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Town Look to Bow Out of Championship on Positive Note
Friday, 3rd May 2019 19:08

Town boss Paul Lambert says his team will be doing everything they can to try to end the club’s 62-year stay in the top two divisions on a positive note when they face Leeds United in their final game of the season at Portman Road on Sunday, but admits the third-placed Whites will go into the game as favourites.

The Blues, whose relegation to the third tier for the first time since the 1956/57 campaign was confirmed in mid-April, have lost their last three games and have won only four times all season.

At home Town, whose 17-year stint in the Championship will end on Sunday, have won only twice during 2018/19 and only three times since they defeated Leeds 1-0 in last season’s corresponding fixture in January 2018.

The Whites, who will be joined in Suffolk by an increased following of 4,000, might have gone into the game looking to secure promotion back to the Premier League but a disastrous Easter, during which they were beaten by Wigan and Brentford, saw them drop out of the running with Sheffield United and Norwich confirming their places in the top two last week.

Leeds appear set to finish third but could drop to fourth if they lose to the Blues and West Brom win at Derby while achieving a three-goal turnaround.

Asked if he wanted Town’s miserable season to end on a high on Sunday, Lambert said: “We’ll do what we can, but Leeds United are favourites, I don’t think anybody should kid themselves on that, Leeds United are favourites because they are higher than us in the league.

“They’ve won more games, they are a relentless team, they beat Ipswich quite easily in the first game.

“We don’t have a divine right because we’re at home that we’re going to win, and if we don’t match their energy then we’re in for a hard 90 minutes. Match their energy and fight then we’ve got a chance.”

Reflecting on how Leeds might approach the game, he added: “I think they’ve got momentum; they’ve got a manager [Marcelo Bielsa] that’s relentless.

“Their team is really good. I’ve not played against them, but their fanbase is great, the manager as I said before looks relentless.

“Do I expect any different when they come down? No, I don’t. But if you don’t match their desire then it’s going to be a difficult game because they are one of the best teams in the league and were in a really strong position.

“If their Easter games had gone their way they’d probably have been challenging Norwich and Sheffield United to get out of the division, so I don’t expect anything different from their manager, that’s for sure.”

Lambert has previously said keeper Bartosz Bialkowski will return in goal, while it’s likely Josh Emmanuel and Myles Kenlock will continue as the full-backs, the Blues having taken up one-year options on the duo’s contracts.

At the heart of the defence, assuming the Blues return to a back four from the three-man defence which matched Sheffield United’s system last week, skipper Luke Chambers will probably be partnered by Toto Nsiala with Lambert less sure whether he’ll give youngster Corrie Ndaba his first senior start having been unimpressed with the Irish U21 call-up’s display for the U23s in midweek.

Cole Skuse seems likely to move back into midfield - unless Lambert decides to have a look at the 33-year-old in a back four - with on-loan Chelsea man Trevoh Chalobah playing his last game for the Blues if he is included. Jon Nolan, Teddy Bishop, Andre Dozzell, Flynn Downes and Idris El Mizouni will all be hoping to be named in the starting line-up.

Up front, Collin Quaner is likely to start down the centre if fit - Kayden Jackson is an alternative depending on his hamstring problem - with Alan Judge probably on the left.

Gwion Edwards has been struggling with a groin problem in recent weeks so may miss out, which could see Dozzell, Bishop or El Mizouni used in a similar role to Judge on the right.

Leeds, who may well rest a few of their regular starters against the Blues ahead of the play-offs, will be without the suspended Patrick Bamford, while Tyler Roberts (ankle) and Stuart Dallas (knee) are doubts. Barry Douglas, Gjanni Alioski and Leif Davis (all knee) have been ruled out for the season.

However, the Whites’ 14-goal top scorer Kemar Roofe is completely fit, although head coach Marcelo Bielsa hinted that the former Oxford United man might not be ready for a full 90 minutes and is unlikely to take any risks in what is essentially a meaningless game.

Historically, Leeds have the superior record in the fixture, winning 33 (32 in the league) clashes between the teams. Town have been victorious on 28 (23) occasions and 21 (18) games have ended in draws.

The teams met at Elland Road in October in what proved to be Paul Hurst’s last match in charge of Town with owner Marcus Evans wielding the axe the following afternoon.

Roofe and Liam Cooper were on target as the Blues were comfortably defeated 2-0 by Leeds at Elland Road as the Whites returned to the top of the table.

Roofe put the West Yorkshiremen ahead in the 22nd minute and skipper Cooper added the second on 66 with Town never looking like taking anything from the game once they had gone behind.

The teams last met at Portman Road in January last year when Bersant Celina’s brilliant 30-yard second-half strike saw Town to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Leeds.

Whites midfielder Eunan O’Kane was dismissed on 37 for head-butting Jonas Knudsen and Celina sealed the Blues’ first win of 2018 in the 67th minute.

Matthew Pennington, who remains officially on loan with the Blues despite having returned to parent club Everton having suffered an ankle injury, spent 2017/18 at Elland Road, making 15 starts and nine sub appearances.

Town midfielder Tom Adeyemi spent 2015/16 on loan with Leeds, making 17 starts and seven sub appearances, scoring two goals.

