose ,this biggest game in 22 years has no consequence whatsoever.....a bit of overhype is coming into play here..
the last 5 games were all bigger than this game i reckon.....theres a 66% chance this game wouldnt even need to be played for us to go up...

BontyBlue added 06:47 - May 4
Did anybody else not sleep very well last night? COYB

dirtydingusmagee added 09:07 - May 4
COME ON TOWN , lets get the job finished, two early goals for us so we can all breathe again , Been a hell of a season and promotion would be absolutely blinding . We dont want to watching over our shoulders to see what Leeds are doing , lets go out on a real high.

warktheline added 10:45 - May 4
Is there anything negative that you could take from this article? We know some will! Amazing couple of seasons and it’s obvious why the manager, players and owners have received tons of accolades….will Huddersfield fancy a trip to fortress Portman Rd ? Really do believe we’ll put on a good show today!

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