Are Ipswich Town really in a battle to make the play-offs? Well that depends if your glass is half full or half empty
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Are Blues really in the play-off race?
Your reading of this issue perhaps boils down to whether your glass is half full, or half empty.
If your glass is half full, you could look at being seven points off the play-offs, with a game in hand and matches to play against five of the six teams immediately above Ipswich with optimistic eyes.
But if your glass is draining towards empty, you would look at an Ipswich side who have so far lacked anything like the consistency this season to make a serious run at the top six and be comfortable ruling the Suffolk side out of the running.
Mick McCarthy has himself admitted making the post-season is extremely unlikely but has insisted he and his side will not stop trying to make the top six.
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Things will certainly be a lot clearer in this regard in a week’s time, when Ipswich have played back-to-back home games against Sheffield United (Saturday) and Hull City (Tuesday).
Win both and the Blues could be heading to Ashton Gate on March 17 for a meaningful promotion six-pointer against a Bristol City side who themselves sit just a point outside the top six.
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Anything less and McCarthy’s men could be left with a deficit even the most optimistic of onlookers may find it difficult to overcome with nine games to go.
For context, the average points tally needed to secure sixth place over the 15 seasons since Ipswich returned to the Championship in 2002 is 74. That statistic has ranged from as low as 68 to as high as the 80 points Fulham needed for sixth last season.
To reach the average, Ipswich would need to claim a little over two points a game from the 11 between now and the end of the campaign, having taken an average of 1.5 from their 10 games since the turn of the year.
Back-to-back wins for just the second time since August, both away from home no less, is certainly a start, but the Blues still need to find a level of consistency they have yet to manage if they are to leap-frog six sides to gatecrash the promotion shootout.
Had Martyn Waghorn’s goals not dried up he would surely have been firmly in the conversation for the player-of-the-year award.
The former Rangers man netted 10 in his first 19 Ipswich games but then found things tough during a 15-game drought, before he ended that in style at Hillsborough on Tuesday night.
He had still been contributing well despite his lack of goals, but you could see the relief on his face as he swept home the Blues’ opener at Wednesday. The second, from a free-kick, was simply spectacular.
If an unlikely play-off challenge is to materialise then the Blues will need Waghorn to keep hold of his shooting boots between now and the end of the campaign.
Town’s double centurion
McCarthy said before Cole Skuse made his 200th appearance for the club at Hillsborough that his most admirable quality was his consistency.
Guaranteeing a 7/10 performance every week was what has made the midfielder one of his most-trusted lieutenants, McCarthy said. And another consistent display is what he gave on his landmark night.
As usual, Skuse was on hand to do the dirty work as he mopped up loose balls between the two lines and was a calming presence during a game that, at times, descended into a midfield war.
A lack of forward drive and ability to create is often used as evidence against Skuse, and that inconsistency was in evidence at Hillsborough as one superb, fizzing pass to a team-mate was followed up by another that flew out of play and a handful of loose passes.
But there is no doubting just how valuable Town’s double-centurion is in McCarthy’s eyes.
Learning a lesson
The Blues were stung by a late Sheffield Wednesday goal when the two sides met at Portman Road in November, with Atdhe Nuhiu’s towering header earning the Owls a 2-2 draw from a game the hosts appeared to have sewn up.
Naivety cost McCarthy’s men on that occasion as they were careless in possession when they should have been running down the clock but, facing the same scenario at Hillsborough, they were this time able to see the game out.
On this occasion they kept the ball in the corner, with Joe Garner brought to play a part in the process, ensuring there was to be no repeat sting in the tail.