Ipswich Town v Barnsley
Barnsley will be eager to kick off the new campaign with a win when they travel to Ipswich on Saturday.
Following the Club’s promotion from League One last season, the Reds return to the second tier for the first time since 2014.
With some strong signings and good form throughout pre-season, boss Paul Heckingbottom will be more than confident that his side can step up to the challenge this time out.
Hosts Ipswich meanwhile, will be hoping to go one better and finish in the play-off places this season after missing out by just five points last term.
Experienced manager Mick McCarthy was able to hang onto some of his key players this summer including long-serving defender Tommy Smith, while the additions of Adam Webster and Paul Digby from Portsmouth and Barnsley respectively will add some youth to their squad.
They join what is already a strong unit at Portman Road and with Brett Pitman and Daryl Murphy leading the line for them this season, they will certainly be a team to keep an eye on.
Barnsley will be looking to end a run of seven games without a win in this fixture on Saturday afternoon.
The Club last tasted victory against the Tractor Boys nearly six years ago when goals from Goran Lovre, Gary O’Connor and a Martin Fulop own goal secured three points for the Reds at Portman Road.
Since that success however, Barnsley have failed to find a win in this fixture; losing two and drawing five including the last four in a row.
In the 2012-13 campaign both meetings between the sides ended as 1-1 draws, while a season later and another 1-1 draw was followed up by yet another stalemate, this time 2-2, after the Tractor Boys fought back from 2-0 down to earn a point at Oakwell.
That means Ipswich’s most recent triumph in this fixture came back in the 2011-12 season when they actually completed a league double over the Reds after an entertaining 5-3 success at Oakwell and a more subdued 1-0 home win.
Those victories moved the Tractor Boys onto 21 in total for this fixture and with the Reds trailing behind on just 13, they will be desperate to start building that gap come Saturday.
Paul Heckingbottom could hand a whole host of debuts to his summer signings this weekend.
Tom Bradshaw is likely to start in attack alongside last season’s top goal scorer Sam Winnall, while on-loan Liverpool winger Ryan Kent will be vying with Marley Watkins for a place on the right-hand side.
Elsewhere, the likes of George Moncur, Andy Yiadom, Elliot Lee and Stefan Payne will all be hoping to be involved at some stage from what is a near full strength squad at Heckingbottom’s disposal. Newest recruit Angus MacDonald will miss the game serving the last of a three game suspension, which he picked up whilst playing for his former club Torquay United at the end of last season.
Ipswich meanwhile could hand debuts to two of their new signings with Adam Webster and Grant Ward pushing for places in Mick McCarthy’s starting XI.
Youngster Webster – who joined from Portsmouth – may have to start from the bench however with the Tractor Boys already boasting a strong defence including the likes of Christophe Berra, Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith.
Manager McCarthy will also have to decide whether to start with winger Ward from the off after the 21-year-old only joined the Club on Monday, while ex-Tyke Paul Digby will be hoping to be involved against his former employers after making a permanent switch from Oakwell this summer following a loan move last season.
Man in the Middle
Barnsley will look to continue their fine form in the company of referee Keith Stroud on Saturday. The Hampshire-based official has overseen six Reds games in total, with the Club winning four of them and drawing the other two.
The most recent of those meetings came in March 2014 when Stroud ran the rule over Barnsley’s 1-0 home win against Nottingham Forest at Oakwell.
Unlike the Tykes, Ipswich have suffered defeat in Stroud’s company but you have to take into account that the 46-year-old referee has taken charge of the Tractor Boys on 24 occasions.
Two of those games came last season as the official watched over the Club’s 1-1 home draw against Ipswich, as well as their 3-2 success against the MK Dons in March.
That was the Blues’ ninth win in his company but with five draws and 10 defeats also coming their way with Stroud as the man in the middle, the Ipswich faithful will welcome his appointment with mixed feelings.
Their Star Man
Despite netting 14 times for AFC Bournemouth during their 2014-15 promotion winning campaign, striker Brett Pitman was allowed to join the Tractor Boys in June 2015. Moving as part of the deal which saw Tyrone Mings join the newly-promoted Premier League side, Pitman penned a three-year deal at Portman Road.
It may have taken the former Bristol City man four games to register his first goal for his new Club but after netting Ipswich’s opener against Preston, just three days later and he was on the scoresheet again, this time hitting an equaliser for the Blues as they went on to secure a 4-1 League Cup triumph at Doncaster.
