White's duo on standby
DAVID Wheater and Tim Ream have been put on red alert after Dougie Freedman hinted he could be willing to change his side’s shape at Ipswich Town tomorrow.
The Wanderers boss, seeking a sixth successive win, could switch to a three-man defence in an effort to stretch Mick McCarthy’s more traditional 4-4-2 Tractor Boys.
With Zat Knight and Craig Dawson already a settled partnership it could boil down to a straight choice between Wheater’s greater aerial power or Ream’s sweeper-style as to who gets the nod.
But with Sam Ricketts and Marcos Alonso then supplying the main width in the side, it is most likely that a winger – Chung-Yong Lee or Chris Eagles – would be the man to make way.
Freedman has spoken about a three-man defence on several occasions in the last few weeks and admits the players have been working hard adapting to the new system on the training ground.
“It definitely gives us an option,” he said. “We have worked very hard on that behind the scenes.
“It is a slightly different way of attacking and defending. It gives one or two people more of a licence to go forward, i.e. Alonso, and that’s a big weapon. I will be shocked if we don’t look at that in one or two games.”
Ipswich have struggled against the likes of Watford, Peterborough United and Bristol City, who have all employed a “wing-back” system in the last couple of months.
And that could convince Freedman to change the side that beat Brighton last weekend as Wanderers head to Portman Road for the first time since 2005.
Ipswich snatched three points from the Reebok with a Michael Chopra winner in stoppage time back in December but Freedman believes his side have matured in the intervening four months.
“I felt when we played them at the Reebok we played very well that day,” he said. “I felt we gave them a couple of goals with our naïve defending.
“We were not in the right frame of mind at the time, so I believe our attitude might have changed towards how we play games. It is better for us.
“I’m looking forward to this game to see how far we have come and how different we are to three or four months ago.”
The Whites boss has voiced concerns over energy levels in his squad and is still on the lookout for loan reinforcements. And he expects another tough physical test against McCarthy’s struggling side, who currently sit just two places and four points off the relegation zone.
“Mick is a fantastic manager and he gets a lot out of his team,” he said. “They do work extremely hard for him so we have to make sure we are matching them for energy and work-rate.
“But also I think we’re playing with confidence up top to create one or two opportunities.
“It’s a fascinating game for me – not just in terms of result – but to see how far we have come in terms of attitude and how we approach games.”