After taking one point on day one of 2011, Town will look to make it three on the third as Nottingham Forest come to Portman Road on Monday.
Things might have calmed down a little bit at Town since those half-dozen defeats before Christmas, but Roy Keane and his team certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. 4 points from 2 matches is a welcome improvement, but after slipping to 19th place as a result of letting their lead slip at Coventry, the Blues will now hope that there is still some magic in the air at Portman Road following December’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ against Leicester.
They come up against a Nottingham Forest side that still has designs on following up their third-placed finish last season. Since Town were last in the playoff places back at the start of November, Forest meanwhile have lost just one of their last eight. They now sit just two points off the playoffs, and yet they have played fewer matches (22) than almost everyone else in the division. That position owes much to their home form; two goals in the last 25 minutes against Barnsley on New Years Day preserved their astonishing 31 match unbeaten run at the City Ground.
Therein lies some hope for the Blues though. Despite Ipswich having lost 5 matches at home this season – one of the worst records in the division – Forest are not exactly the most likely contenders to take 3 points from Portman Road having won just two away matches all season; the same as bottom-placed Preston. It is that weakness that Town will need to capitalise on at home, and a lot could be riding on it – hit form now and not only could they be on the brink of returning to the top half, but with glamorous cup ties against Chelsea and Arsenal to follow, there could well be plenty to look forward to this year.
Ipswich boss Roy Keane clearly expects a tough match when Forest come to Town on Monday. The retired midfielder began his career in English football with the East Midlands side during their heyday under Brian Clough, and Keane predicts that they could soon make their return to the big time.
Keane told the Town Official Website: ‘I see Forest as one of the contenders for promotion again this season. I’d be very surprised if they are not up there again.’
The Town manager revealed that he is planning on making several adjustments to his lineup for Monday’s meeting, not least allowing Gareth McAuley to rest after his surprise inclusion against Coventry: ‘We will change things around, we have to. Gareth is an important player for us and we took a gamble and threw him in against Coventry and he did well. He seemed to come through the game okay but often a reaction comes later so we will have to see how he is but two games in three days is probably too much for him.’
‘We will freshen things up but whoever plays we will be ready.’
Ipswich Town Team News:
As hinted in his pre-match comments, Roy Keane is likely to make several changes for the visit of Nottingham Forest. Gareth McAuley is set to be rested with Damien Delaney likely to replace him, while Mark Kennedy could also return to the defence having been left out at Coventry. Shane O’Connor and Brian Murphy remain absent after their recent injuries while there is still little indication that either Alan Quinn or Luciano Civelli are anywhere near coming back into the first team. Meanwhile Connor Wickham could be set for a surprise return to the starting lineup despite a promising partnership developing between Jason Scotland and Rory Fallon.
Player to watch: Connor Wickham
The shop window is open but there is little as yet to suggest that Connor Wickham will be among the January sales at Ipswich Town. Despite that, the 17-year-old striker still has plenty of suitors, and one needn’t look far to see why – 6 goals in all competitions last season was followed by a recent call-up to Stuart Pearce’s England U21 squad, and a potential future with the senior team has been commonly mooted. He is still some way short of meeting that potential however – Saturday’s showing from the bench at Coventry was less than inspiring and the lanky teenager has yet to register a league goal this season. There are suggestions though that he may be lined up for a return to the starting XI against Nottingham Forest, and if he does, that elusive first goal is surely only a matter of time. (And how typical that would be now that January has arrived…!)
Nottingham Forest Team News:
Like Keane, Billy Davies is also set to make changes following his team’s draw against Barnsley. Aaron Ramsey may come into the starting lineup for the final game of his loan spell from Arsenal while Paul McKenna could return from a virus, but Ryan Bertrand will miss out with a hamstring problem. David McGoldrick – who scored against Town in October’s meeting at the City Ground – is not expected to travel to Portman Road having struggled with a knee injury in recent weeks, while long-term absentee Dexter Blackstock is not likely to return for a year after damaging his cruciate ligaments in November.
Player to watch: Robert Earnshaw
East Anglia’s favourite extra-terrestrial needs no introduction to Ipswich Town fans. Former Norwich striker Robbie Earnshaw has had a frustrating time with injuries at Nottingham Forest but remains one of their biggest goal threats, having netted 29 league goals since arriving at the City Ground in 2008. Having been top goalscorer for Billy Davies’ side in the past two seasons, he has been somewhat outshone by Lewis McGugan this season with only 3 goals to his name so far, but two of those came in Forest’s 5-2 thrashing of his former club Derby County less than a week ago. Not only that, but Earnshaw has netted in two of the last three meetings between these two teams, including the equaliser in Forest’s last visit to Portman Road. Earnshaw is still an unpopular figure amongst Town fans, but if the feeling is mutual, he would surely love to score on Monday.
FLC – (13th) Nottingham Forest 2-0 Ipswich (8th)
23 October 2010
(Click here for Match Report)
Nottingham Forest: McGoldrick 13, McGugan 45
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Chambers, Morgan, Wilson, Gunter, Anderson, McGugan (Adebola 83), Cohen, McKenna, Majewski (Tyson 67), McGoldrick (Moussi 73)
Ipswich: Fulop, Peters (Livermore 56), McAuley, Delaney, Smith, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Townsend (Murray 62), Colback, Scotland (Wickham 46)
I’m perhaps more confident about this game than I should be – even though Forest look far more likely to be in the promotion mix than us come the end of the season, their away record really is nothing to shout about. Our home form has been questionable this season, but I still think we can get at least a point out of this one.
Prediction: I’m gonna stay conservative here and go for another draw. Ipswich 1-1 Nottingham Forest.
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