As it stands: Wycombe 23-12–7–4 (1st, 43 pts, GD 10) | Ipswich 22-10–7–5 (4th, 37 pts, GD 11)
Form: Wycombe DWLLL | Ipswich DLLDL
Last time out: Wycombe 1-4 Coventry | Lincoln 5-3 Ipswich
(Only) Previous meeting: Ipswich 0-0 Wycombe (League One, 26/11/19)
Setting the Scene
Happy New Year! Happy new decade! Well, we’ll soon see if that’s the case. There’s a fireworks display after this game, but it might be a bit awkward if we don’t get the appropriate result. It’s been a cheer-less festive period so far and ahead of another weekend off, we’re arguably in ‘must win’ territory.
Still, despite having lost three on the bounce after that 12-match unbeaten run, anyone scrambling around for spare wheels needs to CALM DOWN. If ever there was a time to take a realistic view on things, to look at the bigger picture, it’s now. Sunday was bad, very bad, but Boxing Day at Pompey and five days earlier at Oxford really weren’t, contrary to what the more reactionary element of our support would have you think. We’re punching well above our weight and may continue to do so. We also may not – and that will be fine, but the ‘promotion or else’ mindset isn’t a healthy one.
Ipswich, on the other hand, really are in a rut and their fans can quite justifiably vent their ire. The pre-season title favourites have won just one of their last 13 in all competitions (1-0 in an FA Cup first round replay at Lincoln) – and none of their last seven in the league, losing three of the last four – but their tally of 23 points on the road this season is the division’s joint best. Fortress Adams Park may have been badly damaged, but there are more daunting fixtures (on paper anyway) in which to potentially start to rebuild it.
Last season: 24th in Championship (relegated)
Manager: Paul Lambert (appointed October 2018)
Top scorer: Kayden Jackson (ST) – 8
Most assists: Kayden Jackson – 6
Captain: Luke Chambers (CB)
Style of play: Possession-based, like to make use of width, look to create chances on the break
A Deeper Look
I didn’t have time to run the rule over that battering the other day – I’m glad I didn’t actually – but we cannot make the same mistakes again. Ipswich still managed to find the back of the net three times in their own forgettable decade finale and possess enough individual quality even if they are, as fan Rich Woodward remarks in the Opposition View, “tactically a mess right now” and potentially coming to Adams Park at a good time for us to play them. None of that matters if we don’t right the fundamental wrongs of the Coventry game.
With Paul Lambert’s rotation making Ipswich’s selection and set-up pretty much impossible to predict with any meaningful accuracy, starting with our usual 4-3-3 would seem a sensible approach. If the visitors opt for extra width, we can easily switch to a 4-4-2. Our tried and trusted system shouldn’t really work to our detriment, but the narrow diamond-ish shape we saw against Coventry most certainly did. Let’s go back to basics for this one, please. Let’s also tone it down a bit on the long balls, which we overdid to an embarrassing extent. Tightening up has to be the main order of the day, as will also be the case for our opponents.
Darius Charles’ return from his necessary afternoon off will be key in solidifying the back four, but we could really do with Jack Grimmer’s strong reading of the game and energetic runs down the wing – neither of which we get from Sido Jombati at right-back. It was no coincidence that with both Charles and Grimmer missing for the first time this season, our defence imploded. Ipswich may be badly out of sorts, but they have more than enough individual quality with which to punish such sloppiness. Despite only one goal between them since late October’s rather expected victory at Southend, Kayden Jackson and James Norwood have bagged seven and eight respectively so far, while Freddie Sears – no goal machine but a forward with the best part of 400 career appearances under his belt who’s done a job in the Championship – is back after almost 12 months out injured.
Town looked a disorganised mess at the back in their last outing – as you’d expect having shipped five goals – and seemed to panic slightly with players running at them with the ball. Could the ineffective central attacking play of the last two games mean a first league start for Josh Parker? It feels like there’s nothing to lose at this point. He showed some intelligent play in his latest brief cameo last time out, making use of his pace and looking to release better positioned team-mates into space on the counter – and we know he’s not bad in the air either. Adebayo Akinfenwa will probably drop to the bench after 90 minutes on Sunday, but he’s played a part in every league game this season bar Pompey away – when he was suspended. The big man caused a few problems in the reverse fixture, although Ipswich have conceded from set-pieces just three times in 2019/20.
A slight peculiarity of Town’s campaign is that they don’t appear to have a set number one goalkeeper. Tomáš Holý, the man mountain who superbly saved Joe Jacobson’s would-be match-winning penalty at Portman Road, joined from Gillingham in the summer along with Wolves loanee Will Norris. They’ve made 15 and seven appearances respectively, with Norris between the sticks in four of the (other) Blues’ five league fixtures since our previous meeting – although he has looked shaky at times, which will perhaps prompt Lambert to reinstate the 6’9” Czech, who’s shouldn’t exactly struggle when coming to claim crosses.
Unless Grimmer makes a very welcome return from injury, Giles Phillips surely has to get the nod at right-back after a seriously shaky Sido showing. Curtis Thompson did not look fit after appearing to take a knock at Pompey, and with Matt Bloomfield probably unlikely to start three days on from playing 90 minutes and no suggestion that Dom Gape will be back, Nnamdi Ofoborh may make the 11 for the third time in seven days and Alex Pattison for the first time in the league since late September. Parker is my bold choice, but let’s see…
This really is anyone’s guess, but maybe Lambert will dispense with the 4-4-2 which failed quite spectacularly in the defeat to Lincoln and look to match us with a 4-3-3. Sears could make his first start since the East Anglian derby last February, while Will Keane has scored three in his last six in league and cup so could be in contention. One-time Wanderers loan right-back Janoi Donacien – Town’s only fit player in that position – is doubtful for this one after being forced off at Sincil Bank, meaning winger Gwion Edwards could have to deputise.
In the Middle: Robert Lewis
Now in his tenth season as an EFL referee, this will be Lewis’ first Wycombe game in well over two years – when we drew 0-0 at Mansfield early in the League Two promotion campaign – and his first at Adams Park since December 2016’s 1-0 win over Leyton Orient, a victory secured by Scott Kashket‘s strike against his former club. The experienced official has brandished 64 yellow cards and three reds in his 17 2019/20 appointments. He last took charge of Ipswich in a 0-0 Championship draw at Wolves in April 2016.
Header image by Dan Clark