Blackburn Rovers Vs Ipswich Town
Saturday 3rd October sees Rovers welcome Ipswich Town to Ewood Park for the fourth time since our relegation from the Premier League. Ipswich currently sit 7th in the table with 15 points, whilst Rovers occupy 18th spot having managed 8 points out of 9 games.
Despite an extremely poor start to the season, Rovers are finally beginning to show signs of life. Jordan Rhodesâ€™ return to the team and return to form has given the club a much needed boost, and Rovers finally claimed their first win of the season against a dismal Charlton side in our last home encounter. That 3-0 win was followed by a credible 1-1 draw away to Hull City, meaning Rovers have picked up 5 points out of the last 9 available. This has propelled the club to the lofty heights of 18th, but still only one point outside of the relegation zone.
Nonetheless, Rovers are picking up a little momentum at a time when Ipswich have lost theirs, making the East Anglian sideâ€™s trip to Ewood an interesting prospect and a match Rovers must aim to take all three points from.
Prior to this season, Ipswich and Rovers have found themselves in similar positions, generally occupying spots just outside the playoff places.
Managed by the experienced Mick McCarthy, Ipswich performed slightly above expectations last season and managed a 6th placed finish, sneaking into the playoffs. They were knocked out at the first hurdle by East Anglian rivals Norwich City, who would go on to defeat Middlesbrough in the final and secure promotion to the Premier League. The semi-final defeat was a bitter blow for Ipswich, but not wholly unexpected, with Norwich having a much stronger and vastly more expensive squad.
The club started this season well and topped the table in the early stages, carrying on their form from the previous season. After an opening day draw with Brentford, they went on to achieve impressive home victories against Sheffield Wednesday and the six-fingered ones, also beating Preston and hammering Doncaster 4-1 in the cup. However, their momentum has since stalled and a home loss to Brighton was followed by a 5-1 away thumping by promotion rivals Reading. Former Rover Nick Blackman had a fantastic match, getting on the scoresheet as Ipswich were humbled by their opponents. Despite beating Leeds 1-0 in the next match, Ipswich could only manage two home draws in their following league encounters against Birmingham and Bristol City. They were also dumped out of the League Cup, losing 3-0 to a strong Manchester United side. Ipswich have only managed 5 points out of the last 15, a return which has caused them to drop just outside the playoff places.
Daryl Murphy was the clubâ€™s talisman last season, notching 27 league goals during the campaign and helping to push them into the playoff positions. Despite signing a new contract during the summer, Murphy has found form and fitness difficult to come by so far this season. Last seasonâ€™s top goalscorer for Ipswich is yet to find the net this season, and has recently found himself on the bench as he regains match fitness. The Ipswich squad contains few recognisable names to the average fan, with McCarthy opting to build a squad of hard workers as opposed to big names. David McGoldrick is one of Ipswichâ€™s better known players, and despite having excellent spells of form, the experienced striker has found fitness hard to come by over the past couple of seasons. He managed 14 goals in the 13/14 season, but could only accumulate 26 appearances and score 7 goals in an injury-hampered 14/15 campaign. He has so far bagged 3 goals in the current campaign, with 2 in the league and 1 in the cup. Other recognisable names in the Town squad are veteran centre-back Christophe Berra and former West Ham United striker Freddie Sears, who has currently scored 4 goals in 9 appearances this term â€“ all in the league.
Town have been cautious in the transfer market over the last few years. Although in past seasons reclusive owner Marcus Evans backed Roy Keane and Paul Jewell to the tune of around Â£20m, it ultimately gained the club very little and before McCarthy took charge they were in danger of being taken down to League One under Jewellâ€™s stewardship. Having had his fingers burned, Evans has drastically tightened the purse strings at Portman Road, leaving McCarthy with the difficult task of improving the team on a shoestring budget. This summer saw promising young defender Tyrone Mings depart for Premier League new boys Bournemouth. He was Bournemouthâ€™s record signing at Â£8m, but would go on to break his leg on his debut, effectively ruling him out for the rest of the season.
