Roy Keane’s best laid plans for Christmas may have gone awry, but Ipswich Town can get 2011 off to the best possible start with a win at Coventry City on New Years Day.
If Town fans had ever wondered what it would be like if we had a winter break in England, this Christmas has given us a pretty good idea. What should have been 3 games in 7 days has become just one match in 2 weeks; a frozen pitch prompted a late call-off for Boxing Day’s home match against Watford whilst the grim weather up north made for an unplayable surface at Doncaster Rovers two days later.
As such, the Blues haven’t played since their extraordinary Arctic encounter against Leicester City. That result marked the end of a horror run which by virtue of the postponements now seems refreshingly long ago, but it was also meant to mark a return to winning ways ideally timed for the Christmas rush. Instead, Keane and his team will need to come back from their Christmas holidays and quickly remind themselves that they have a job to do.
That job starts away to Coventry, who are Town’s first opponents of 2011. The Ricoh Arena doesn’t hold happy memories for Keane; his last visit in August 2009 was the first meaningful match of his managerial reign, and it ended with a 2-1 defeat. The Sky Blues inflicted the same scoreline on Town at Portman Road in October; a loss which arguably sparked the downward spiral of the past two months.
Now therefore would be the ideal time for Keane to exact revenge on Aidy Boothroyd. Coventry may be in 7th but they are out of form with 3 straight losses, and inflicting a fourth could help Ipswich to turn things around in the second half of the season, especially with some huge fixtures coming up this month – not least Chelsea and Arsenal. No doubt the boss and his team will be making some big resolutions for the coming 12 months, and if they can start well against Coventry, it may turn out to be a very Happy New Year for the Blues.
Some might argue that the unscheduled break could be a bonus for the Blues, but not Roy Keane. The Town boss expressed his disappointment at his team not being able to get games under their belts after the win over Leicester, but says his team have not been sitting around.
Keane told the Ipswich Town Official website: ‘It’s not ideal, we didn’t want both games called off. One might have been okay but not two. We’ve got to look at the plusses though and it’s not as though we have not done the training work in preparation.’
‘The players have not had their feet up on holiday and while it’s been a busy time the clubs that did play, they have had enough time to recover so it’s not going to be an advantage.’
Meanwhile Simon Clegg has recently had his say on the ongoing rumours surrounding Keane’s future at Portman Road. The Town chief executive has stressed that the boss is here to stay for the time being, but an improvement is a must going into the New Year.
‘There is no axe hanging over the head of the manager,’ Clegg told the East Anglian press. ‘But it is time to kick on now as we are coming up to the half-way stage in the season.’
‘We are building in the right direction, but there is further movement to go – and it’s time to move on.’
Coventry City Team News:
Coventry boss Aidy Boothroyd will have to make do without Gary McSheffrey after the influential midfielder picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the Sky Blues’ last match against QPR. Aron Gunnarsson is also missing for the visit of Ipswich as he serves the final game of a three-match ban for being red-carded against Norwich. David Bell and Carl Baker could therefore fill in on Saturday whilst summer signing Stephen O’Halloran, who only made his debut from the bench on Tuesday, could make his first start for Coventry against the Blues.
Player to watch: Clive Platt
The Sky Blues have had their share of players from Town’s East Anglian rivals in recent years. One of those who could be out to spoil Town’s New Years party is Clive Platt. The 33-year-old striker scored 25 goals in three years at Colchester United before former U’s boss Aidy Boothroyd brought him to the Ricoh Arena in the summer. Platt has since netted three times for Coventry as well as racking up four assists, making him the top provider for the Sky Blues this season. His last goal might have been way back in October, but it did happen to come at Portman Road…
Ipswich Town Team News:
Even without any games to play, Christmas has still taken its toll on Keane’s Ipswich squad. Shane O’Connor picked up a shoulder injury in training less than 24 hours after goalkeeper Brian Murphy was ruled out for three months with a broken ankle. The Town boss is also one option lighter at the back after on-loan defender Gianni Zuiverloon returned to West Bromwich Albion four weeks early. Meanwhile Gareth McAuley is slowly regaining fitness but is still short of a comeback, while the usual suspects – namely Alan Quinn and Luciano Civelli – do not look like returning to the first team yet. Beyond the forced changes however, Keane may prefer to keep as many players as possible from the win over Leicester, with Mark Kennedy continuing at left-back and Rory Fallon likely to keep his place alongside Jason Scotland up front.
Player to watch: Rory Fallon
Many fans are still scratching their heads over why exactly he was ever brought to Portman Road, but loanee striker Rory Fallon might just have made some of them think twice after his performance against Leicester. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and he really should have scored at one point or another, but his endeavour saw him come up with two assists over the course of the first half for David Norris and Jason Scotland. That could well keep him his place in the starting lineup for the Coventry match, and this time he will no doubt have plans to open his account for the Blues. 19 goals in 3 years for his parent club Plymouth Argyle is not the most impressive record, but it does suggest that he may have a goal or two in his locker. Further assists would of course be very useful, but if he can start finding the net too, he may yet earn a permanent deal as the January transfer window kicks into action.
FLC – (5th) Ipswich 1-2 Coventry (9th)
16 October 2010
(Click here for Match Report)
Ipswich: Scotland 58
Coventry: Platt 19, Jutkiewicz (pen) 56
Ipswich: Fulop, Peters (Norris 73), McAuley, Smith, Leadbitter, Edwards, Livermore, Townsend (Priskin 73), Hyam (Wickham 46), Kennedy, Scotland
Coventry: Westwood, Keogh, Cranie, Turner, Wood, Clingan, Carsley, Gunnarsson (Baker 81), Jutkiewicz, McSheffrey (Doyle 85), Platt
Coventry is just a few miles up the road for me so I have made the trip to the Ricoh every season for the past 3 years – and this year will be no exception. None of those trips have been a particularly happy affair however, with Town not having won at Coventry since December 2006. Having also been disappointed when I travelled over to Portman Road in October, I’m becoming rather impatient to see us get the better of the Sky Blues – especially because I suffer for it every time we lose!
I’m not hugely confident of us doing it this time though – they might have lost their last three but two of those were against Cardiff and QPR, and to be fair, we still have our own recent Championship hoo-doo fresh in the memory. Encounters between these two teams have been pretty entertaining in recent seasons though (remember Portman Road a year ago?) so I’m still hopeful of a good game, even if 3 points are not forthcoming.
Prediction: As long as we don’t lose again…! Coventry 2-2 Ipswich.
Make your prediction for this match by joining the Vital Ipswich Prediction League! This week is a New Year Special with two rounds, as well as some special bonus questions.
Click here for details or here to post your entry for this round. (Entries must be posted by 12:00pm on Saturday 1 January for Round 23 and 2:30pm on Monday 3 January for Round 24.)
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