Match preview: Boxing Day clash will show just how far Ipswich Town have come under Lambert

PUBLISHED: 06:00 26 December 2018

Janoi Donacien to the fore as QPR celebrate taking the lead at Portman Road back in October. Photo: Steve Waller

Janoi Donacien to the fore as QPR celebrate taking the lead at Portman Road back in October. Photo: Steve Waller

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town take on QPR, at Loftus Road, in a Championship clash this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.

Town manager Paul Lambert encouraging his players. Photo: Steve WallerTown manager Paul Lambert encouraging his players. Photo: Steve Waller

Paul Lambert wants his Ipswich Town team to show just how far they have come under his management at QPR today.

The Blues lost 2-0 to Steve McClaren’s men at Portman Road on October 18, that limp home display setting the wheels in motion for Paul Hurst’s early exit.

Fast forward two months and, though still bottom of the Championship table, there is far more hope surrounding Town’s chances of survival following some much-improved performances.

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Ellis Harrison (10) celebrates giving Ipswich Town the lead in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United. Photo: Steve WallerEllis Harrison (10) celebrates giving Ipswich Town the lead in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United. Photo: Steve Waller

The gap to safety has closed to four points following back-to-back home results – a hard-fought 1-1 draw against promotion-chasing Sheffield United having backed up a gritty 1-0 victory against Wigan.

“QPR came here a few weeks ago and turned us over pretty easily,” said Lambert. “Our job is to go and try and do the same over there.

“It’ll be a tough, tough game. We don’t have any divine right just because we’ve started a wee bit of a run, but we’ll have a big support and we’ll be going there trying to win.”

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Asked if he watched back that QPR defeat prior to taking the Town job, Lambert said: “I didn’t have to. I watched the Middlesbrough one (2-0 home defeat) and that was more than enough when I saw that back. As I said before, it was absolute apathy here.

“In the stadium now, people get excited. We are getting backsides off seats. The atmosphere is brilliant in this end over here (Sir Bobby Robson Stand). I’d pay myself to go and stand in there.

“But when I watched the Middlesbrough game I could understand why people weren’t turning up because there was nothing there.”

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Jack Lankester could return to the Ipswich Town team today. Photo: Steve WallerJack Lankester could return to the Ipswich Town team today. Photo: Steve Waller

He continued: “I don’t think anybody can not argue that, in the short time we’ve been here, it’s become a totally different team even though it’s the same group of lads.

“You can’t always hide behind the manager, as everybody knows. They have to look at themselves as well. It wasn’t just the manager’s fault.

“What they’ve given me in the last six weeks or so has been absolutely brilliant. I can’t ask for any more. They’ve been a credit to themselves as much as anything else.”

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QPR started the season with four straight league defeats, including a 7-1 thrashing at West Brom, but come into this game placed 10th following back-to-back wins against Middlesbrough (2-1 at home) and Nottingham Forest (1-0 away).

Reflecting on their turnaround, Lambert said: “At the start of the season, when that was happening, I was on my holidays. We’re trying to play six months catch up here.

“Slowly but surely we’re getting there. One thing for sure is we’ll be ready for this game. Steve’s got QPR going well, but we’ll come out the traps and try to do everything we can.”

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Paul Lambert issues instructions to Ellis Harrison during Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United. Photo: Steve WallerPaul Lambert issues instructions to Ellis Harrison during Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United. Photo: Steve Waller

Stat attack

5 – Straight defeats at Loftus Road for Town

7 – Blanks in 11 away league games for Town

Steve McClaren has turned things around at QPR following a poor start to the season. Photo: PASteve McClaren has turned things around at QPR following a poor start to the season. Photo: PA

2 – Big games at the bottom end of the Championship table today: Millwall v Reading and Bolton v Rotherham

Opposition lowdown

Last five finishes: 16th, 18th, 12th (all Championship), 20th (Premier League), 4th (Championship)

Manager: Steve McClaren (May ‘18): P26 W12 D4 L10

Current form: WWLLD DWLWW

Last game: W 1-0 Nottm Forest (a)

Last home attendance: 14,088

Last home game: W 2-1 Middlesbrough

Margins of defeat: 1 (x6), 2 (x1), 3+ (x3)

Margins of victory: 1 (x7), 2 (x4), 3+ (x1)

Most league starts: 23: Bidwell, Luongo, Freeman, Eze; 22: Leistner; 21: Lynch

Top-scorers: 5: Wells, Freeman, Wszolek

Last meeting

Ipswich Town 0 QPR 2

Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dean Gerken flapped a corner into his own net (13) then Tomer Hemed converted a penalty following a needless Toto Nsiala lunge (45). Town were booed off. Things had fallen flat two weeks on from the 3-2 win at Swansea and manager Paul Hurst was sacked one game later.

Stu’s prediction

QPR 1 Ipswich Town 1

QPR look solid and a set-piece threat. Town are much-improved. Draw would be decent.

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