Big Match Preview – Bristol Rovers (H)
As it stands: Ipswich 18-10-6-2 (2nd, 36pts, GD 15) | Bristol Rovers 18-9-4-5 (5th, 31pts GD 3) Current form: Ipswich LDWDD | Bristol Rovers WWDDW
Last time out: Ipswich 1 v 2 Coventry | Bristol Rovers 4 v 2 Plymouth
Head-to-head: P38|Ipswich W14| Coventry W15| D9
Previous meeting: Ipswich 3 v 1 Bristol Rovers, 14th August 2012, League Cup.
Town return to league action on Saturday against an inform Bristol Rovers at Portman Road. Paul Lambert will be looking to pick up his first three points since Rochdale away which was on 5th November. In that time we have seen a couple of Leasing.com games, four FA Cup games and a host of games against Coventry City. Oh aren’t we glad to get back to the bread and butter of league action.
Ipswich currently sit in second position, four points behind leaders Wycombe Wanderers and four points ahead of third placed Peterborough United, with Town having a game in hand on each of them. The game with Bristol Rovers on Saturday is the first of five league games in twenty days which could prove decisive come the end of the season.
Bristol Rovers, alongside Wycombe Wanderers are the surprise packages so far this season, currently sitting in fifth place, five points behind Town in the standings. With the pre-season aim of survival this is certainly turning into a season to remember for Graham Coughlan’s side, and with their current form and the attacking threat of Jonson Clarke-Harris they will travel to Portman Road fancying there chances on Saturday.
Last Time Out
1 – 2 Coventry City FA Cup R2 Replay
Paul Lambert picked a strong squad ahead of the FA Cup second round replay with Coventry City. Kayden Jackson and James Norwood were paired in attack, with Gwion Edwards and Alan Judge starting in the wide roles. There was another start for Emyr Huws and Barry Cotter was handed his first home start this season after his fine display at Peterborough in the Leasing.com trophy.
The bench was also strong for Town with the likes of Will Keane, Jon Nolan, Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Luke Garbutt waiting in the wings.
They were needed, in truth all seven could have come on as Town slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Coventry in a game many would largely want to forget.
4 -2 win against Southend
Rovers made five changes for the visit of Southend last Saturday. Anssi Jaakkola returned in goal for Rovers, with Mark Little and Luke Leahy returning to the Rovers defence, with Alex Rodman operating at right wing-back. The final change was up front, with Tom Nichols pairing Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Southend raced into a shock two goal lead at The Memorial Stadium but that lead was halved seconds into the second half when conceding a penally. The traffic was then constant and one way which resulted in Rovers winning 4-2.
Focus on Bristol Rovers
Last season: 15th in League One (54 points)
Manager: Graham Coughlan (December 2018)
Top scorer: Jonson Clarke-Harris – 10
Most Assists: Liam Sercombe – 4
STAR PLAYER: Jonson Clarke-Harris
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Bristol Rovers are a one man team, but Jonson Clarke-Harris certainly plays a huge factor of the fortunes of The Gasmen. Rovers started the season flying, but their dip in form coincided with Clarke-Harris’s injury. But since his return Rovers have improved and currently sit fifth in the league ahead of their visit to Portman Road.
Clarke-Harris has had a host of clubs, but he seems at home with Bristol Rovers. Scoring 11 goals in 16 league games, Jonson Clarke-Harris became an instant success following his move to Rovers in January 2019 from Coventry City. Fair to say he has continued his form this season, and dare I say a potential Ipswich target this summer should we gain promotion.
Will Norris will return in goal for Town with a back four of Luke Garbutt, Luke Woolfenden, James Wilson and Janoi Donacien ahead of him.
Luke Chambers appears likely to miss out with his neck injury with Pompey being more likely for the skippers return.
Flynn Downes will return to the midfield alongside Cole Skuse, with Jon Nolan and Andre Dozzell alternatives if Lambert opts for a 4-4-2 formation. Gwion Edwards is suspended following his fifth yellow card at Coventry so will miss the game against Bristol Rovers.
Alternatives seem to be thin on the ground at the moment with Danny Rowe’s injury still set to keep him on the sidelines for Saturday’s clash. Another possibility is Anthony Georgiou, although the on-loan Spurs man has seemingly fallen out of favour recently with potentially a return to Spurs likely in January.
The lack obvious wide players could mean Lambert may opt for the diamond midfield with Jon Nolan at the advanced role with Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes in the supporting roles and Cole Skuse protecting the back four.
Another option could be to drop Skuse as a centre-back and match Bristol Rovers up with a 3-5-2 system, leaving Dozzell, Downes and Nolan to take up the midfield roles.
Kayden Jackson and James Norwood appear likely to start upfront although Lambert could be tempted to start inform Will Keane ahead of one of his trusted frontmen.
Bristol Rovers will be without key midfielder Abu Ogogo, who will sit out the visit to Portman Road through suspension. However, Ogogo’s suspension coincides with the return of Ollie Clarke, who will join former Blue Ed Upson and Liam Sercombe in the Rovers midfield.
Rollin Menayese’s return to the side will see him join Tony Craig and Alfie Kilgour in a back three as Coughlan looks set to start with his preferred 3-5-2 system.
Upfront key man Jonson Clarke-Harris is set to be joined by Tom Nichols in attack with Victor Adeboyejo set to have to settle for a place on the bench.
Speaking to EADT ahead of Saturday’s clash with Bristol Rovers, Lambert is expecting another tough test against a side unbeaten in nine: “They’re a good side and are on a good run at the moment.” Lambert said.
“Every team in this league will raise their game against us and we have to go up above that, like we have done for most of the season.”
“We’ll look to do that again and get back to the way we were playing prior to that Coventry game.“
“They will be a handful. Strong, big, organised and everything you will expect. It’s not an easy game.”
Bristol Rovers boss Graham Coughlan is looking forward to the test at Portman Road on Saturday, speaking to the Bristol Post, Coughlan said: “It will be a great test. The crowd, the ground, the pitch, the facility, the history the club has, the fanbase, the noise, the arena. Chuck it all into the mixer and that’s a great test.”
Coughlan knows in both Lambert and Town, Bristol Rovers are up agaisnt a third tier giant: “I know they got relegated last year, but Ipswich always have been a tough, solid opponent. Mick (McCarthy) done brilliantly over there and they’ve got another top manager in Paul Lambert so that’s the pedigree of the football club. They will attract top managers and people, so that’s what your coming up against.”
Man in the Middle
Saturday’s referee is James Adcock who has officiated 11 games this season, issuing 33 yellow cards and 2 red. Adcock’s last Town match was against Cardiff at Portman Road in December 2016, where he booked Tom Lawrence and Luke Chambers for Town, while issuing that famous red card to Cardiff defender Sol Bamba.