Preston North End boss Alex Neil impressed with Ipswich despite their relegation
Preston North End will be the first opponents for Ipswich since they lost their grip on the Championship cliff edge and were relegated.
Last week’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham at Portman Road confirmed their demotion and Town will play outside the top two tiers of English football next season for the first time since the 1956/57 campaign.
After dispensing with the services of Mick McCarthy at the end of last season, this campaign was seen as a new dawn in Suffolk.
However, the appointment of Paul Hurst backfired and his reign lasted only until the end of October.
The Tractor Boys turned to the experienced figure of Paul Lambert to attempt a rescue act but the Scotsman has been unable to pull that off.
Lambert has overseen only three wins in his 28 games in charge and now his task will be to attempt to lead Ipswich back to the Championship.
North End boss Alex Neil will put Town’s relegation to one side when the teams meet at Deepdale.
Although the table doesn’t lie, he has been quite impressed with what he has seen of the Good Friday opponents.
Neil said: “They have been in a difficult situation.
“To be honest, watching their stuff in preparation for this game, they are by no means one of the poorest teams I have seen.
“They’ve shown up pretty well on the videos I’ve watched and it is probably a case of Paul having run out of time more than anything else.
“You can see that they are a well coached side and they’ve put together a couple of good results recently in terms of them being hard to beat.
“They drew last week with Birmingham, which was a tough game for them.”
Preston were Lambert’s first opponents in the reverse fixture at Portman Road on November 3.
After Ipswich had taken a late first-half lead through Freddie Sears’ penalty, Paul Gallagher equalised with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.
Gallagher then went in goal when keeper Chris Maxwell was sent off for his second bookable offence.
North End held on for the draw with 10 men.
Lambert doesn’t think that motivation will be a problem for his players between now and the end of the season. “There’s never been a game where I’ve been thinking they’re not motivated,” said Lambert.
“A player has got to motivate himself as well, it can’t always come from a manager.
“If you get an unmotivated player and he can’t motivate himself, there’s a problem.
“It’s one thing I’ve never found here, everybody wants to play,”
Ipswich’s attack could well feature Collin Quaner who is on loan from Huddersfield.
The German was linked with a move to North End last summer as they searched for reinforcements after losing Billy Bodin and Sean Maguire to early-season injuries.
Former PNE loanee Will Keane is at Ipswich on loan from Hull and could return to the squad after injury.