The frantic start to the new season shows no sign of slowing down, as teams across the EFL are beginning to discover which end of the table they may be fighting at.
In League One this Saturday, two sides that have begun the campaign on the front foot go head-to-head.
Surprise package Lincoln City sit third in the table despite mass changes to their squad over the summer. But their biggest test comes this weekend against Ipswich Town, who are above their hosts on goal difference after their own impressive start.
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton received some good news in the week, as forward Callum Morton’s shoulder injury is recovering faster than expected, but this weekend will come too soon for him. New signings Robbie Gotts and Jamie Soule could play a part, looking for their first league appearances for the club.
Meanwhile, Ipswich boss Paul Lambert will be without striker Kayden Jackson, who is currently going through a period of self-isolation following a positive Covid test. There is a possibility that left-back Stephen Ward may feature, with Lambert having a decision to make on whether he’s fully recovered from injury.
(4-3-3) Palmer, Eyoma, Montsma, Walsh, Roughan, Jones, Bridcutt, Grant, Anderson, Hopper, Johnson.
(4-2-2) Holy, Chambers, Nsiala, Wilson, Kenlock, Huws, Dozzell, Nolan, Judge, Sears, Edwards.
Lincoln head into the game off the back of two successive clean sheets, with a total of four shutouts in just seven games so far. Appleton oversaw a goalless draw away at Fleetwood Town last weekend, before an impressive 2-0 win at home to Plymouth Argyle in midweek. That was their fifth league win and eighth in all competitions, a number which no side have exceeded in the top four tiers.
In the other camp, Lambert will be looking to bounce back from a shocking defeat to Doncaster Rovers in midweek. The Tractor Boys had picked up 16 points from their first 18 on offer before their trip to South Yorkshire, but had a major off day, resulting in the 4-1 loss. Lambert knows his side have the quality to deliver however, so will be expecting to get back to winning ways here.
Ones to watch
The 19-year-old forward on loan from Nottingham Forest has been impressive since his arrival. But he was particularly effective in their midweek win over Plymouth, winning his third penalty of the season which led to the opener, before bagging his first senior goal to seal the win. His brilliant display even led to a congratulatory message from footballing legend David Beckham. The former England captain said that he expects more to come from Johnson, which we could see this weekend.
Central midfielder Nolan has been a key part of the Ipswich midfield ever since his arrival from Shrewsbury Town in 2018. He has bagged two league goals already this season, and is a real threat going forward, as well as helping out defensively. This weekend is significant for him as he will be coming up against familiar opponents, having played for Lincoln during their time in Non-league. So will be hoping to be on form against his former club.
These sides met twice last season, with the home side winning on both occasions. The most recent being in January at Portman Road, where Ipswich claimed a narrow 1-0 win. Their meeting at Sincil Bank in December was particularly interesting, as the Imps edged an eight goal thriller. Only two of Lincoln’s staring eleven remain from that day, but their recent form shows that this could be another exciting game.
The game is available to watch for both sets of fans on each club’s individual ‘iFollow’ pages. For season ticket holding Lincoln fans, the link is obtainable for free.
What the managers have said
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton spoke to the press ahead of the game, highlighting how they may have to deal with Ipswich. He said:
“I have to be mindful that certain opposition will bring certain problems, we will pick a team that is ready physically and tactically to win the game, they will be a tough opponent for us.
“They probably expected to go up last year, they have strength in depth and there will be a lot of managers who will be envious of what Paul (Lambert) has to choose from.”
In the other dugout, Ipswich manager Paul Lambert told the club site that he believes his side should treat Lincoln like any other opposition, irrelevant of their start. He said:
“They’ve done really well, but seven games is nothing really. All the games are hard, whether you’re home or away, especially when there’s no fans.
“They’ve started well and we know it’ll be a hard game, but it’ll be a hard game for them as well.”