COMMENT/GALLERY: Season review – impressive statistics only tell half the tale of Ipswich Town’s year of progress
- Credit: Archant
A ninth-place finish in the Championship table with 68 points represents Ipswich Town’s best season in six years. STUART WATSON reflects on Mick McCarthy’s first full season in charge at Portman Road.
Ipswich Town fans can wonder what might have been as the Championship play-off action unfolds without their team’s involvement.
Thirty points dropped from winning positions, minus the 18 gained from losing positions equals 12 points. Add them to the total and the Blues would have been comfortably in the play-offs.
Mick McCarthy doesn’t do ifs, buts and maybes though. He knows that ninth place is a fair reflection of his side’s capabilities at present.
Through careful recruitment, good coaching and clever man-management, the experienced Blues boss and his loyal staff have squeezed every last drop out of a low-budget group of players.
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Hard-working, organised, spirited and consistent; no-one can accuse this group of likeable characters of not giving their all.
The limitations have been plain to see though. A lack of midfield goal threat, general pace, flair and invention has made for some forgettable spectacles. When it’s come to the crunch, that little bit of quality has been lacking.
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“I wouldn’t disagree with that,” said the ever-honest and pragmatic McCarthy, when the above was put to him after the curtain came down on his first full campaign in charge at Portman Road.
The very fact that we are bemoaning the deficiencies which have seen Ipswich fall just short of the top six is testament to what a remarkable job McCarthy has done in the space of 18 months.
The statistics below say a lot about the progress that has been made, but they only tell half the story. It’s the work off the pitch which has arguably been even more impressive.
For the first time in years the Blues will not see a key player walk away at their end of their contract. For the first time in years the Blues have not been completely reliant on a series of short-term loanees throughout a campaign. For the first time in years, the wage bill does not need to be slashed.
In short, for the first time in years, there are solid foundations in place to kick on from.
The Championship’s longest serving club head into their 13th consecutive campaign at second tier level with real reason to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
McCarthy clearly knows that he needs a pacy winger or two. Last summer he went out and recruited two in the form of Jordan Adekunle and Jack Doherty. He also brought in Jordan Graham (Aston Villa) and Alex Henshall (Manchester City) on loan during the campaign. None of the above set the world alight, but the intention was there.
The Blues boss’s recall of Anthony Wordsworth from the cold in the second half of the campaign also proves that he wants to add some creativity to the middle of his midfield. The workman-like Cole Skuse and Luke Hyam have done a good job in a season of consolidation, Town getting back to basics and never once looking like they would suffer the five or six-goal thrashings that had become worryingly regular. However, to get to the next level, more than that is required. Expect there to be more balance between attack and defence in the middle third next season.
It’s not going to be easy to recruit the missing pieces of the jigsaw. While Town owner Marcus Evans once again keeps the purse strings tight, several Championship clubs will continue to benefit from Premier League parachute payments.
If anyone can defy the odds though, then it’s McCarthy, Terry Connor and their team.
A couple more free transfer additions of the quality of Christophe Berra and David McGoldrick, a classy young Premier League loanee or two in the mould of Jonny Williams and another hidden gem like Tyrone Mings would go a long way.
It’s worth noting that Burnley finished 11th with 61 points prior to their fairytale surge towards automatic promotion this season.
Birmingham 1 Ipswich 1 How Town didn’t win get their first away win on the board at the back end of August is a mystery. Home keeper Darren Randolph was outstanding and Chris Burke’s equaliser took a heavy deflection.
Wigan 2 Ipswich 0 Strange to include a defeat, but Town really were that good at the DW Stadium. All one-way traffic after Ryan Shotton’s 12th minute opener, with Nick Powell’s late second coming on the counter as the visitors threw everything forward.
Blackpool 2 Ipswich Town 3
Classic game of two halves. One down at the break and could have been more. Mick went all-out attack, half-time subs Frank Nouble and Paul Taylor ignited the comeback and debutant Stephen Hunt celebrated like a madman.
Brighton 0 Ipswich 2 This was the Jonny Williams show as Town stunned an expectant full house at The Amex Stadium. Palace loanee silenced the boo boys as Tommy Smith and Daryl Murphy headed home in the second half.
