Head coach previews the Ipswich Town fixture...
Neil Redfearn is hoping that his side have learned valuable lessons from December’s 4-1 defeat away to Ipswich Town as the two teams prepare to face each other again at Elland Road on Wednesday night (7.45pm).
Despite taking the lead early on through Mirco Antenucci, United ended up being convincingly beaten by Mick McCarthy’s promotion-chasers at Portman Road on an afternoon which started an unwanted run of eight games without victory.
But, despite the recent defeats to Brighton and Watford, Redfearn’s men have enjoyed somewhat of a revival since the turn of the year, with major changes in formation and personnel since the previous meeting with Ipswich.
"It maybe taught us the nature of the division and what this level is about," the head coach said when asked about December’s reverse fixture.
"Mick McCarthy’s experienced at this level and his side is very much a Championship side.
"It’s big, it’s strong, it’s physical. It plays good football and it’s got many facets to it.
"On the day I think we had a certain way of playing – we were playing the diamond at the time and we got exposed.
"I think, from then on, you’ve got to look at playing in different ways and you’ve got to learn to play at this level."
A switch to a 4-2-3-1 system away to Sunderland at the start of 2015 prompted a run of much-improved results as Redfearn’s side now occupy 16th place with a 10-point cushion above the bottom three.
"I think we’ve been harder to beat, that is the big thing," said the head coach. "Apart from the last two games, we’ve looked more balanced.
"I think we’re harder to play against in wide areas and we’ve got good legs in there now with the kids coming in – they can get up the pitch quickly.
"We’ve got height and strength in areas where we need it and we’ve got a little bit of pace in there too.
"We’re adding the bits that perhaps the Championship demands. It’s still our DNA, we still want to play, we want to get the ball down and pass it.
"But we’ve still got to remember we’re playing in the Championship."
Redfearn does remain wary of Ipswich’s threat, though, and was reluctant to categorise them as a team that plays purely direct football despite them boasting physical options across the pitch.
"Normally Ipswich get labelled as a long-ball, physical side but they can play," he said.
"They put balls in areas when they need to but they also get it down and pass it.
"They proved that to us when we played down there. They got themselves in a position when they were two or three-one up and they passed it.
"They got it wide, got balls in the box and got bodies forward. They were really accomplished on that day and were far, far better than us.
"But we like to think we’ve improved, we’ve played a bit differently and have been a bit tougher to play against."
The game could also see a number of familiar faces return to Elland Road, with Paddy Kenny, Noel Hunt, Luke Varney and Cameron Stewart now all plying their trades at Ipswich.
"This is what happens in football, players move on and go and further their careers," said Redfearn.
"It’ll be nice to see the lads come back because they put a lot of work in and a lot of endeavour for the club.
"But we’re concentrating on ourselves and trying to get the three points."