Character test, incoming changes and the possibility of a debut as Town take on Gillingham
PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:37 27 October 2020
Ipswich Town are in action against Gillingham at Portman Road tonight. Andy Warren previews the game as the Blues look to bounce back from two defeats.
The bump in the road became that little big bigger at the weekend.
We wanted to see a reaction at Lincoln, following the 4-1 beating at Doncaster on Tuesday night, but didn’t get one.
Though Town had some decent spells of possession they also lacked a consistent goal threat, with much of the play coming in their own half as Lincoln sat deep in their own territory, giving Ipswich little room to work in.
Ultimately, Paul Lambert’s side didn’t have enough about them to break the Imps down.
All that has served to see Town drop from top to fourth, bringing back bad memories of last season’s slide which ultimately ended in 11th.
Tonight’s visit of Gillingham and Saturday’s home clash with Crewe are a chance to get things back on track.
Six points has to be a very real target ahead of a tough game at Sunderland a week today.
On the defensive
‘Let me down once, you get the benefit of the doubt. Do it again and you’re out’ - that was effectively Lambert’s message to his side going into the weekend.
So, for that reason, there will surely be changes for the visit of Steve Evans’ men.
The most obvious is in the centre of defence, where Toto Nsiala has conceded penalties in successive games having allowed the high standards with which he had started the season being allowed to slip.
He’s almost certain to drop out, with Luke Woolfenden the likely benefactor having waited patiently on the bench since returning from injury himself.
Mark McGuinness has also had to be patient after waiting for his debut since his loan move from Arsenal but, while not to be completely discounted, a double change at the heart of the defence would be extremely harsh on James Wilson, who has done little wrong following his own strong start to the season.
If McGuinness does start it will represent the first league game of the teenager’s career, with the EFL Trophy as part of a young Arsenal side the only ‘senior’ experience on his CV.
Lambert has previously vowed to stick with his players as long as they are performing well, with Tomas Holy likely to keep his place in goal having turned in a decent performance in response to his error at the Keepmoat Stadium.
It’s not only the centre of defence where changes are likely.
Jon Nolan’s three-match ban means the midfield trio of Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell will start, assuming there’s no formation change, though Alan Judge could come into the equation for an attacking role should he be over a hamstring problem.
Keanan Bennetts must surely be getting close to a first start following some decent showings from the bench, while Freddie Sears will also be hopeful of coming back into the side.
On the way back
Town are light on strikers at the moment but, thankfully, are close to having a good one back in their ranks.
Kayden Jackson has missed the last three games while isolating with coronavirus, but his quarantine period (10 days from start of symptoms with a positive test) ended on Sunday and he’s feeling much better by all accounts.
He certainly won’t be ready to start this one and, given he’s been ill and has missed more than a week of training, any kind of involvement in this game is unlikely. But the game with Crewe at the weekend has to be a possibility.
We’ve seen very little of him this season due to injury and then his positive test, making it easy to forget he netted 11 goals for Ipswich last season to top the scoring charts alongside James Norwood.
He’ll be a real asset when he returns.
In the stands
Nolan wasn’t the only Town man to see red at the weekend, with Lambert himself sent off after the final whistle for his protestations towards referee Kevin Johnson.
The club are still waiting for official word on whether the Town boss will be banned from the touchline for this game, but they are expecting that to be the case.
But how much of an impact will that actually have?
In normal times, being banished to the directors box would mean Lambert being unable to communicate with his players or staff.
But with no fans in the stadium, the bench will be able to hear him loud and clear from his perch just a few metres away from the touchline, as will his players.
We all know about the fractious relationship between Lambert and Steve Evans, dating back to last season.
But there’s another face in this Gillingham side who is well know to the Town boss.
Jordan Graham was on the books of both Aston Villa and Wolves during Lambert’s time at the Midlands clubs and was also on loan at Portman Road when the Scot took over two years ago.
He wasn’t around for long, though, with Lambert effectively ending that loan within hours of his arrival due to the fact the winger had been disciplined for off-the-field problems at both Wolves and Villa.
He’s a Gillingham player now, scoring five goals already this season.
Another familiar face is Dominic Samuel, a striker who played a handful of games on loan from Blackburn in 2017.