Ipswich v West Brom | Friday 23rd November 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Judging by the league table, there should be only one clear winner from Friday night’s clash at Portman Road. However, we all know the Championship is never as routine as that.
Ipswich may sit bottom of the standings but new boss Paul Lambert has at least overseen two draws from his two games at the helm. As for the Baggies, they bounced back to form in tremendous style when despatching Leeds 4-1 last time out, after going four without a victory prior to that.
Quite rightly, West Brom are deemed favourites to emerge from this televised encounter with all three points. But, at best we can only get odds-on quotes the Baggies them to deliver the goods, something which I am personally never too keen to jump on for any team playing away in the Championship (or the EFL, to be precise).
After all, Albion have only won twice on the road all season, the last time coming way back in late September when edging Preston 3-2. WBA have lost their last two away from The Hawthorns, losing 1-0 to Hull and Wigan.
Darren Moore however shook up his side for the visit of Leeds and it appeared to have the desired effect. The 3-4-1-2 formation was scratched, although they were partly forced into doing so. Nevertheless, switching to more of a 4-3-3 shape gave them a greater presence in attack, with the recalled Hal Robson-Kanu especially impressing.
That display means top scorer Dwight Gayle, now fit again, may again have to settle for a spot among the substitutes. Kyle Bartley and Chris Brunt remain injury concerns, whilst Harvey Barnes should be OK despite sitting out international duty.
Ipswich must arrest issues in both boxes
Ipswich had been in freefall prior to former Norwich boss Lambert entering the doors. First things first, he has looked to make the Tractor Boys harder to beat. In the two games he has taken charge of, he has named the same starting XI on each occasion – clearly he feels consistency is the way forward in the short-term, certainly until January when he’ll look to add a few new faces.
Jon Nolan could be available again, but Flynn Downes probably deserves to retain his central midfielder role for now. Jordan Roberts is primed to continue as the striker, having struggled for game time under previous manager Paul Hurst.
This will be the first home match of the Lambert era, so naturally there might be a bit more of a buzz around the ground for a side sitting bottom. The TV cameras are in town as the possibility of a shock is of course a possibility, but Town will certainly need to do one thing to stand any chance.
Quite simply, they’re conceding far too many goals. They’ve only kept 6% clean sheets in their league games so far, which is why they’re at the bottom. Only Reading, Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston have conceded more goals than they have.
On the flip side, West Brom remain the highest scorers in the division, and quite comfortably as well. They’re 37 goals tally is next challenged by the 29 from Leeds. Meanwhile, Ipswich have netted only 14, something which is only worsened by Bolton.
Home isn’t where the heart is
Portman Road has not been a good venue for Ipswich for quite some time now. The atmosphere towards the end of the Mick McCarthy era became quite toxic, and the one-time Republic of Ireland boss decided to call an end to his long-term stay towards the end of last season.
Going into this season, things have not improved. Ipswich have the worst home record in the Championship. Still, they’ve only earned three points fewer at home than West Brom have claimed overall away.
The betting angle
There is a telling statistic here which offers a good chance for a 4/1 shot (Marathon) to pay-out on Friday. This is specifically in the Half Time/Full Time market, of which we’re backing Draw/West Brom.
The reason being is that West Brom have been a team that seem to come alive once the second-half gets going. Quite incredibly, 76% of the goals Albion have scored have come after the interval. When focusing just on their away contests, it raises to 82%.
Whilst Ipswich are bottom and have been used to losing games, they haven’t necessarily been well-beaten in terms of scorelines that often. Town went down 3-0 at Millwall a few weeks ago (their first match after Hurst was sacked), which was their biggest setback of the season. On five other occasions they’ve lost 2-0.
Ipswich seem to be in games but they’re clearly lacking quality compared to most at this level. Lambert is setting about trying to bridge that gap. He wants them to build from the back a little more and this was evident in the Reading game. However, they’ll face a West Brom side that press from the front to good effect, as Leeds found out to devastating effect.
Rather than going for the simple West Brom win here at odds-on, we’ll go for some additional value on the Half-Time/Full-Time market. Ipswich could elect to be relatively defensive in the first half to try and stay in the game. Conceding first will make it twice as hard for them to gain a positive result. Once West Brom get their noses in front, they’re tough to peg back.
Also, five times in the league this season has the Draw/West Brom market paid out as a winner. Along with Norwich, no other side has been drawing more at half-time and then gone on to win at this level so far. In 10/17 of Ipswich’s games have they at least been level at the interval.
Ipswich v West – Draw/West Brom (4/1 Marathon)