The Local Lowdown: Ipswich Town

2023-24/Matchdays/20230919 Southampton vs Ipswich Town/MW_Southampton_Ipswich_058_tp9qdk

We asked opposition expert Stuart Watson, Chief Football Writer for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, to preview Easter Monday's encounter from the hosts' point of view...

Ipswich are enjoying an incredible campaign following promotion from League One last season. What’s been behind the club’s success?

Ambitious and transparent American ownership, driven chief executive Mark Ashton, cerebral manager Kieran McKenna, plus a group of players bonded on and off the pitch have all combined to awaken the fanbase of a sleeping giant. The last 12 months have been an incredible ride and the most exciting thing is that it still feels like there's a long away to go.

A loss of form at the turn of the year saw Ipswich go on a run of one win in nine league games. What contributed to that dip in results?

From the outside looking in, it maybe looked as if newly-promoted Ipswich - as many predicted - had been found out or were running out of steam. The truth is, performances didn't dip that much over that period.

Town's busy winter schedule included games against Norwich, Leicester (twice), Leeds and West Brom. They only lost one of those tough fixtures. That spell also saw the team without several key players, including main striker George Hirst and influential skipper Sam Morsy, due to injuries and suspensions.

Ipswich dug deep to go top of the Championship with a 1-0 win at Blackburn on Good Friday

The response since then has been emphatic, with seven wins out of eight ahead of the Easter weekend, averaging more than three goals a game in that time. Is this the strongest Ipswich have looked all season?

Good question. To be honest, I'd say the performances have been pretty consistent all season. Themes of the campaign include coming from behind, substitutes scoring, reacting well to rare setbacks and spreading the goals around. Ipswich have shown they can outscore teams in open thrillers at Portman Road and, just as importantly, roll their sleeves up and grind our results on the road.

Who have been the standout players in recent weeks?

This is a well-coached team whose whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. Skipper Sam Morsy is the heartbeat of the side in midfield, Leif Davis is an assist machine at left-back, while keeper Vaclav Hladky's ability with his feet has been key to the build from the back style. They'd be my top three for Player of the Season.

Kieffer Moore offers Ipswich a physical focal point up front to build from

Kieffer Moore has filled the boots of Hirst since joining on loan from Bournemouth on January deadline day, scoring six goals in 10 games at the time of writing, while exciting Chelsea loanee Omari Hutchinson looks a real star in the making.

How do you see the game playing out on Easter Monday, and what sort of atmosphere should Saints expect at Portman Road?

Well, everything points towards goals! Portman Road has to be the best place in the land to be a season ticket holder right now. There have been some wild games on Suffolk soil, with Ipswich winning 4-3 twice and 3-2 five times.

Southampton have obviously been involved in several high-scoring games themselves. Both teams will want to get the ball down and play. It should make for a classic between two teams pushing for promotion.

Regarding the atmosphere, the stadium is, unsurprisingly, a 29k+ sell-out every game. Expect plenty of noise.

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