Those goals were just two of 11 which the tricky forward would go onto notch in the remainder of the campaign and despite not hitting a hot streak of form, the 28-year-old did score some vital goals.
All 11 of the Jersey international’s strikes came in different games, with nine of them coming in wins for the Tractor Boys. The forward’s influence on the Club saw them finish just a place and five points outside the play-off places but with Saturday’s hosts hoping to go one better this season, Pitman will be looking to improve even more this time out.
That drive and determination has been there for all to see in pre-season with the forward hitting a thunderous 25-yard strike in the Club’s opening pre-season match against Irish side Shelbourne, while he also netted a cool finish in the Blues’ 1-0 success at Colchester; making him the one-to-watch for the Barnsley defence this weekend.
Following his rise through the youth ranks at Newcastle, Michael Chopra joined Barnsley on loan in August 2004 as he continued to step up his development. Having made 10 appearances for his boyhood Toon Army, loan spells at Watford and Nottingham Forest had come the striker’s way in the previous two campaigns.
Signed by Paul Hart – who had managed the youngster at Forest – Chopra made his Tykes debut in a 2-1 home defeat against Hull. It took the Geordie only three games to score his first goal for the Club however; bagging in a 1-1 draw at Hartlepool.
Despite originally joining the Reds on a one-month loan that soon turned into a season-long deal and after netting just once in his first 11 games, Chopra really began to find his feet in October 2004.
The former England youth international netted in three consecutive games which came during a spell which saw him notch 16 goals in 28 games. That scintillating form also saw the forward hit two hat-tricks, one against Peterborough in a 4-0 win and then more importantly for the Barnsley faithful, in a 4-2 triumph against arch rivals Huddersfield.
That game will always see Chopra remembered fondly at Oakwell but following a fine campaign he returned to parent Club Newcastle, where he would make 20 appearances in the following campaign on the back of a fine season in South Yorkshire.
Despite that however he moved on for pastures new in June 2006, enjoying spells with Cardiff, Sunderland and then Cardiff again before completing a switch to Ipswich in June 2011.
The former Tyke spent two seasons at Portman Road, hitting 19 goals; 14 of which came in his maiden season with the Club. Two of those strikes came on the ex-Newcastle man’s debut for the Tractor Boys, while he also struck in wins against former Clubs Barnsley and Cardiff.
The Blues finished that campaign in 15th place but despite going one better and ending the 2012-13 season in 14th, Chopra netted only five times and in July 2013 he joined Blackpool on a free transfer. A disappointing year with the Seasiders was followed by a spell in India with the Kerala Blasters before he switched to Scottish side Alloa Athletic where he spent last season.
Barnsley’s pre-season results (WWWWLDW):
Stalybridge Celtic 0-2 Barnsley
Guiseley AFC 0-2 Barnsley
Weston-Super-Mare 0-6 Barnsley
Cheltenham Town 1-3 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-3 Everton
Barnsley 2-2 Hull City
Peterborough United 0-2 Barnsley
Ipswich Town’s pre-season results (WLWDDL):
Shelbourne 1-2 Ipswich Town
Barnet 1-0 Ipswich Town
Colchester United 0-1 Ipswich Town
Cambridge United 1-1 Ipswich Town
Charlton Athletic 0-0 Ipswich Town
Ipswich Town 1-2 Royale Union Saint-Gilloise
Going to the match?
Ipswich Town plays at Portman Road, its address is as follows: Portman Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2DA.
How to get there
Take the A12 to big roundabout (by Tesco) on A14 junction. Take 2nd exit (sign posted Ipswich West A1214) into London Road. Follow Ipswich A1214 signs for 2 1/2 miles, straight over roundabout to junction at bottom of hill. Go straight on to the next set of traffic lights. Turn right and follow the signs to the ground.
Street parking in the immediate vicinity of the stadium is problematic. However there are plenty of Pay and Display car parks within walking distance of Portman Road. In any case the ground is within easy walking distance of the town centre.
Ipswich station is about a 5 minute walk from the ground. Go straight out of the station, over the bridge and past two sets of traffic lights, then turn left into Portman Road. Ipswich is served by trains from London Liverpool Street and Peterborough.
Seniors Over 60: £23.00
Student (with valid NUS Card): £23.00
Young Adults aged 16-19: £22.50
Juveniles Under 16: £11.50
The Official Club coaches depart Oakwell Stadium at 9.30am and seats are priced at £27.
Tickets will remain on sale from the Box Office/Reds Superstore until 4pm Friday 5th August, subject to availability.