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Following a disappointing first half to the season under Paul Cook, the Ipswich Town hierarchy, who had set high expectations for the season with a strong squad, opted to replace the man at the helm with Kieran McKenna, and the former Manchester United coach enjoyed a strong start.
In his first game in charge, the Tractor Boys dug out a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers thanks to James Norwood‘s goal, before kicking the new year off in style against Gillingham.
Norwood again opened the scoring for his side and Wes Burns and Macauley Bonne quickly added goals before Conor Chaplin capped off a dominant away performance by converting a late penalty, but McKenna’s winning start was then halted at the weekend.
The Suffolk outfit travelled to take on a Bolton Wanderers side in a five-game losing run, but goals from Kieran Lee and Oladapo Afolayan in the final 15 minutes ensured the Trotters broke their run and sent the visitors home empty-handed.
As a result, the Tractor Boys’ attempt to charge up the division has briefly stalled, and, with eight points now separating themselves and the top six after the halfway mark of the term, McKenna’s men will know they have little more room for error if they are to climb and meet their expectations of a playoff place at the end of the campaign.
Their visitors arrive looking to stretch a league unbeaten run to six games on Saturday, having firstly bounced back from a defeat by recording back-to-back 1-0 wins over Bolton Wanderers and former league leaders Rotherham United.
John Coleman’s side then made it three straight clean sheets with a goalless stalemate away at Shrewsbury Town, before they earned a commendable point in a 1-1 draw with fifth-placed MK Dons, despite Liam Coyle being sent off for Stanley in the first half after Colby Bishop‘s early opener.
They hosted another promotion-chasing side last time out as Sunderland made the trip, and, with the visitors leading 1-0 heading into the final 15 minutes with Accrington defender Ross Sykes sent off, their chances of a result looked bleak.
Ipswich possess impressive levels of quality throughout the pitch, and McKenna could again deploy a threatening front three with Sone Aluko supporting the duo of James Norwood and Macauley Bonne, the former of which having scored in each of the manager’s first two games and the latter boasting 12 league goals this term.
Sam Morsy and Lee Evans form an accomplished midfield pair with Matt Penney and Wes Burns operating in wing-back roles.
The new boss has tended to field a back three, with Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson lining up in front of Christian Walton, who recently made his loan move from Brighton & Hove Albion permanent.
Accrington Stanley will be without centre-back Ross Sykes, who was sent off in the draw with Sunderland, while Liam Coyle will return to contention after serving his own suspension in that game.
Colby Bishop should continue to lead the line, having netted seven league goals so far this season, while Sean McConville offers further threat from the wing.
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Ipswich Town possible starting lineup:
Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson; Burns, Morsy, Evans, Penney; Aluko; Norwood, Bonne
Accrington Stanley possible starting lineup:
Savin; Clark, Nottingham, Baghuelou, Amankwah; Pell, Butcher, Coyle; O’Sullivan, Bishop, McConville