Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing our opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As The Lions prepare to travel to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town and open 2019, here is a review of our opponents’ results this season…
After leaving Shrewsbury Town, Paul Hurst became Ipswich Town’s manager on a three-year deal following the departure of long-serving Mick McCarthy last campaign. Hurst brought in a number of reinforcements, drafting in players such as Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala from his former club, along with Accrington’s Kayden Jackson, Peterborough’s Gwion Edwards – and Premier League loanees Trevoh Chalobah and Matthew Pennington. Ipswich won three and lost two of their pre-season friendly fixtures, securing successive 1-0 wins at Crawley Town, Barnet and MK Dons, leading into a potentially interesting season for a vastly-changed setup in Suffolk.
Ipswich began their 17th straight season in the second tier with two Sky Bet Championship fixtures, before starting their Carabao Cup campaign at Exeter City. A home fixture with newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers opened 2018/19 for The Tractor Boys, playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw. A second promoted side beckoned next, in the shape of Play-Off winners Rotherham United. Ipswich went down by a solitary goal in South Yorkshire, before being eliminated from the first domestic cup by Exeter following a penalty shootout. After another draw at home upon their return to League action – against Aston Villa after playing much of the game with 10 men – constituted an encouraging result for Hurst’s side, Ipswich then suffered back-to-back away defeats at Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. The team entered September bottom of the pile.
Whilst September saw a noticeable improvement in performances and subsequently only one League defeat in five games, Ipswich were yet to secure their first win on the board. The month began with the East Anglian derby clash against Norwich City, hosted at Portman Road. Despite taking the lead in the second half, The Canaries pegged Hurst’s men back to a 1-1 share of the spoils. Ipswich’s sole defeat of September arrived next, a 2-0 loss at Hull City to return bottom of the Championship. Three draws followed to lift the side to 22nd, against Brentford and Bolton Wanderers at home, and a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City in which The Tractor Boys took a 2-0 half-time lead. Whilst progress was made, Hurst still searched for his first competitive win in charge.
October began with a tough test against Middlesbrough at Portman Road, with Boro’ running out 2-0 winners with two early strikes. With a gap opening up to set Ipswich adrift in the division, salvation was restored in another typically difficult encounter, this time away at Swansea City. Resilient and impressive to take the lead three times in South Wales, Hurst’s Ipswich rubber-stamped their first three points of the campaign with a thrilling 3-2 victory. Sadly for The Tractor Boys, this was the best it got in October, and for the manager. After back-to-back 2-0 defeats to QPR and Leeds United sent Ipswich back to the bottom of the table, the club parted company with Hurst ahead of their visit to The Den to take on Neil Harris’ Millwall. Under the temporary stewardship of Bryan Klug, Ipswich fell short in SE16 as The Lions ran out 3-0 winners, with a Lee Gregory double and Ryan Leonard putting the visitors to the sword.
With Paul Lambert announced as Hurst’s successor over the weekend of Ipswich’s visit to The Den, the club began November with a home clash against Preston North End. Securing a 1-1 draw, The Tractor Boys then visited Reading looking for their second away win of the season. Lambert’s men led for over 70 minutes at the Madejski, before succumbing to a late Royals equaliser to claim a 2-2 share of the spoils. Home matches against West Bromwich Albion and Bristol City rounded off November, losing by the odd goal in both clashes – 1-2 and 2-3 respectively. Ipswich remained bottom of the pile going into December, and still seeking a first home victory.
Six League fixtures beckoned in December for Ipswich. The month began with visits to top-half outfits, namely Nottingham Forest and Stoke City. The visit to the City Ground was over fairly quickly, with two early strikes enough to claim the three points for Forest. Moving onto the bet365 Stadium, Ipswich managed to compete toe-to-toe with Stoke, but The Potters were able to find the target either side of half-time to pick up a 2-0 win over Lambert’s men. Fortunes soon changed for Ipswich on home soil in mid-December, firing their way to a 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic at Portman Road , courtesy of Freddie Sears’ second-half winner. The team then took the lead in their next home game against promotion-chasing Sheffield United, but were eventually held to a point apiece as The Blades found an equaliser shortly after the break. The Christmas fixtures challenged Ipswich to another two successive away trips, going down 3-0 at QPR before a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough. Ipswich go into the New Year as the basement side, seven points adrift of safety and 10 points behind The Lions, but matters are far from over yet for Lambert and his squad.