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Preview: Forest V Ipswich

We got down and dirty with the excellent freelancer Nick Ames (of the Guardian, ESPN, the Blizzard and others) to scratch the surface of Ipswich's indifferent start to the season.

Mick looking sad and forlorn.
Mick looking sad and forlorn.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Ipswich were supposed to trample all comers underfoot this season after Mick McCarthy got all the pawns in the right place in the last year or so. But Daryl Murphy's lost his shooting boots and the defence is a bit leaky. That about right?

NA: Pretty much. It's been a strange start to the season – Ipswich flew out of the traps and it was hard not to get carried away with the idea that a top two finish would be realistic. Mick McCarthy made a conscious change to the side's approach during the summer, adding plenty of flair to a team whose success last season was mainly down to sheer tempo and hard work, and the more expansive outlook bore fruit early on. I think a pair of defeats either side of the September international break made a big impact on the team and management. First, Brighton won 3-2 at Portman Road in an early top-of-the-table clash, but they could have scored seven really. Then Reading won 5-1 at the Madejski and on both occasions you could say Ipswich, without playing that badly, paid the penalty for being too open. A balance needed to be struck but it's all been very flat since then, a succession of draws at home against supposedly inferior opposition doing little to boost spirits and the lifeless away defeats at Blackburn and Hull probably adding up to the lowest point of McCarthy's reign.

Against all that, it's important to understand that the changes McCarthy is implementing will need time to bed in and if we see a more settled side I'd expect a big improvement. To that end, the injury list has been very tough for this stage of the season – Murphy and David McGoldrick have both had niggles, and the former looks way off last season's form, while Ted Bishop and Kevin Bru, two midfielders who can really make the side play, have both been missing for the most part. Ryan Fraser, a wonderfully talented winger on loan from Bournemouth, has just been ruled out for two months and that is a huge blow.

My suspicion, personally, is that McCarthy has tried to change a little too much at once and – especially in attacking areas – is struggling to find the right blend in a side that used to pick itself. If he can do that once the injuries have eased, Ipswich will be a real force. But the current blip needs to be sorted out in the next couple of games to avoid 'crisis' talk.

Can we expect a right good old fashioned 4-4-2 with lads putting honest shifts in or is a bit more sophisticated than that?

NA: It's likely to be a 4-4-2 although they went for 4-3-3 at Hull on Tuesday night. McCarthy is more flexible than many think and when the team was in full flow early in the season, with Fraser running riot on the left and Freddie Sears looking the bargain of the century up top, a very exciting season seemed in store. Unfortunately, the sheer bloody-mindedness that pulled the team through so many times last season has largely been absent, and with that kind of thing you wonder whether it can ever quite be recaptured once it's gone. Players like Paul Anderson, Stephen Hunt and Jay Tabb were crucial to what happened last year, both on the pitch and in terms of Ipswich's much-vaunted team spirit – the first two were let go and the latter has rarely been used this season. None are stellar talents but all are phenomenally hard workers and big, influential characters. Perhaps removing these three from the equation has taken slightly too big a chunk out of what Ipswich were about, much as things definitely needed to evolve.

You mentioned ex-Forest player Paul Anderson - Luke Chambers and David McGoldrick still working out for you ok?

NA: Chambers remains Ipswich's most popular captain since Matt Holland even though the "is he a right-back?" debate will rumble on forever. I think he is a good one, actually, but he's had a tough time of it this season looking after young Ainsley Maitland-Niles in front of him and suffering the uncharacteristic wobbliness of his centre-backs. McGoldrick is the best footballer at the club, and one of the best in the division, and it's been stop/start from him so far – partly because of injury niggles and partly because McCarthy has sometimes played Brett Pitman, a very good squad option but basically McGoldrick-lite, ahead of him. He signed a new contract in the summer and clearly has some unfinished business after a lot of time in the treatment room; I just want to see him fit and in the side every week, as if he's at 100% he should be the first name on the teamsheet.


Jonny Williams...we liked him when he was with your lot on loan last year. Are we right to be excited about him?

NA: Yes, he became a real fans' favourite and I think he loved it at Ipswich too. He was brilliant in his first loan spell, but sadly his next two were hampered by injury. He constantly wants to make something happen – every touch from him is a positive one, and he has wonderfully quick feet and an admirable ability to pick himself up and keep going despite getting kicked to high heaven. The latter is an issue – he does get fouled often and it was a shocking, cynical challenge from Watford's Joel Ekstrand that ruled him out of last season from November. If you wrap him in cotton wool a little and use him carefully, you've a real winner of a signing there.

Give us a reason you'll win:

NA: Everyone has a bad run and this might simply have been Ipswich's turn. There's too much ability in this team for things not to start falling for them soon, and Ipswich have had a tendency to bounce back very strongly after previous poor runs under McCarthy.

Give us a reason you'll lose:

NA: Heads have clearly dropped of late and this is an unfamiliar situation in the McCarthy era. Add to that a long injury list and the fact that the away record has actually been well below par since last winter, and Ipswich could be the perfect opponents for Forest to get their own home form on track.

Nick knows his onions and can be followed here.

This happened last time these two sides met towards the dog-end of last season:


This almost definitely won't happen on Saturday but it's nice to dream...