McCarthy has seen little of the money gained from Mingsâ€™ sale, instead operating under the same tight conditions as previous seasons. A shrewd operator in the transfer market, McCarthy has secured former Bournemouth striker Brett Pitman on a free transfer, whilst picking up pacy young Arsenal winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Fraser on loan. Danish left-back Jonas Knudsen was snapped up for Â£350k, whilst former Rover Jonathan Douglas also joined the club on a free transfer at the age of 33. Relative unknowns Larsen Toure and Tommy Oar were also picked up on free transfers and have played some part in the campaign. Ipswich were buoyed by last seasonâ€™s top goalscorer Daryl Murphy and 27 year old striker David McGoldrick both signing new contracts in the summer.
Ipswich are the Championshipâ€™s longest serving team, having spent 14 seasons in the division since their relegation from the Premier League in 2002. Having overspent on ground maintenance and player wages during their time in the top flight, Ipswich found themselves in administration shortly after dropping into the second tier. Although still heavily in debt, the club came out of administration during the 03/04 season. Local businessman Marcus Evans would take over ownership of the club in 2007, providing new capital in a bid to revitalise the clubâ€™s fortunes.
The likes of Jim Magilton and Joe Royle were unable to take Ipswich back to the promised land, whilst Roy Keane and Paul Jewell very nearly condemned them to relegation. Since arriving at Ipswich, Mick McCarthy and assistant Terry Connor have gone about rebuilding the team under difficult circumstances and have slowly but surely implemented a rigid but effective playing style that has gradually pushed the club up the table and given the fans hope that promotion could be achieved in the near future. Financial restrictions make the task a tricky one, but in McCarthy Ipswich have a manager who knows how to get the best out of limited players and the ability to supplement the team with cheap, relatively unknown additions.
Town are one of few clubs in the league whose debt-level surpassed Rovers as of last published accounts, with the figure at that time standing at -Â£86m. With a higher wage bill and overall running costs, Rovers have likely since overtaken Ipswich in this area, though both clubs owe significant financial debts to their owners.
Ipswich are a team that prefer playing at home, often struggling on their travels. Last season Ipswich accrued 78 points, with 50 of those coming at home. Ipswich only managed 7 away victories last season despite finishing 6th. This season has seen some improvement. Although they were dismantled by Reading at the Madejski Stadium, Ipswich have otherwise started the season with good away form, picking up a draw at Brentford and gaining victories over Leeds and Preston.
The one Rovers player with a significant link to Ipswich Town is goal-machine Jordan Rhodes. After his father joined Town as a coach in 04/05, Rhodes was scouted at the local Kesgrave High School and brought into the youth ranks of the club. After scoring over 40 goals at reserve and youth level, Rhodes made his debut for Town in the 07/08 season and scored his first senior goal for the club in April against Cardiff City. The next season Rhodes would be sent out to Oxford, Rochdale and Brentford on loan, scoring 9 goals in 23 appearances for all three clubs. In the summer of 2009, Roy Keane shocked Ipswich fans by deciding to sell Rhodes to League One team Huddersfield for a measly Â£350,000, though a sell-on fee was included. Rhodes would go on to score 73 goals in 124 appearances for Huddersfield, and was then sold to Rovers for Â£8m, where he has continued his incredible goalscoring form. Meanwhile, his replacement at Ipswich, Tamas Priskin, was signed for Â£2.1m and managed 5 goals in 51 appearances before being released in January 2012. Suffice to say this was not Roy Keaneâ€™s finest moment as a manager, and he would go on to admit in his autobiography that selling Rhodes was one of his biggest regrets from his time at Ipswich.
