After being booed off at both half and full-time - and with supporters already questioning Jack Ross’ suitability as manager - the last place Sunderland would want to visit is Ipswich. The Black Cats haven’t picked up a league victory at Portman Road since 1998 and face a home side that marked their return to the third tier with an away win at Burton Albion.
Anything less than a victory in Suffolk will no doubt have tongues wagging once again about Ross’ future, despite the ludicrously early stage in the season.
The Tractor Boys are still smarting themselves for the perceived lack of transfer activity, all of which could result in two frustrated fanbases come Saturday evening.
Jack Ross Says...
On the Oxford game:
Looking back at the game, three times, it was what I said after the game. Our general game was good. The final bit of quality from wide areas or in the box was not good enough. A lot of the parts of play was good.
We have to keep clean sheets to win the game. That was another lesson for us. It always makes the game more challenging. It makes it stop start. The fine margins, the players are aware of it.
On playing a promotion challenger so early:
The challenge of playing teams never gets any easier, whenever they fall, they are tough games. We should look forward to it.
In one of the least surprising twists of the season, winger Duncan Watmore has picked up a knock so is a doubt for the game against Ipswich. He joins striker Charlie Wyke and midfielder Ethan Robson who have both been ruled out of the trip to Portman Road.
Jack Ross confirmed that Aiden McGeady and Max Power are edging closer to full fitness and could play a part on Saturday. The inclusion of two experienced players will give the manager further options in midfield.
There are questions as to whether to stick with the partnership of George Dobson and Dylan McGeouch or to start Grant Leadbitter and go for a more conservative approach. McGeady’s return and with the added sh*thousery factor of Chris Maguire will put the places of both Will Grigg and Marc McNulty under threat.
View from the opposition...
Many pundits have tipped Ipswich for an immediate return to the Championship, however, it seems all is not well at Portman Road. Despite kicking off their first third tier campaign since 1957 with a win at Burton Albion, perma-grumpy manager Paul Lambert has not been happy with the club’s pre-season progress.
The Scot has bemoaned the Tractor Boys’ lack of progress in the transfer market and aired his grievances with owner Marcus Evans in a delightfully surly interview with the East Anglian Daily Times. He admitted that he didn’t know whether the situation would change over the coming weeks but maintained that he wouldn’t be phased with the pressure of promotion.
Despite the Tractor Boys’ perceived inactivity they did manage to sign free-scoring Tranmere Rovers forward James Norwood while also bringing in Lincoln City centre back James Wilson and full back Luke Garbutt on loan from Everton.
Garbutt, who scored the only goal of the game at the Pirelli Stadium, told EADT that the win over the Brewers will give the side “massive confidence” heading into the Sunderland match.
We have to start on the front foot again at home this Saturday [against Sunderland].
We have great strength in depth, especially going forward, plus we have a couple of centre-halves coming back and the skipper coming back next week.
”The squad is probably as good as it gets in this division, I believe so. We just need to keep moving forward and keep that mentality of trying to win every game.
We should be up there this season, 100%. If we work hard and do the basics well, we have more than enough going forward to be a threat in this league.
Venue: Portman Road, Ipswich
Referee: Neil Hair
Last season position: 24th (Championship)
Last 5 results
(L1) Oxford United (H) 1-1
(FR) Heerenveen (H) 0-1
(FR) Belenenses (N) 0-1
(FR) Benfica B (N) 0-0
(FR) South Shields (A) 2-0
(L1) Burton Albion (A) 1-0
(FR) Cambridge United (A) 0-0
(FR) Notts County (A) 1-1
(FR) Colchester United (A) 5-0
(FR) SV Meppen (A) 0-0
Sunderland at Portman Road
26 Sep 2017 (CH) Ipswich Town 5-2 Sunderland (Jones, McGeady)
23 Sep 2006 (CH) Ipswich Town 3-1 Sunderland (De Vos og)
17 Apr 2005 (CH) Ipswich Town 2-2 Sunderland (Elliott, Robinson)
12 Apr 2004 (D1) Ipswich Town 2-0 Sunderland
24 Jan 2004 (FAC) Ipswich Town 1-2 Sunderland (Smith, Arca)
Top goalscorers (in all competitions)
1 - Lewis Garbutt
Last time we met
Among the myriad of nadirs during Sunderland’s 2017/18 campaign, a 2-0 home defeat to Ipswich may rank somewhere in the middle. However, the game was the absolute embodiment of what it was like to watch Chris Coleman’s hopeless cabal during the darkest of dark times.
On a typically bleak February afternoon, there had been a little optimism that the arrival of Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher and Lee Camp could turn around the fortunes of the floundering team. In classic Sunderland fashion, they missed a handful of early openings before Billy Jones gave Joe Garner the freedom of Wearside to turn and shoot into the bottom corner.
Adam Matthews scored an own goal right on half time while everyone was getting a beer and trying to warm their hands and that was that. What a pathetic team.