06:00 July 23, 2022
Ipswich Town are in action this afternoon as they take on Millwall in their penultimate game of the pre-season. Andy Warren takes a look at the contest.
The final Countdown
This time next week we will all have woken up excited for the start of the League One season.
Time has certainly flown by this summer and the prospect of competitive football is hugely exciting.
City boss Kieran McKenna has two more chances to see his side in action before the big kick-off, starting today at Millwall. Then it’s Southend at Portman Road on Tuesday night.
The Blues’ varied pre-season saw them come up against three of the Premier League’s top 12 last season, at Arsenal, West Ham and Crystal Palace. They lost all three games but scored in all of them and enjoyed good spells in all of them as well.
The signs have been good but, for me, this game with Millwall has always been the game that stands out.
The hope must be that Town will be hugely competitive against a Millwall side who finished ninth in the Championship last season.
That was not the case when the two sides met in Suffolk almost exactly a year ago, with the Lions emerging 3-0 winners against Paul Cook’s Flat Blues.
It was a warning for what was to come, in many ways.
So who will play?
Well, McKenna has suggested that the majority of players he plans to start on the opening day of the season will see significant action.
It surely means the best part of 90 minutes for Chrisitan Walton, Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden, Sam Morsy, Conor Chaplin, Wes Burns and Freddie Ladapo.
There are some question marks, like who starts on the left side, whether George Edmundson will be fit to start against Bolton after a long spell of inactivity and which of Dominic Ball or Lee Evans will partner Morsy. There is also a question about attacking positions behind the striker.
We might just get the answer to a few of them today.
McKenna, however, insists he has no ‘first XI’ in mind and plans to use his full squad throughout the season.
Many more players will get their chance on Tuesday night as they seek to prove their worth to their boss.
Chances are McKenna will grant Marcus Harness his first minutes at Ipswich Town this afternoon.
We know what the 26-year-old is like, having seen him in action for Portsmouth over the past three seasons, but seeing him in a City shirt for the first time is exciting.
Town’s new signing was involved in Pompey’s early weeks of pre-season but hasn’t played in a game since July 9 so he may be a bit short of minutes but nothing has happened. indicates that it will not be ready to leave on opening day.
So where is it located?
Harness has played most of his football as a right-sided striker in recent years, but Burns has surely locked that position in.
But McKenna’s hybrid system, which sits somewhere between a 3-4-2-1 and a 4-2-3-1, can potentially accommodate two more forwards behind one forward.
Harness has spoken of playing a central role and can also operate from the left, so it will be interesting to see which one he slots into.
Chaplin, one of Town’s best performers in pre-season, looks like a likely starter for the opening day, while Sone Aluko is also in the game.
Decisions to be made.
Another debut today could potentially give us our first glimpse of Ipswich players in the club’s new away kit.
City are back in red and black for the coming season, with the new Umbro away kits that have proven themselves since their release in May.
Pre-season is never a given in the kit world, as evidenced by Ipswich wearing their home shirt and Wimbledon away at Plow Lane last weekend.
But will we get a first glimpse today? With a bit of luck.
Expect to see him for the first time in a competitive match at Shrewsbury on August 20.
Hello, old friend
A game with Millwall sees Ipswich take on their former No.1 in Bartosz Bialkowski.
Town’s three-time player of the year moved to Den on loan in 2019 and then on a permanent basis the following January and appears to be just as popular as he was at Portman Road.
He won the Lions Player of the Year award in each of his first two seasons and is set to become a central figure again in the next campaign.
Last time at The Den
It has been a few years since Ipswich last visited Millwall, due to the club’s relegation from the Championship.
But their last trip in October 2018 was a bit of a mess as, following the sacking of Paul Hurst, Bryan Klug led a deflated Ipswich in a game watched from the stands by Paul Lambert.
The Scot had been officially named club manager earlier in the morning and sat in a flat cap and heavy coat trying to avoid the cameras.
He may have regretted taking the job, judging by Ipswich’s performance that day, with the players looking completely lost as they were down 3-0.
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