Ipswich Town return to Portman Road for a crucial clash against promotion rivals West Brom this afternoon (12:30pm). Alex Jones previews the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Blues' defeat at Deepdale saw them fall out of the top two in the ChampionshipThe Blues' defeat at Deepdale saw them fall out of the top two in the Championship (Image: Ross Halls)

A difficult spell

It’s fair to say the last few weeks haven’t been easy for Ipswich. 

You could look back to the East Anglian derby on December 12th. The Blues have won just one league game in that time, suffering defeats to Leeds United and Preston North End, as well as an FA Cup exit at the hands of Maidstone United.

It’s seen them slip from second to fourth, although they have a game in hand on third-place Leeds United, which will come at home to rock-bottom Rotherham United later this month.

That being said, the performances haven’t necessarily been bad in that stretch, they’ve just not hit the same levels as we saw in the first half of the season. Two 1-1 draws against Leicester City show what they’re capable of, but sustaining those levels has been a struggle.

They need to ensure that this spell is their blip in the season rather than the turning point. They've lost back-to-back games for the first time since October 2022 and they haven't lost consecutive league matches since November 2021, so it would be a big shock to the system if that run ended today.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieran McKenna's side will move 14 points clear of West Brom if they beat them todayKieran McKenna's side will move 14 points clear of West Brom if they beat them today (Image: Stephen Waller)

Should Town look down?

Town’s game West Brom puts them into an interesting position. All the focus is on hunting the automatic promotion places, which is certainly important. They don’t want to get cut adrift from the three ex-Premier League sides, and with an improved run of form, there’s no reason why they can’t chase them down.

But maybe this is an opportunity to look down rather than up, and not in a bad way.

Ipswich sit 11 points above the Baggies and 15 points above Coventry City in seventh. They can further cement their position in the top six should they win this afternoon.

After all, at this stage, that has to be the priority. Before the start of the season, most fans would’ve snapped your hand off for a place in the play-offs. However, given the Blues’ lead on the chasing pack, that’s become the expectation.

Automatic promotion would be an incredible achievement, and this run won’t define whether or not it can be achieved, but it’s also important to recognise how big a top-six finish would be for a side who’ve just spent four years in League One. 

Wins like this, should they beat West Brom, might cut the gap on the teams above them, but they’ll go a long way to extending the lead on the ones below.

East Anglian Daily Times: West Brom have won just four of their 14 away games this seasonWest Brom have won just four of their 14 away games this season (Image: PA)

Hit-and-miss Baggies

West Brom have all the tools to be a challenger for automatic promotion, but their consistency has been their downfall.

At their best, they can be dominant. They boast top Championship players like Jed Wallace and John Swift, while the core of the squad has remained from their days in the Premier League.

Their home form is imperious, and they’re capable of putting together a consistent run, but they also slip up every once in a while, and wins on the road have been hard to come by, picking up just 15 points from 14 games away from home.

For example, they beat Norwich City and Leeds before losing to struggling Swansea. They then bounced back with an FA Cup win against non-league Aldershot Town and a thumping victory against Blackburn Rovers, but they slipped up in the reverse fixture against Norwich, losing 2-0 at Carrow Road.

Carlos Corberan has done incredible well to this point, especially given the financial constraints and continuous off-field issues that continue to hold the club back from achieving their potential.

They come into today’s game off the back of a 1-0 win against Birmingham City, and they’ll be desperate to show that they can keep up those performance levels heading into the run-in.

East Anglian Daily Times: West Brom handed Town their first away defeat of the seasonWest Brom handed Town their first away defeat of the season (Image: Pagepix)

The last meeting

Town’s trip to the Hawthorns was tough. At the time it happened, it was their toughest game of the season.

Ipswich entered November with just one league defeat to their name, although 2-2 draws against both Birmingham City and Rotherham United came after a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Fulham.

A 3-2 win against Swansea City boosted confidence, but it was shattered in the West Midlands as the Baggies earned a comfortable 2-0 win live on Sky Sports.

Corberan’s men struck at the right time, scoring in the fifth minute and the 47th minute through Darnell Furlong and Grady Diangana respectively, which essentially tore up Ipswich’s game plan. They then nullified the Blues in their own third, limiting them to six shots and none on target.

It acted as a bit of a wake-up call. Ipswich had few problems swatting teams aside in the early stages of the season, but the Championship can pose bigger challenges, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks. West Brom remain one of three teams to beat Ipswich in the league so far this season.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore could make his first start for Ipswich this weekendKieffer Moore could make his first start for Ipswich this weekend (Image: Ross Halls)

Time for Moore?

We had our first taste of Kieffer Moore at Deepdale. In just 45 minutes, he scored two goals and won 11 duels, more than anyone else on the pitch.

With a full week of training under his belt, it’s time to see what he can do from the start. Unlike last week, there shouldn’t be any reason for him not to be named in the starting lineup.

He can hold up the ball, he can be a physical presence, and he’s also remarkably athletic for his size. Against experienced centre-backs like Kyle Bartley, Cedric Kipre and Semi Ajayi, he’s the obvious pick.

Kayden Jackson probably doesn’t have the right characteristics to start a game like this, while Ali Al-Hamadi could do with building up his experience in the Championship.

We could see a few changes in other positions. Nathan Broadhead and Omari Hutchinson both looked lively off the bench at Preston, which was needed in a game that Jeremy Sarmiento, Conor Chaplin and Wes Burns found hard. Maybe they could be involved from the start against the Baggies.