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Preview: Ipswich Town (A) - December 21

THE Giuseppe Sannino reign begins in earnest on Saturday as the Hornets face Ipswich Town at Portman Road, looking to start with a first win in nine.

Winless since the beginning of October - a run of form which prompted Gianfranco Zola`s resignation - the Golden Boys have not failed to win in 10 consecutive Championship fixtures since late 2004 under Ray Lewington.

Hosts Ipswich have only lost two of their last 10 in the Championship, both defeats coming against high-flying sides in Burnley and Leicester City.

Sat comfortably in 10th position, just three points outside the Play-Offs, Mick McCarthy will be hoping his side can keep their momentum going and mount a surprise push for a top-six berth come May.

In his first full season in charge of the Tractor Boys, former Millwall, Sunderland, Wolves and Republic of Ireland boss McCarthy has transformed the Suffolk outfit`s fortunes from being League One bound to Play-Off outsiders.

Marooned in the relegation zone when he succeeded Paul Jewell last season, the 56 year-old kept Town in the division with ease and has now set about moulding group in his own image.

An expert at getting sides out of the Championship, having done so with both Sunderland and Wolves in the last decade, such has been the success of McCarthy`s 13 months in Suffolk that he was heavily linked with the Republic of Ireland job once more before Martin O`Neill was eventually appointed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, McCarthy has brought several players to Portman Road who were integral to his success at Molineux during six-year stay in the Black Country which saw the club promoted before retaining their Premier League status until the Yorkshireman was unceremoniously dumped in favour of long-term assistant Terry Connor.

Striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has this week joined former Wanderers Stephen Hunt and Christophe Berra in signing for Ipswich since McCarthy`s arrival.

Scottish international Berra joined in pre-season, whilst Irish international Hunt joined on a short-term deal at the beginning of November before extending his deal this week.

With a senior squad of just 21 players following the capture of former Plymouth Argyle and Manchester United powerhouse Ebanks-Blake, McCarthy has had to lean heavily on the club`s academy set-up, handing squad numbers to no fewer than 11 academy products.

Another big part of Ipswich`s success at this stage has been securing the permanent signatures of those who impressed on loan at Portman Road last season.

The Tractor Boys used almost as many loan players as Watford last season, and, not unlike the Hornets, some have returned on a permanent basis.

Seven-goal top-scorer David McGoldrick had been on-loan from Nottingham Forest before his switch, whilst workaholic former Reading and Brentford midfielder Jay Tabb agreed a free mov transfer over the summer.

If Ipswich can avoid picking up too many injuries during the remaining 26 league games, then there`s no reason why they can`t finish in the top-six, just don`t mention McCarthy`s Play-Off record; he`s been beyond the regular season twice and lost out on both occasions.

Ipswich have a fully-fit squad, with new Watford head coach Sannino is without Josh McEachran, Lloyd Doyley, Essaid Belkalem, Tommie Hoban and Almen Abdi.

Predicted line-ups:

Ipswich Town: Gerken; Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Nouble, Tunnicliffe, Skuse, Hyam; Murphy & McGoldrick.

Watford: Bond; Faraoni, Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Cassetti; Bellerin, Murray, Thorne, Pudil; Deeney & Forestieri.

Kick-off: 15.00

Referee: Mr G Scott

Commentary: BBC Three Counties & Hornets Player

Highlights: The Football League Show (BBC1 @ 23.45) & Hornets Player

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The Journalist

Writer: Tom Bodell Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday December 20 2013

Time: 10:10AM


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