Big match preview: Blues bid to turn tables on Boro after TV nasty
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 December 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
It was during Ipswich Town's 2-0 home loss to Middlesbrough at the start of October that Paul Lambert realised just how big the task was at Portman Road.
Paul Hurst was in the hotseat that night as the Blues gifted their opposition two early goals, effectively ending the televised contest after just 16 minutes.
Lambert was an interested spectator as he watched on from home but, fast forward 25 days, and the Scot was in charge at Portman Road following Hurst’s sacking.
“I watched the Middlesbrough game and thought ‘even fans have given up’ because didn’t even boo.” he has subsequently said of that game.
Creating a sense of unity and improving the atmosphere inside Portman Road have been key pillars of Lambert’s two-month reign to date, but the Blues remain in serious relegation trouble and now sit seven points from safety heading into the final game of 2018.
They today face a side sitting fifth in the Championship but struggling for form.
Tony Pulis’s men have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions, have scored just once in their last four home games and were booed off following defeat by Sheffield Wednesday at the Riverside on Boxing Day.
Ipswich have not won on Teesside since August 2010 and go into today’s contest as underdogs once again, but Lambert is confident his side can pull off an upset.
“It’s another game and another one where people won’t expect us to get anything,” he said.
“But we’re playing well and that’s the thing. I have no worries on that issue – about going there to give them a game.
“They are among the favourites to go up and anybody’s beatable on any given day. We’ll have to be stronger in both boxes, though.”
Ipswich supporters will head north more in hope than expectation, but Lambert remains grateful for the unwavering backing from the stands.
“You feel for the supporters because it’s a helluva jaunt up there,” he said.
“Those fans are brilliant because they travel all over and are right behind us. Even at the end (on Boxing Day) they clapped the lads off.
“We have to give them something. They’ve been brilliant since I’ve been here and we need everybody.”
Manager: Tony Pulis (Dec ‘17) W27 D17 L14
Last five finishes: 5th (Champ), 19th (Prem), 2nd, 4th, 12th (all Champ)
Current form: LWLLD LDWWD
Home form: LLDLW
Last game: L 1-0 v Sheffield Wednesday (h)
Last home attendance: 30,341
Top scorers: Assombalonga (6); Braithwaite, Hugill (3); Tavernier, Saville, Friend, Downing, Besic (2)
Most assists: Howson (4); Fry (3); Besic (2)
Ever presents: Flint, Randolph, Friend, Howson
Andy’s prediction: Not a happy hunting ground. Boro should grind this out. 2-0 Middlesbrough