When you think of Ipswich Town, what do you think of? Bobby Robson taking the team into Europe? Alan Brazil celebrating a goal, arms a loft, midriff showing? The Dutch duo of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Mühren? The disproportionate amount of Town players who featured in the film Escape to Victory? All valid memories, so why when I think of Ipswich does my mind give forth just one name; Frank Yallop?
I have no idea why Frank Yallop is impressed on my memory. He was at Portman Road a hell of a long time, 13 years to be precise, in which he made over 300 appearances and became a regular in the Canadian national side. But what did he do to become the first thing I think of whenever anyone mentions Ipswich Town? I’ve a vision of him scoring a ridiculously good goal, a volley, from distance, at Portman Road with its oddly large distance between the net and the stand, but did it happen? And if so who against? After two paragraphs of inane Frank Yallop muttering I am hoping that one of you will be irritated enough to tell me why I remember him. Answers in the comment box please.
Anyway, on the subject of things lurking in the dark recesses of your memory, this weekend’s trip to Suffolk offers Rovers the chance to consign one of their worst footballing weeks in years to that very place. A lacklustre home defeat to Reading last Saturday has been followed by capitulation in the FA Cup at Molineux as Doncaster have shipped eight goals and scored none in what has been quite a desperate week. At Wolverhampton players could be seen arguing with one another, and in the case of Billy Sharp arguing with supporters too, this was not the Doncaster Rovers we know, and hopefully that can be proved at Portman Road.
The natural thing for a manager to do after two such disappointing performances would be to ring the changes, but for Sean O’Driscoll the opportunity to do that is limited. Key players from the spine of his side remain unavailable, six of what could feasibly considered the manager’s first eleven will be sat kicking their heals in the stands come 3pm Saturday. So, the opportunity is there for those who have been cruelly scapegoated of late, the likes of Mark Wilson, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird and Neil Sullivan, to prove to the dissenters that they are indeed up to the task in hand.
Ipswich have been having a transitional period of their own of late; with Roy Keane replaced as manager by Paul Jewell the visit of Rovers represents Jewell’s first home game in charge of the Tractor Boys. The new boss was in the stands to see Ipswich’s last home game as they defeated Arsenal 1-0 in the League Cup semi-final, but the joy of that result is sandwiched between the disappointment of a 7-0 FA Cup loss at Chelsea and a 2-1 defeat at Millwall last weekend. Jewell’s Town side currently sit 20th, three points above the relegation zone and six points behind Rovers, but with the home support getting behind the new man in the dugout, league positions are likely to mean as much to this game as faint recollections of a Canadian defender.
Martin Woods is just a big tease isn’t he really, going on and on about his groin, putting himself out there against Reading and then retreating back into the stands to nurse his groin again… alluringly. In short, Woods is injured. Also unavailable are fellow midfielders Simon Gillett and Brian Stock who both remain injured, albeit in much more wholesome areas like the knee, and the calf.
If the absentees ended there then it wouldn’t be too terrible, but Sean O’Driscoll also has four less defenders at his disposal. Centre-backs Shelton Martis and Wayne Thomas remain sidelined by long-term injuries, whilst full-back Joseph Mills has returned to parent club Southampton. Mustapha Dumbuya is now famous (in name if not on appearance) to folk on South London trains, but is sadly no nearer a return to action as he remains sidelined with a knee injury. So, like Newcastle United fans all our hopes remain pinned on a messiah-like appearance from Keegan, albeit Irish midfielder Paul Keegan, not the little lad from Armthorpe.
Ipswich Town welcome back Lee Martin from his loan spell at Charlton, though what use the 42-year-old one-time FA Cup winning goal scorer will be to Paul Jewell is hard to determine. Also returning to the fold is eponymous Northern soap character Grant Leadbitter who is back in contension after completing a three match ban. Golakeeper Brian Murphy however remains out with an ankle injury and Jake Livermore has returned to parent club Spurs with a groin problem cutting short his stay at Portman Road.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Matt Kilgallon, Adam Lockwood, James Chambers; John Oster, Mark Wilson, Dean Shiels; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, George Friend, Byron Webster, Sam Hird, Paul Keegan, Waide Fairhurst, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Like Molineux on Tuesday night, Portman Road is a traditional football ground close to the town centre (not that Molineux moves further out of town on other days). Follow the A14 around Ipswich (towards Felixstowe) until you get to the A137 Ipswich turn-off, which you need to take. Stick with this road towards the town centre and you will eventually see the ground on your left. There is limited on-street parking close-by, a few car-parks on Portman Road itself and a number of other town centre multi-storeys available too.
If you’re travelling by train then you’ll be glad to hear Portman Road is very close to the train station. Walking directions are as follows; come out of the station, walk in a straight line towards the town centre, arrive at the ground. If you get lost, then how you managed to make it as far as Suffolk on a train is a complete mystery.
Six consecutive matches has sadly proved a bridge and a financial commitment too far for Viva Rovers much heralded in game live twitter feed. With Ipswich a ten hour round trip from Viva Towers we’ve had to give this game a miss and so, like others unable to get to Suffolk we’ll be relying on other sources.
Live commentary of the game is as ever available (for a fee) through the official club website’s Rovers Player service with commentary from Chris Mortley, the hardest working press officer in show-business. Also online the most consistent and reliable source for updates is the BBC website’s Live Text service.
On the radio if you’re in South Yorkshire then there will be updates on BBC Sheffield, whilst for those at home the BBC Score Interactive service accessed via the red button will be the best source of television updates. However, beware the lurking long-winded and often ultimately rhetorical time-bomb that is Garth Crooks. At some point he will say something that makes you want to hurl your shoe at the television, but there’s truly no way of being sure when.