Plymouth Argyle and Ipswich Town head into Saturday’s League One clash at Home Park with both managers beginning to feel the pressure after disappointing runs of form.
Argyle have lost their last three on the spin in League One, last winning 4-2 against Swindon at the beginning of November. Meanwhile, a much more toxic situation is unfolding for Town manager Paul Lambert, whose side have failed to score in their last three. Despite their fifth placed position, the former Aston Villa manager is a deeply unpopular figure with fans with many calling for his departure regardless of whether the club gain promotion this season.
This will be the first meeting between the sides since March, 2010 when Argyle came out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Joe Mason.
The Pilgrims have only lost once at Home Park in the league this season. Meanwhile, Ipswich have only won two of their seven games away from Portman Road.
Ipswich have gone almost five hours without a goal in League One after back-to-back defeats against Hull and Charlton before Tuesday’s goalless draw against Oxford.
After eight games at Home Park, Plymouth Argyle were the last League One side to lose their unbeaten home record following their 4-0 loss against Rochdale.
Midfielder Andre Dozzell will miss out due to suspension. The 21-year-old picked up his fifth yellow cards of the season during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Oxford.
Influential winger Gwion Edwards looks set to remain on the sidelines. The Welshman hasn’t appeared since their 3-2 FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth in early November.
Forward James Norwood is also absent, adding to a list of nearly a dozen players who are not at Paul Lambert’s disposal for the trip to Devon.
Toto Nsiala (hamstring) and Brett McGavin (illness) have trained during the week and should be back in contention.
Predicted Line-Up (4-3-3)
Chambers, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Ward
Lankester, McGavin, Nolan
Dobra, Hawkins, Bennetts
Style of Play
Playing in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, Paul Lambert’s side play possession-based football, refraining from playing long balls and instead looking to play out from the back where possible. This style has proven to be effective with Town ranking third in League One both in terms of average possession (53.4%) and passing accuracy (77.9%). Such statistics are relatively pointless if such domination isn’t reflected in results. Whilst the Suffolk side are without a goal in their last three games, the mass injury disruption within the playing squad is likely the cause rather than the style of football itself.
Much of Town’s creative play comes through winger Gwion Edwards, as Ipswich look to stretch their opposition. The 27-year-old has been in sterling form this season recording five goals and three assists in just 11 League One appearances. The Welshman’s absence in recent weeks has been telling with just two goals scored in the five games he has missed.
In Edwards’ absence, the baton of responsibility is likely to fall to Borussia Monchengladbach loanee Keanan Bennetts. The 21-year-old has returned to England to gain experience after making just one substitute appearance for the German outfit. The Englishman has impressed when on the pitch but has been used sparingly by manager Lambert, making 11 appearances, with eight of those coming from the bench.
Often interchanging between the two flanks, Town’s expansive style of play should ensure that he and fellow winger Armando Dobra see plenty of the ball. Their pace and involvement in the game will prove crucial in manoeuvring through an Argyle defence that has shown itself to be rather leaky in recent weeks. An agile yet powerful winger, Bennetts likes to use his pace to beat opponents out wide before cutting inside the area, either to create a chance for himself to shoot or square the ball to a teammate.
22-year-old forward Aaron Drinan made his first start since the opening day of the season against Oxford on Tuesday. The Irishman has been competing with Oli Hawkins since returning from an injury sustained back in September. An all-rounder, possessing some pace, his most recognisable attribute is his physicality which helps with his all round hold-up play. He often comes deep in order to receive the ball and looks to play the ball out wide before making long sprints into the final third to try and get on the end of crosses.
With the absence of so many players, midfielder Jon Nolan will be the anchor, providing experience in a young side lacking regular minutes. The 28-year-old was just one of four players over the age of 22 to start against Oxford on Tuesday night. With an impressive range of passing, the former Shrewsbury man boasts the best accuracy percentage at the club this season with 86.8%. Nolan links the play between the midfield and the attack whilst also having an eye for goal himself. In his 14 appearances in all competitions, he has netted four goals, two of those coming in the league.
Much of Town’s season has been disrupted by injuries to key players. This has affected results in recent weeks, and after an impressive start to the season Lambert’s side have begun to falter. Three wins in 11 games in all competitions makes for poor reading. Just seven points and 10 places currently separate the two sides.
Goals have often been hard to come by as a result with Lambert’s side scoring just 19 goals from their 15 League One games. This is the same total as 22nd placed Burton Albion whilst their 15 goals conceded is the same as second bottom Shrewsbury Town. Against an Argyle side that have the third worst defensive record in the division (25 conceded), they will see this fixture as the perfect opportunity to gain some much needed confidence.
Prediction (2-1 Argyle)
Despite impressing in the FA Cup against Lincoln, keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win, Argyle’s defensive frailties returned against Rochdale on Tuesday night. The 4-0 drubbing was a timely reminder that January will be an important time for the Pilgrims. The potential return of Danny Mayor could prove vital against a depleted and inexperienced but still decent Ipswich side. The Tractor Boys will be under as much pressure as their opponents to deliver after Paul Lambert was given the dreaded vote of confidence on Thursday. The amount of uncertainty around the visitors twinned with Argyle’s impressive home form this season makes it the ideal fixture in which to end their slump.