Tonight's John Smith’s Stadium clash has become a tale of two teams trying to succeed without their top scorer.

Both Town’s James Vaughan, who has 12 goals this time, and Ipswich’s David McGoldrick, who has 16, have knee injuries.

Vaughan will have surgery on  Thursday.

The 25-year-old has been ruled out for the rest of the Championship campaign because of a cyst on the joint, which will be removed.

But boss Mark Robins, whose side are 17th and pushing for a first win in eight games, says it could well prove a  blessing in disguise for Town and the former Norwich frontman over the next few months and into next season.

“I would expect James to be back and working - not playing - before the end of the season,” revealed Robins, who aims to inflict a second successive defeat on play-off chasing Ipswich, who were left ninth after losing 2-0 at Blackburn.

 

“We would hope he’ll have the surgery and then be ready to go again, ready to strengthen and ready to train again in terms of his post-season work looking towards pre-season training.”

Robins is optimistic Vaughan, a £600,000 close-season signing following a successful loan last term, will be able to contribute much more than the 26 appearances he has made this time.

“When I came through the door 12 months ago, I had 16 games with James, which is about a third of a season,” added the manager.

“Up to November this season he was going well, but since then it’s been a bit in and out.

“History suggests it’s tough to keep James on the pitch for a full season, but this operation will stand him in good stead.

“It’s a matter of getting him working as hard as he possibly can to get himself to a level where he can do a full pre-season to the best of his ability.

“And that will give him every chance of staying on the pitch for a long period of time.

“That’s the aim for him and that’s the aim for us.

“If we can get James on the pitch for as long as possible that will give us the best opportunity of moving forward, because he makes a big, big difference.”

McGoldrick, who netted against Town when Ipswich won 2-1 at Portman Road in December, damaged knee ligaments in mid-February.

The 26-year-old, who played under Robins at Coventry, has had a spell in a leg brace.

While Vaughan’s absence has put the scoring spotlight on five-goal Nahki Wells and Danny Ward, who got one of his seven at Ipswich, the Suffolk side have turned to on-loan Crystal Palace man Jonny Williams.

The 20-year-old, who could come face to face with fellow Wales international Joel Lynch, who is pushing for a return for Town, has been playing behind Daryl Murphy in a 4-4-1-1 system.

Former Celtic man Murphy grabbed a last-gasp winner against Town earlier in the season – one of 11 goals for the 31-year-old.

Ipswich’s travelling fans – there were 635 of them at Blackburn – will be keen to see which wingers manager Mick  McCarthy plumps for.

Former Bristol City man Paul Anderson missed out at Ewood Park because of a bad back, while Irishman Stephen Hunt was left on the bench.

Anthony Wordsworth, once of Colchester, and Frank Nouble, the former Wolves and West Ham player, came in.

While beaten at Blackburn, McCarthy’s side have won four and drawn one of their last eight games.

They are seeking a sixth away win of the season.

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