Tuesday 28 October 2008

Ipswich Town Preview

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment, with a mid-week trip to Ipswich for the Addicks this evening. Kelvin and I made the relatively short trip to Portman Road last season for a game which was best forgotten (I always seem to be saying this!) as our play-off hopes took another dent, so I hope for better on this occasion. It was of course only three weeks ago that the Tractor Boys were at The Valley, a game for which I was absent although the reports were hardly glowing in spite of a 2-1 win. Saturday's encounter with Burnley will certainly have given Pards something to think about in his team selection and it's fair to say we won't see the same starting XI (well, let's hope not anyway).

With the exception of Nicky Weaver, Pardew seems to have played every player in every position in which they are comfortable so far this season and you would hope he knows his best team by now. I'm pretty sure he doesn't but Saturday should have given him some clues and I hope this is reflected in tomorrow's side.

Starting at the back, hopefully the penny has dropped that Martin Cranie is not a full back (left or right). He looked completely out of position on the left on Saturday and the decision was even more baffling given that Grant Basey and Kelly Youga were both available. However, he did put in a relatively assured performance at centre back in the second half in place of the tiring Linvoy Primus. On this basis, I would start him alongside Mark Hudson in central defence with Grant Basey moving to left back. I'm not sure what Pardew's thoughts are on Kelly Youga at the moment but I don't get the impression he'll be bringing him back for this game. At right back, Yassin put in a decent performance against the Clarets so it's difficult to see him being displaced.

Once again, we are left guessing what formation Pardew is going to play so there could be an extra midfield place up for grabs. Lloyd Sam has made an impact in the past two games when he has come off the bench and is deserving of a starting place in my opinion. Curiously the official website ( more) speculates that he could play on the 'left flank' which is confusing and would be a waste. He seems to link up particularly well with Moutaouakil on the right, not to mention the fact that he is right footed of course, so to play him on the other side of the pitch does not make sense. I would want to see Bouazza return to the left flank but the same official match preview doesn't even mention him so he may not be in Pardew's thoughts (or am I reading too much into this?). I expect we will see Ambrose on one side of the pitch or the other against his former club, although I don't think he deserves this on the back of his last couple of performances.

In the centre of the park, Nicky Bailey had a poor game and looked like he was missing an experienced partner in the middle. Whilst I thought Josh Wright's second half performance against Burnley was encouraging, I'm not sure it merits a starting role tonight and I would imagine that Matt Holland will return. I would actually like to see Semedo given a chance alongside Bailey although I doubt Pardew shares my view on this one. He also has Jonjo Shelvey at his disposal after he returned from England Under-17 duty, although I would not expect him to make an appearance here.

So what's going to happen up front? Todorov deserves a start after digging us out of trouble on Saturday, and although he may tire I think he will be given that chance. I don't think he is the kind of striker you can play up front by himself, and for that reason I think Pards will give him a partner to run around with. I would not expect that to be Izale McLeod given his performance at the weekend and he may be lucky to get a place on the bench. No mention of Chris Dickson in the official preview and I'm struggling to think what he's done wrong. He's been given a few minutes here and there at the end of a handful games during which he has at least shown a little bit of urgency. I appreciate he's not the finished article, but did McLeod really deserve a chance ahead of him on Saturday?

In all likelihood Pardew will probably turn to one of his two experienced strikers: Luke Varney and Andy Gray. The mental pressure must be mounting on Varney and I honestly think he needs to be rested for this game (watch him start and score a hat-trick). Furthermore, as New York Addick points out, Pardew risks losing further credibility by persisting with a player who is simply not doing what he is put on the field to do. There is every chance that he will make space for him out wide which to some extent would remove the responsibility from little Luke of being on the pitch to primarily score goals, but that would be burying his head in the sand. Having said all this, Andy Gray and Svetoslav Todorov do not strike me as a natural partnership so Varney will probably get a start.

So all things considered, here is how I see then lining up: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Ambrose; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Eliot, Primus, Wright, Bouazza, Gray.

Ipswich are probably favourites for this one having been unbeaten since we took all three points from them at The Valley, and you certainly wouldn't bet against Kevin Lisbie scoring after he found the net against Plymouth at the weekend. I hope (and it is hope, not expectation) that we can come away with at least a point and build a bit of confidence ahead of Saturday's fixture against Barnsley, but we need Pardew to pick a team which will give us a fighting chance of doing that.

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