Date: 25th September 2011 at 9:57pm
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No games of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ necessary as fans choose Keith Andrews and Jimmy Bullard as Ipswich Town’s top central midfield pairing

With Ipswich Town manager Paul Jewell continuing his search for a ‘winning formula’ for his new team, Vital Ipswich brings you part two in our series of polls to find out who the fans think should be in our starting lineup.

Following last week’s poll concerning the centre-back position, this week we decided to focus on another contentious area of the Town lineup – the centre of midfield. Having lost Gareth McAuley from the backline, the midfield was dealt a blow as well this summer when captain David Norris left for Portsmouth after considerable wrangling over a new contract.

Despite that loss however, there is no doubt that Ipswich do have a number of decent options available to fill the gap. Boss Jewell sought to sign quality and experience for this position over the summer, bringing in Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Bullard and Keith Andrews to offer much-needed competition for the likes of Grant Leadbitter and Colin Healy. However, which central combination would work best when playing a four man midfield?

We offered you a list of 10 possible centre-midfield pairings from the Ipswich squad, and here’s how you voted:

12% – Andrews and Bowyer
61% – Andrews and Bullard
2% – Andrews and Healy
2% – Andrews and Leadbitter
8% – Bowyer and Bullard
8% – Bowyer and Healy
0% – Bowyer and Leadbitter
0% – Bullard and Healy
2% – Bullard and Leadbitter
0% – Leadbitter and Healy
5% – Other

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Much like the centre-back poll, there is one clear winner here. Andrews and Bullard topped the poll with over 60% of the vote, no doubt influenced by the quality that both players have shown in their time at Town. Bullard was a big hit with the Blues last season and received a hero’s welcome upon his return, whilst Andrews has surprised many by offering a major goal-threat, currently sitting top of the scoring charts at Portman Road with 4 goals to his name already. Combined with their ability from set-pieces – and indeed their amusing bouts of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to determine who takes them! – the pair certainly look like they will get on well together as a regular partnership.

Andrews was clearly a popular figure with many of you, the Blackburn Rovers loanee receiving a further 12% in the second-choice partnership with veteran Bowyer, who perhaps would have received more support but for his rather sluggish start to the campaign as he continues his battle for full fitness. The ex-Birmingham City midfielder featured in both of the joint-third partnerships on 8%, lining up alongside either Bullard or the less-talked-about Healy.

Beyond those pairings, there was little favour for alternative options. Whilst 5% pitched for other combinations – perhaps featuring the likes of Mark Kennedy or even youngster Luke Hyam – there was very limited support for current skipper Grant Leadbitter. None of the combinations featuring the ex-Sunderland man claimed more than 2% of the vote (either with Andrews or Bullard), whilst partnerships between him and either Bowyer or Healy ranked rock-bottom with a Bullard-Healy pairing on zero percent. Even though a new contract looks to be in the pipeline, it seems the fans will take a great deal of convincing that Leadbitter is deserving of one after a very underwhelming start to this campaign.

This week’s poll: ‘When playing 4-4-2, which forward pairing do you think Ipswich should use?’ (See right-hand column to view the list and place your vote)

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What do you think is Town’s best centre-midfield pairing? Do you think the new signings are the best options, or should longer-serving players like Leadbitter, Healy or Kennedy be given further chances? Share your thoughts using the comment box below.

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