Ipswich Town have been written off by some EFL pundits – but Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) believes they still have a reasonable chance of beating the drop. Here’s four reasons why.
Cole Skuse was suspended for the trip to Stoke earlier this month.
In the veteran’s absence, Paul Lambert paired Flynn Downes with Trevoh Chalobah.
In some ways, that was a risky move, because the duo have just 54 senior appearances between them.
And yet, they contributed to an improved Tractor Boys performance.
Although they lost 2-0, the same outcome as the trip to Forest the week before, they exerted pressure for longer periods and it was only in the final third for both teams in which the financial disparity was evident.
If Ipswich are to get off the bottom of the table and move towards safety, they will need to improve their pressing; Downes and Chalobah have the stamina to press their opponents with the required vigour.
Skuse, although a stalwart and always willing, tends to do what might be called a half-press; he will feign closing down and then retreat or, when he is more aggressive, he over-commits and either gives away a foul or allows opposing midfields to find ways of playing themselves in behind.
Alas, Downes missed the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United due to a knock or a virus, but is hoped to be back soon – with him and Chalobah in situ, Ipswich’s midfield looks stronger.
Sears' searing form
One of the main things Lambert has done since taking over in late October is get a tune out of Freddie Sears.
The West Ham academy graduate, often deployed on the left of a front-three, has scored five goals in eight appearances under the Scot, in comparison with none in nine prior to his arrival.
As well as his goalscoring ability, Sears injects pace into Ipswich’s attack and is always willing to take defenders on.
He could, potentially, relish the extra freedom in Lambert’s system, playing wide in a front three rather than wide in a midfield four or five under Mick McCarthy or Paul Hurst.
The noises from the club are that chairman Marcus Evans, although not especially popular with Ipswich fans, is willing to invest in January to aid the club’s bid to beat the drop.
That would be good news for Lambert, who needs to add a striker.
Kayden Jackson offers searing pace while Jordan Roberts is an honest worker, yet it is hard to avoid the feeling both would be more effective in substitute roles, rather than being relied upon to lead the line.
Jackson, Roberts and fellow front-man Ellis Harrison – who joined from Bristol Rovers in the summer – have scored just three times between them in the league and both have been guilty of wastefulness in front of goal; it is vital that Ipswich add a striker that can be relied upon to finish chances.
If they can do that, whilst perhaps addressing the full-back areas, they could begin to put together a push for survival.
When Lambert was appointed manager, cynics on the outside claimed fans would not accept him due to his history with Norwich City: that could not be further from the truth.
After away defeats at Forest and Stoke, the latter result leaving Ipswich with a mere two points from six games under Lambert, fans loudly sung his name to show their support.
The 49-yar-old has made an effort to engage with natives – meeting with supporters groups and showing plenty of enthusiasm on the sidelines – which has re-energized the place.
Of course, spirit and togetherness, alone, will not keep Ipswich up – they need quality too – but it gives them a starting point.
The Betting Angle
The common odds on Ipswich to get relegated are as short as 1/4 – perhaps, a tad premature half-way through the season.
We reckon there might be value to be found by backing the Tractor Boys to avoid defeat, which they are 29/25 to do with Marathon Bet to do at QPR on Boxing Day.
QPR v Ipswich: Double Chance – Ipswich or Draw (29/25 Marathon Bet)