Draw can’t disguise clear gulf in class between Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town
Some of the last-ditch defending was excellent, while Bartosz Bialkowski was his usual sublime self in goal, making two fine saves.
The performance of Blues league debutant Paul Digby was encouraging, and he will have learned an awful lot from 90 minutes marking Jordan Rhodes.
Then there was David McGoldrick, the injury-jinxed frontman showing more than a few glimpses of his ability, whilst ploughing a lone furrow in attack.
All in all, Ipswich’s 0-0 draw at promotion-chasing Middlesbrough was a good point.
But one swallow does not make a summer. And as the last rites were read on Town’s play-off hopes, the gulf in class was clear to see.
Town didn’t defend badly, but, on another day, Boro could have still had three or four.
The way their attacking talent sliced through the visiting defence, in the first half especially, was a joy to watch at times and, but for the width of a post, Jordan Rhodes would have given his new club three points against his old one. In contrast, the Blues had one effort on target all afternoon.
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Rhodes’ clever running allowed Gaston Ramirez, wingers Albert Adomah and Stewart Downing, plus holding midfielders Adam Clayton and Grant Leadbitter to find pockets of space in all areas around the final third.
Even full-backs Emilio Nsue and Ritchie de Laet were bombing on to good effect.
Prior to the game, Mick McCarthy talked about wanting to be in Middlesbrough’s position this time next season, but admitted that the addition of two from Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland, joining Aston Villa in the Championship, would make the task even tougher, given the parachute payments they will receive from the Premier League. He’s not wrong.
As for Boro, they are not guaranteed promotion, despite splashing the cash and playing some of the best football in the division. Other big-spending teams currently in the top-six will also miss the boat and come again. No-one expects owner Marcus Evans to throw millions at new additions, he has a duty to keep the club within Financial Fair Play guidelines and has done a grand job of doing that so far, while increasing the wage bill.
But surely he can loosen the purse strings?
McCarthy, for the most part has worked wonders on a modest budget, but some of his frees and loans this season have not worked.
Big spending has seen Burnley and Hull (albeit with generous parachute payments) reach the top six, while Boro, Brighton, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday have not been shy in the transfer market. Spending big doesn’t guarantee success, look at Fulham, but it can help.
McCarthy made Town tough to beat when saving the club from relegation, and they still can be stubborn and belligerent, as Saturday showed, but they lack in creativity.
Would this change if he was handed a pot of gold? He has brought in several flair players during his tenure, but few, for different reasons, have lasted the course.
The way Ipswich and Boro’s respective full-backs and holding midfielders play, showed the contrast in the teams’ styles. With the club set for a 15th straight Championship campaign, something has to change in the summer.
Match report, analysis and reaction in today’s Ipswich Star and EADT