Meanwhile, former Rover Jonathan Douglas is amongst the oppositionâ€™s ranks. The Irishman joined Rovers in 2000 as a 19 year old. He suffered a cruciate ligament injury in 2001, and upon his return would spend most of the next couple of seasons on loan to Chesterfield and Blackpool. The majority of Douglasâ€™ playing time came under Graeme Souness, who awarded him a new three year contract just before he left for Newcastle. Sounessâ€™ successor, Mark Hughes, did not see Douglas as part of his plans and loan spells at Gillingham and Leeds followed â€“ the latter would become a permanent transfer in 2006. Douglas amassed 148 appearances for Leeds, mostly in League One, scoring 10 goals during that time. He was released in 2009 and was picked up by League One team Swindon Town. Douglas made 84 appearances for Swindon, scoring one goal. He was named the clubâ€™s Player of the Season and Playersâ€™ Player of the Season in 09/10, but the following season Swindon were relegated and Douglas rejected a new contract. In summer 2011 he signed for another League One team, Brentford, and would go on to make 169 appearances and score 17 goals in 5 successful years at the club. He was the Supportersâ€™ Player of the Season during their 11/12 League One campaign and played a significant role in the team that got promoted to the Championship in 13/14. Douglas was released after the 14/15 season ended, and at 33 years old signed on a free transfer for Ipswich Town, where he has currently made 4 appearances.
Ipswich have played Rovers six times since the clubs began sharing divisional status in the 2012/13 season. In fact, Roversâ€™ first game in the Championship following our relegation was a trip to Portman Road, where the highlight of an otherwise dour game of football in the sweltering heat was the relentless booing and chanting from the Rovers fans, aimed at Bruneiâ€™s favourite son Steve â€œSteveKeanâ€ Kean.
Portman Road has not been a happy hunting ground for Rovers, with only 2 points picked up out of a possible 9 over three seasons. 12/13 saw a 1-1 draw, with Kazim-Richards scoring for Rovers before Jason Lowe equalised for Ipswich with an own goal. 13/14 saw Ipswich put Rovers to the sword with a 3-1 victory - Rhodes netting a solitary consolation for the away side. 14/15 produced another 1-1 draw, David McGoldrick putting Ipswich ahead before Ben Marshall scored a late equaliser to rescue a point for the Rovers.
The trip to Ewood, meanwhile, has remained a daunting prospect for Ipswich. In three seasons they have not picked up a single point from Rovers at Ewood Park. In 12/13 Rovers won by a single goal, scored by who else but Jordan Rhodes. With this, the young striker had scored in seven consecutive matches, a feat only achieved by four other players in the clubâ€™s history. It marked three wins on the bounce for Rovers, a feat that seems almost impossible in recent times. This was the height of Michael Appletonâ€™s short tenure, and amazingly only a month later Appleton was removed from his position after a sharp decline in form. 13/14 saw a comfortable 2-0 win for Rovers, with Rhodes and Rudy Gestede both getting on the scoresheet. It ended a poor run for Rovers, and was the 13th clean sheet of the season, another statistic that seems very much beyond the current team. It also marked Rhodesâ€™ 50th goal for the club. 14/15 saw a more competitive match, but Rovers still came out on top with a 3-2 victory. Town came racing out of the blocks and took a 1-0 lead through Daryl Murphy. Rovers responded strongly and by the 60th minute were 3-1 ahead, with Rhodes, Gestede and Conway firing Rovers in front. Ipswich grabbed a late consolation through a Daryl Murphy penalty, but were unable to draw the game level. This result could have cost Ipswich, as this was the last game of the season and their playoff status was not yet secured. Fortunately for them, other results went their way, but their good fortune did not last and they would go on to lose to Norwich in the playoff semi-finals.
Overall, Rovers have a favourable record against Ipswich over the past few years. In six matches the Rovers have picked up 11 points out of a possible 18, whilst Ipswich have only picked up 5 from 18. All of Ipswichâ€™s points have come at Portman Road, whilst 9 of ours have come from Ewood. Rovers rarely have trouble scoring against Town, having scored at least one goal in all six games. Ipswich, however, have fired blanks twice at Ewood Park over the last three seasons.
Former Town player Rhodes enjoys scoring against his former club, having notched 4 goals in the 6 matches he has played against Ipswich thus far in Roversâ€™ colours. With Rhodes beginning to hit his stride again this season, Ipswich fans will no doubt be dreading their ex-striker coming back to haunt them again on Saturday.
