Scouting report: Confidence is high amongst Ipswich Town players ahead of derby clash with Norwich City
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ahead of Sunday's derby clash, Norwich City writer David Freezer went behind enemy lines to assess Ipswich Town's form during their 1-1 draw with Leeds.
Any Canaries fans looking forward to a routine win over the Tractor Boys could be in for a shock at Carrow Road on Sunday.
Mick McCarthy is yet to taste derby victory in five attempts as manager of Ipswich but his team proved against Leeds that they are in a good place ahead of their latest attempt to dethrone City as the kings of Anglia.
On Saturday I went to Portman Road to assess Town's form ahead of their trip across the border for a Championship battle which has become must-win if Norwich are to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive.
The Blues went into the game on the back of three good results, drawing 2-2 at home against high-flying Reading and winning 1-0 at Aston Villa before an excellent 1-1 draw at title challengers Brighton.
They extended that unbeaten run to four matches against fifth-placed Leeds – but should have won the game.
McCarthy's team controlled proceedings and were quick to press the visiting players, winning second balls while maintaining a solid shape which restricted the space for Garry Monk's side.
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The 5-3-2 formation deployed saw wing-backs Jordan Spence and Myles Kenlock drop deep to form a flat back five when out of possession but push forward in support of the midfield when on the front foot.
Solid, stubborn, direct and disciplined – nothing too surprising for a McCarthy team.
However, there is a sprinkling of quality about the Suffolk boys at the moment.
That is despite currently being without top scorer Tom Lawrence, something Canaries fans have taken great heart from.
The on-loan Leicester City forward has scored 10 goals, generally playing as support to striker David McGoldrick.
However, the 23-year-old Manchester United academy product picked up his 10th yellow card of the season in the draw at Brighton and missed Saturday's match, and will also have to sit out the derby.
McCarthy was full of praise for Lawrence in his programme notes, saying: 'He's been fabulous for us. Our best player for the last two or three months and we will miss him but that creates an opportunity for someone to step up now and take over from Tom.'
Former Colchester striker Freddie Sears was the man given the chance to support McGoldrick and worked extremely hard for his team, scoring the only goal.
That opener in the ninth minute came as a result of good play from another loanee impressing for Town, Emyr Huws.
Playing on the left of the three-man midfield the Wales international oozed class, begging the question, why have Cardiff let the 23-year-old out on loan?
Lovely feet to skip away from three Leeds midfielders set Grant Ward away on the right, whose cross was behind McGoldrick but turned in neatly from close range by Sears.
With centre-back Christophe Berra keeping Leeds' 22-goal top scorer Chris Wood in check, dominating him in the air, and the hosts quick to the challenge, it was the Tractor Boys looking more like play-off hopefuls.
Ward lashed wide from 20 yards in the 14th minute and a short corner routine from Huws and Spence saw the former make left-back Gaetano Berradi look silly, only for Jonas Knusden's shot from point-blank range to deflect over the bar in the 27th minute.
The resulting corner was again taken by Huws and his in-swinging corner from the left almost went straight in – only for former Norwich keeper Robert Green to tip the ball over his bar.
With Huws and McGoldrick setting the tone going forward, Town made sure to get eight men behind the ball as soon as possible out of possession, yet they slipped up before the break.
Kenlock didn't stop Hadi Sacko crossing from the right in the 42nd minute and Wood, for the first time, avoided Berra to use his height advantage over Luke Chambers to flick on, allowing Stuart Dallas to bundle in at the back post.
McGoldrick hit the bar after Green had to punch away a Huws corner in the 63rd minute and also saw the Canaries academy product deny him with a vital save from a Sears cross from the left 14 minutes later.
Their challenge eventually ran out of steam, as both teams settled for a point, but the Tractor Boys proved they can be a match for any team in the Championship.
With confidence high and a growing team spirit, they look sure to give City a good run for their money.
They stopped Leeds from playing and showed their threats, can they do the same against the Canaries attacking talents in the heat of derby day though?
Here's how the Ipswich players fared during Town's 1-1 draw with Leeds...
Bartosz Bialkowski 6.5
Little to deal with for Town's regular number one, the big Pole being left with little chance for Leeds' goal but claimed crosses comfortably.
Jordan Spence 6.5
Right wing-back was napping for Leeds' equaliser but otherwise the West Ham academy product, signed on a free in January, linked well with Grant Ward.
Luke Chambers 6.5
Generally swept up well to the right of Berra in central defence but Chris Wood got above him to set up goal.
Christophe Berra 7.5
Dominated wood in the air, central pivot of Town's five-man defence when out of possession, to use his height.
Jonas Knusden 7.0
Tasked with sweeping up to the left of Berra and did a solid job. Dane's long throw is a threat, booked in 84th minute, taking one for the team bring down Leeds substitute Moudou Barrow.
Myles Kenlock 6.0
Only the 10th game of the 20-year-old left wing-back's career and looked susceptible to Sacko's pace, didn't cut out cross which led to the goal.
Grant Ward 6.5
Good understanding with Spence on the right and his cross was turned in by Sears for 1-0.
Cole Skuse 6.0
Midfield anchor was a possible weak link. Looked slow and limited, could struggle to deal with likes of Wes Hoolahan.
Emyr Huws 7.5
Impressive on the left, not sure why Cardiff have let the Wales international out on loan. Lethal left foot, superb in-swinging corners and his urgency created Town's goal.
Freddie Sears 7.0
Buzzing around in support of McGoldrick, defending from the front. Right place at the right time to score.
David McGoldrick 8.0
Focal point. Injury-plagued striker has finally found the fitness to display his class. Hit the bar and was denied by Rob Green.
Kevin Bru (for Skuse, 60)
Teddy Bishop (for Huws, 81)
Kiefer Moore (for McGoldrick, 90+1)
Unused subs: Dean Gerken (GK), Tommy Smith, Josh Emmanuel, Brett Pitman.
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