Ipswich 2 Derby 1 Come-from-behind win against the division’s third-place team came three days after the aforementioned victory at Brighton. Behind in the opening minute of the match, Town showed immense spirit as Williams arrowed home a stunning equaliser before Christophe Berra’s last-gasp winner. WORST DISPLAYS
Ipswich 1 Barnsley 1 Town were left clinging on after James O’Brien had cancelled out Daryl Murphy’s opener. Blues once again failed to put on a show for the TV cameras.
Ipswich 1 Preston 1 A much-changed Town side never got going in the FA Cup Third Round. It meant an unwanted long midweek trip for the replay, the Blues losing 3-2 at their League One hosts.
Millwall 1 Ipswich 0 Following on from the above, Town produced a flat display at The Den. To rub salt in the wounds, Ryan Fredericks’ winner was a mis-hit cross.
Middlesbrough 2 Ipswich 0 Boro ended a 12-hour goal drought, Danny Graham scoring twice. ‘We got nothing and deserved nothing,’ admitted Mick McCarthy.
Burnley 1 Ipswich 0 The Blues failed to show any urgency in a game they knew they had to win in order to take their top-six hopes into the final day of the campaign. A disappointing way for the dream to finish.
HOW THE 13/14 CAMPAIGN COMPARES
13/14: W18 D14 L14 Pts 68 9th
12/13 W16 D12 L18 Pts 60 14th
11/12: W17 D10 L19 Pts 61 15th
10/11: W18 D8 L20 Pts 62 13th
09/10 W12 D20 L14 Pts 56 15th
08/09 W16 D15 L14 Pts 66 9th
07/08 W18 D15 L13 Pts 69 8th
06/07 W18 D15 L13 Pts 62 14th
05/06 W14 D14 L18 Pts 56 15th
04/05 W24 D13 L9 Pts 85 3rd
TOWN’S 13/14 CAMPAIGN BY NUMBERS
68 – Town’s best points return in six seasons and second best in the last nine (69pts in 2007/08). Eight point improvement on 2012/13.
60 – League goals scored. That’s 12 more than the previous campaign and made them 11th top scorers in the Championship.
1.48 – Average points per game during Mick McCarthy’s first full season in charge. It was 1.60 when he guided Town to safety in 12/13.
54 – League goals conceded. Only once (53 in 2008/09) have Town had a better defensive record in the last 12 seasons.
+6 – For the first time in five seasons, Town finished with a positive goal difference. The top seven all finished with +13 or higher though.
18 – Ipswich haven’t won more league games since finishing third in 2004/05.
1 – Red card. Aaron Cresswell was sent off late on in the 1-1 home draw with Barnsley for foul and abusive language towards the refree.
5 – Home league defeats. Only Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Wigan and Middlesbrough lost fewer.
4 – Teams that Town did the double over – Brighton (6th), Huddersfield (16th), Doncaster (22nd) and Yeovil (24th).
4 – Teams that Town were doubled by – Leicester (1st), Burnley (2nd), QPR (4th) and Wigan (5th).
16 – Goals in all competitions from striker David McGoldrick. Only nine Championship players could better that. Town’s best since Alan Lee (17, 2006/07).
1.04 – Points per game against teams that finished in the top half. Thirteen teams in the league had a better records in that respect.
17,111 – The average home league attendance at Portman Road. That’s an improvement on the previous season (16,654) and the first time the figure has gone up rather than down since 2004/05.
1.87 – Points per game against teams that finished in the bottom half. Only six teams (Derby, Burnley, Leicester and QPR) had a better records in that respect.
18 – Points gained from losing positions (five wins, three draws). Only Derby, Leicester and Wigan bettered that record.
30 – Points dropped from winning positions (nine draws, four defeats). Only Yeovil had a worse record.
54 – Only two teams (Burnley and Leicester) received fewer yellow cards than Town.
28 – Players used by Ipswich in the league. Only Burnley (25) used fewer.
8 – Number of times Town followed up a loss with a victory. Longest winning streak was three games (Charlton, Blackburn, Huddersfield), longest losing streak was three games (QPR, Preston, Millwall).
7 – Players who made 40 starts or more for Town – Gerken, Berra, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Skuse, Murphy.