The Thursday Preview: Leicester Vs Ipswich
With a good number of the league’s contests likely to fall victim to the Ps, this weekend is a good opportunity for the teams that do end up playing. Cold, hard points are preferable to those beguiling games in hand, especially considering the potential for a fixture backlog, so a win for either Leicester or Ipswich would be a coup. So why the long face? What is it about these clubs, and their lining up together, that so palls? Maybe it’s because neither side score many, and that the Foxes, in particular, defend well, but it’s probably more to do with how I haven’t personally been that enamoured with either. The home team have done brilliantly when you consider the leaky ship they were two years ago, but they’re one of those who are going about their job with much diligence but little flair. Boutique players Lloyd Dyer, Paul Gallagher and Dany N’Guessan have all been peripheral and the midfield has instead been narrowly packed with those who can stand the league’s physicality. Match that with a defence made up of steady eddies Robbie Neilson, Bruno Berner and Wayne Brown and an attack that on occasion includes all-elbows vet Steve Howard and you can see what I’m getting at.
The line-up looks unlikely to change much from last week’s Cup win against Swansea according to this Foxes Talk thread. Interestingly, most supporters are backing 21-year-old defender Michael Morrison, signed from Cambridge in 2008, to continue at centre-half after he came in two games ago to replace the injured skipper Brown, indicating that he looks comfortable enough in the second tier. Man City loanee Ryan McGivern, who doesn’t seem to have done so well, is also in with a shot at another 90 minutes with Berner still a doubt after two games sidelined.
Whether this tender defence is tested much on Sunday is difficult to say. Ipswich have lost just once since the start of October and have tightened right up at the back, but question marks still linger over their attack.The most in form of their strikers, Jon Stead, continues a suspension, so their line will probably be led by Jonathan Walters, who has ebbed since a fantastic 2007/2008 season, and the ageing Stern John, who is yet to score in this loan spell at what is his tenth English club. As it did in last week’s Cup win at Blackpool it may, then, fall on the midfield to supply the ammunition. Central-cum-right midfielder David Norris’s return from a long injury has coincided with back-to-back wins, and one can imagine that his and Grant Leadbitter’s industry will create space and time for their colleagues. Alongside them Jack Colback is beginning to earn himself a reputation and Carlos Edwards is still capable of flying at callow full-backs, of which there are plenty in this league.
Boomeranging back to where I started, thinking about the game in such depth has only reaffirmed my suspicion that it will be a close game with few, if any, goals. Seven of Leicester’s ten wins have been by the odd goal this season and if they are to earn another three points then I’d be surprised if they were to run away with it. With three successive away matches at Swansea, Doncaster and Barnsley upcoming, the latter two long slogs being midweek trips, it would seem that some form of positive outcome is essential for Leicester if they are to hold off the four or five clubs at their heels. Having quietly ascended to the play-off positions, they could just as easily slouch away.