So far this season Ipswich have scored 15 goals, but unusually for a Mick McCarthy side they have been defensively poor and also leaked 15 goals. Rovers meanwhile find themselves in a similar situation, having scored 10 but also conceded 10. Ipswich are joint-second top scorers in the division, suggesting that Roversâ€™ unreliable backline is likely to be breached at some point during the afternoon. However, Ipswich are also joint-fourth in goals conceded, meaning Jordan Rhodes has a good chance of adding to his current tally of five goals in seven appearances.
I coerced my colleague and lifelong Town fan Rob into answering a few pre-match questionsâ€¦
Itâ€™s been a decent start to the season for Ipswich, how do you rate your season so far and what aspirations do Town fans have for the season?
Weâ€™ve started okay, but recent form is a bit worrying. Weâ€™re conceding a lot of goals which needs to be sorted out. Most Town fans would be happy with a playoff spot again, but on our budget a top half finish would be alright.
Mick McCarthy is the type of manager many Rovers fans feel is needed at Ewood Park. What are your thoughts on him?
Considering heâ€™s had practically nothing to spend, heâ€™s done a great job. The football can be very dull at times, but at home especially it seems to work. After Keane and Jewell nearly wrecked the club, most fans are just happy to have somebody decent in charge.
Any thoughts on Gary Bowyer?
I donâ€™t know much about him to be honest. Seems like a decent bloke, but other than that no real opinion, sorry!
What about Rovers? What have you made of us over the past few seasons?
I remember looking at your team when we faced you at the start of the 12/13 season and thinking you could easily walk the league. Obviously that didnâ€™t happen! We never get anything at Ewood so I donâ€™t look forward to this fixture. Jordan Rhodes always scores against us too!
On that note, Jordan Rhodes â€“ wish you still had him?
Of course! But I think we would have eventually sold him anyway, for a lot less than your owners are willing to accept. Â£350k was ridiculous though and a lot of Town fans still resent Roy Keane for that sale.
Any views on Venkyâ€™s?
They seemed absolutely clueless at the beginning, but havenâ€™t heard much about them lately. They arenâ€™t the first foreign owners to wreck a football club and sadly wonâ€™t be the last. I hope for your sake the club finds itself in a better pair of hands in the near future.
Are you happy with Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans?
Weâ€™d like him to give McCarthy a bit more to spend, but he wasted a lot of money on Keane and Jewell so can understand his reluctance. Has done the hard part by bringing in a decent manager, and is keeping us afloat for now.
One comparison that can be made between Rovers and Ipswich is high debt levels â€“ do they concern you at all?
Not really, to be honest with you. Nobody really talks about that. I think most of it is owed to Marcus Evans anyway. Iâ€™m not sure many fans know or care about the clubâ€™s debt.
Which Town players should we be worried about?
Freddie Sears has been in good form lately, and the kid weâ€™ve got from Arsenal has pace which can really hurt teams. Ryan Fraser has looked decent as well. Obviously Murphy and McGoldrick are always a threat, but I donâ€™t know if either will start. Both of them have fitness issues at the moment.
Which Rovers players are you worried about?
It goes without saying reallyâ€¦ Jordan Rhodes. Always scores against us. Glad you sold Gestede though as heâ€™d give our defence nightmares.
Before I ask your prediction â€“ how does it feel to be the longest serving team in the Championship?
I enjoy the league as itâ€™s unpredictable and you can still catch a glimpse of some good players. Am quietly confident that McCarthy will get us promoted if he stays with us for another two or three years.
Okay â€“ score prediction?
A draw, 1-1. Sears to put us ahead before Rhodes does his usual and equalises.
Both clubs are struggling to defend this season, and itâ€™s likely there will be goals in this one. Although Ipswich have scored more goals than Rovers, current form and their history at Ewood suggests they will do well to walk away with one point, let alone all three.
Iâ€™ll go for an unusually optimistic 2-1 victory for the Rovers, with Rhodes and Conway scoring for Rovers and Murphy scoring his first goal of the season for Ipswich.