Sunderland AFC v Ipswich Town: The inside track on Paul Lambert's side as scrutiny grows ahead of Wearside clash

A former Premier League club, a huge fanbase, promotion expectations and a manager ‘under scrutiny’. Sound familiar?

Friday, 7th February 2020, 4:45 pm

The comparisons between Sunderland and Ipswich Town are as obvious as the fact that their meeting on Saturday at the Stadium of Light (KO 3pm) is a genuine six-pointer.

The 4-1 home hammering by Peterborough left Ipswich fourth and with the mood towards manager Paul Lambert hardening, and a key player missing on Saturday, Ipswich reporter Andy Warren says “concern is in the air”.

“It’s the manner of the losses which cause concern more than anything,” said Warren, of the East Anglian Daily Times.

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Luke O'Nien battles for the ball in the 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

“Ipswich were firmly second best in both games and the results mean they are still yet to beat any member of League One’s top eight in their 10 attempts this season.”

Warren says back-to-back to defeats to Accrington Stanley and Rotherham changed the outlook of the season, saying the defeats “ended a hugely promising start for Ipswich and they’ve not managed to get back at it since really”.

However, any calls for Lambert to be sacked may be premature.

“I’d probably describe it as ‘scrutiny’ rather than pressure at this stage,” adds Warren.

“There’s little to suggest there is any kind of threat to his position as manager, particularly given the fact he signed a new five-year contract on New Year’s Day, but the levels of scrutiny are growing.

“This will be another game against a promotion contender and Ipswich need to find a way of winning games like this to prove they have what it takes to mix it with the best in the division.

“He will know the level of expectancy in the stands and he’ll know the last two games have not been good enough.”

IPSWICH’S KEY STRENGTHS:

“For me the real strength is in midfield,” says Warren. “The start of 2020 has seen Emyr Huws and Flynn Downes paired together and, on their day, both are too good for this division.

“If Huws and Downes can get on top of their men and wide centre-backs Luke Woolfenden and Luke Chambers are able to get forward to support the wide men, they can cause real problems.”

IPSWICH’S KEY WEAKNESSES:

Town may be missing more than just a left-back in Luke Garbutt - the on-loan man is also their main creative force and set piece expert.

His goal against Sunderland at Portman Road in August set the tone for a season which has seen him score five times and make several assists.

And the Everton man’s threat from open play and free kick prowess could be much missed.

“He’s struggling with a thigh injury ahead of this game and may not play,’ says Warren. “That would be a real loss given his ability at set-pieces.

“The main weakness of late has been their goal threat, though.

“In the last two games Ipswich have had very little to worry their opponents and, aside from a late penalty when the game was up against Peterborough and a very late flurry at Rotherham, they didn’t look like scoring.”