Sunday’s referee is Gavin Ward from Surrey, who has shown 123 yellow cards and seven red cards in 37 games so far this season.

Ward’s last Town match was the 6-1 pre-season thrashing at Charlton ahead of the start of the 2017/18 campaign.

His most recent competitive Blues fixture was the 1-0 away victory over the MK Dons in December 2015 in which he yellow-carded Chambers, Jonathan Douglas and Freddie Sears.

A month earlier he had taken charge of the 2-2 draw at home to Wolves in which he again booked the Blues skipper and two visiting players.

Ward was also the man in the middle for the 3-1 home victory over Cardiff in April of the same year in which he booked Skuse, Tyrone Mings and Christophe Berra and two visiting players. Prior to that he was in charge of the 2-0 defeat at Rotherham that February.

Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Bree, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Collins, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Ndaba, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Nolan, Dozzell, Bishop, El Mizouni, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Quaner, Jackson.

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ITFCsince73 added 19:13 - May 3
Been a lot said about us not getting smashed by anyone this season. This game could be the one.
2

dirtydingusmagee added 21:05 - May 3
the Suffolk Punch has bolted Paul, a bit late to shut the stable door now mate .
4

BooM76 added 22:10 - May 3
Don't think the Paul's were the ones for this job ... this guy ...
1

Radlett_blue added 22:36 - May 3
Why play Chalobah when we have so many young midfield players who need experience in what is now a meaningless game?
0

bluemike1969 added 07:08 - May 4
Sorry Paul.... Its not going to happen. Perhaps on a more positive note... Maybe you should bow out?
-2

Dissboyitfc added 07:16 - May 4
in terms of league position it a meaningless game, although i dont agree that it is a totally meaningless game! I think a good performance and getting something from the game is important for ST sales and maybe just leaving us with a little feel good factor to take into the close season. I dont think a thrashing and a poor performance will really help do any good!
2

jas0999 added 07:59 - May 4
As nothing, dead rubber games go, this is a classic. Leeds will no doubt rest half their squad, whilst our players have been on the beach for some weeks. We may actually nick a win against a Leeds U23 team.
2

juniorblue added 09:53 - May 4
For the first time I feel a little bit fed up with PL. He says how relentless Leeds are but isn't that what we should be too?? I really hope that the summer break and rebuilding makes a difference. I have supported PL as he walked in to a mess not of his own making. But, he now needs to show his true worth and put our beloved club back on the footballing map for the right reasons. And Mr Evans has to support him in player recruitment.
Enjoy the summer break everyone and let's start next season on a high. COYB!
4

TimmyH added 10:19 - May 4
We won't get drubbed as it's a complete non entity of a game, probably more onus on us to win as it is a complete dead rubber...so what ever the result with Leeds fielding a reserve side I wouldn't get too excited if we get something from it (as we usually do at home to them). Glad it's the last game of a season to forget.
2

leftie1972 added 10:48 - May 4
I don't think Leeds will field a particularly weakened side at all, BUT this game (albeit too late) is an opportunity to go for it. I understand the view of some to drop loan players and give our youngsters a run out, but I think Chalobah needs to play, with Bree on the bench.
Dozza needs a good game imho.
3

raycrawfordswig added 14:02 - May 4
Don’t think we have been favourites in any game this season .
2

Counago93 added 15:28 - May 4
Really can't see the point in playing Chalobah (as good a player as he is), or Collins, Dawkins or Bree. They're most likely not going to be here soon, so why bother?
1

runningout added 16:30 - May 4
a few broken boys amongst our squad need fixing.. I like Lambert, but is he the one
0

therein61 added 18:16 - May 4
Agree "raycrawfordswig" but then underdogs should win more than 4 games out of 46!!??
1

Nobbysnuts added 18:36 - May 4
Only one more beating left now. Its nearly over thank God. Its been a long painful season.💀💀💀
0

TimmyH added 19:36 - May 4
Oh well good to see we've got a localish derby to look forward to next season with Southend somehow surviving...always look forward to a visit down to Roots Hall (as I'm in between geographically).
1

barrystedmunds added 01:30 - May 5
Ditch the loanees, play our guys and let’s make moves for next season!
0

harlingblue added 05:45 - May 5
What a state we are in, not a natural goalscorer in sight, either out injured or just not good enough.
Might as well play Chalobah up top, good in the air, and always looking for a goal, Judge in the 10 position.
0

LegendofthePhoenix added 07:58 - May 5
Paul Lambert is the one - as a figurehead and motivator of the entire club, including fans. What he needs is a really good coaching team working for him. I hope he has plans to improve the coaching staff before the players return form their summer break.
-1

happybeingblue added 08:31 - May 5
lets hope we play better than last week as at times we looked awful,lets start by trying to control the ball! hoping nolan is back,and i think we can give them a game.
0

raycrawfordswig added 08:31 - May 5
Looking on the bright side hopefully a few of this shower of 5hite will never be here again
-1

SouperJim added 10:57 - May 5
"Leeds appear set to finish third but could drop to fourth if they lose to the Blues and West Brom win at Derby while achieving a three-goal turnaround"

Actually West Brom already have the better goal difference Phil. They just need to win, presuming we somehow beat Leeds!
0


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