It has been a near-faultless start to 2020-21 for the Tractor Boys, dropping just two points in the first six matches and conceding only a couple of goals to sit pretty in top spot in the embryonic league table.
But no Ipswich fan will be counting their chickens just yet; after all, they’ve been here before. This game will be one year to the day since they headed north, that time to Accrington Stanley, four points clear at the summit with an unbeaten record. A 2-0 defeat sparked a remarkable collapse, and having taken 27 points from the 11 games prior, they would collect fewer over the next 25 and wind up tenth.
Faith was kept in Paul Lambert to ensure it didn’t happen again, and they’ve once more made the ideal start with five wins from six. They look a finely-balanced team, with an impregnable defence including Toto Nsiala and James Wilson at its heart, and the division’s best attack, scoring 13 including five from the division’s top scorer, Gwion Edwards.
There look to be fewer weaknesses than 12 months ago, but they will remain wary of complacency, not least on a night when recent history could repeat itself. They are yet to face a side higher in the table than ninth – Accrington, beaten on Saturday – and undoubtedly face their most serious threat yet against Doncaster.
Rovers were another of the sides to just miss out on the play-off positions when last season was cut short, but whereas Lambert was leading a talented squad into freefall, Darren Moore was slowly building in his first year in charge, the evidence of which has been plain to see in their fine start to this campaign.
They are a point outside the top six having played one game fewer than most, thanks to their most impressive success yet last weekend at Portsmouth. Like last season they have a tight-knit squad – boosted by the signing of Madger Gomes and retention of Ben Whiteman to form an excellent midfield partnership – along with some talented loan signings from the higher divisions.
Both clubs can make statements by taking the win in this clash; Doncaster can declare their promotion candidacy loud and clear, while Ipswich can take another step towards banishing past demons.
Doncaster loanees Rayhaan Tulloch and Tyreece John-Jules remain out with hamstring and thigh injuries respectively, with the latter not likely to be back in action until November, but Jon Taylor will be available after suffering stomach cramps last week.
Kayden Jackson missed Saturday’s win after reporting symptoms for Covid-19 and has since tested positive, but the rest of the Ipswich squad tested negative on Monday and are clear to play. Meanwhile, Stephen Ward is close to a return from an achilles injury suffered earlier this month.
Doncaster: Bursik; Halliday, Anderson, Wright, John; Gomes, Whiteman; Taylor, Coppinger, James; Okenabirhie.
Ipswich: Holy; Chambers, Nsiala, Wilson, Kenlock; Bishop, Dozzell, Nolan; Judge, Sears, Edwards.
What the managers have said
Doncaster midfielder Josh Sims, who made his debut on loan from Southampton by coming off the bench in last weekend’s victory, spoke ahead of this game and is looking forward to getting more chances to impress.
“It’s a good group of boys and the competition is strong, that’s a good thing because it keeps you hungry to keep performing,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough but we have to embrace having so many games in a short space of time, as a player you want games to be coming thick and fast.”
While Ipswich have been getting the results at the beginning of the season, manager Lambert has been just as pleased with the manner in which they’ve been winning.
“I love the way we're playing at the moment,” he said. “I enjoy watching us. We might not win every game we play, but I enjoy watching us play. That's very important for me and I hope we continue that.
“We look strong defensively as well - the whole team. And then going forward the movement is good and we're moving the ball quickly.”
Ipswich have lost only one of the previous 10 meetings with Doncaster, winning four of the last five. The only meeting last season, however, was a goalless draw at Portman Road.