Bouncebackability, injury gambles and worrying about wing play - Key talking points ahead of Ipswich Town v Rotherham United
PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 October 2019
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Ipswich Town host Rotherham United at Portman Road. STUART WATSON looks at the key talking points heading into the League One game.
Ipswich Town showed remarkable mental strength to instantly shake off what could have been a horrendous relegation hangover. Now we'll see how they respond to their first set-back of this campaign.
Sunday's televised 2-0 defeat at Accrington Stanley was a slight reality check.
The Blues were, realistically, never going to go a whole season undefeated - very few teams in history have managed that - but the nature of that loss was both disappointing and a little concerning.
There were definite shades of 2018/19. Paul Lambert's men never really looked like scoring and, in the first half particularly, always looked like conceding. It was back to round pegs in square holes. Stanley, who started the day in the bottom three, were full value for victory.
Not having key quartet James Wilson, Kane Vincent-Young, Flynn Downes and James Norwood unavailable undoubtedly played its part. Those that stepped in were unable to grab their chance.
It's a performance which sees a few seeds of doubt begin to grow. Is this squad deep in numbers rather than quality? Have Town been winning games based on moments of individual brilliance rather than cohesive team play?
Town could really do with nipping those thoughts in the bud early. Win, or at least perform, tonight and Sunday is quickly dismissed as a bad day at the office. Don't perform and those seeds of doubt grow.
WHO WILL BE FIT?
Lambert will make changes - it's just a case of how many.
James Wilson, available again after a one-game ban, will almost certainly replace Toto Nsiala following his befuddled return to action in Lancashire. The Blues have won all seven league games they've played (conceding just twice) when Wilson's started.
Then we're into the realms of the late fitness test.
Town really could do with the tenacity of Downes (hip), the dynamism of Vincent-Young (groin) and the physicality and leadership of Norwood (groin). Too big a risk to rush them back? That's a call for the medical team.
After Saturday's game at Southend, Town do have a 10-day break.
The same applies to Emyr Huws and Will Keane. Both are still tentatively working their way back to full fitness following repeated injury set-backs. Both are being wrapped in cotton wool.
Having both completed 90 minutes against Gillingham in the EFL Trophy two weeks ago, they both remained unused subs at the Wham Stadium. Judging by Lambert's post-match comments, he always had tonight's game in mind for them - whether that is from the start remains to be seen.
One player who will be unavailable is Armando Dobra, the forward now serving a three-game ban for the straight red card he received for that frustrated swing of the arm on his league debut. That's a shame because the tricky teenager had looked lively when he came on.
Accrington targeted Town's wing-back system to good effect by overloading the flanks on Sunday. The Blues failed to make their extra man in midfield count. And you'd never have guessed they had two up top.
Given Rotherham boss Paul Warne loves to have two flying wingers, with big striker Michael Smith the target for crosses, Lambert may feel a return to 4-4-2 is sensible. That decision is likely to depend on what personnel is available to him.
How Ipswich beat Rotherham 1-0 at Portman Road back in January remains a mystery following that second half onslaught. Forget about that day though, because seven of the Millers' starting XI from that day have moved on.
Following a summer upheaval - 12 arrivals and 17 departures - Warne's new-look side (more on them over the page) are still finding their feet.
They may be in mid-table, but you wouldn't bet against them being in the promotion mix come the final reckoning. They went up following a similar start in 17/18.
No doubt about it, tonight will be another major test of Town's promotion credentials.