Beefed-up Blues should be targeting play-offs, says Stephen Henderson
BLUES keeper Stephen Henderson insists Town should be targeting the Championship play-offs after learning how to win the dogged battles under manager Mick McCarthy.
Town have won six out of 11 matches since McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell as boss on November 1, with Boxing Day’s 2-1 victory away to Charlton leaving them just 10 points adrift of six-placed Watford – albeit remaining fifth-bottom and five points from safety.
When Henderson joined the Suffolk club from Premier League outfit West Ham on a three-month contract on October 16, the Irish shot-stopper outlined his intentions to help lift his new club towards the division’s top-six bracket.
And after witnessing an upturn in Town’s fortunes, the 24-year-old insists his side should now be targeting a play-off position – with a win away to Wolves today (3pm ko) abridging the gap to the mid-season pacesetters even more.
He said: “Personally I would like to see us push for the play-offs and I know the other lads would feel the same, so why not?
“I know that’s pushing it but I think we should aim for it.
“Obviously it’s going to be very difficult but if we keep going the way we’re going and pick up more wins you would be surprised how many people start saying ‘Ipswich are only seven points off now’.
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“We just need to keep winning. I think we have 10 teams around us that we can drag back in so that would be nice.
“I know what this team has and, with the manager and coaches we have, we can really push on.
“I’m not even looking down the table because I don’t think it’s an issue. I don’t think we’ll be down there much longer.
“It’s a big time in January to see who we can bring in and help the team as well.”
Town’s failure to seal victory when taking the lead under Jewell’s leadership hindered their bid to escape from the relegation zone, and arguably lead to Jewell leaving Portman Road in October.
In five of his last six games, Ipswich broke the deadlock, only to see their opposition overhaul them – but Henderson believes those days are over, insisting the 2-1 defeat over Charlton on Wednesday proved they have become a much more resolute side under McCarthy.
“The match against Charlton was the scrappiest match I’ve played in,” he said.
“They threw everything at us in the second half but we managed to weather the storm and grind out a vital victory. Six or eight weeks ago that definitely wasn’t the case.
“We maybe would have gone one or two down first half, but we got the clean sheet by half-time against Charlton and managed to protect our lead in the second half.
“It’s been a change of attitude and mentality. We’ve changed the way we think and play now; we’re playing a lot smarter and defending a lot better. Everyone is performing a lot better now.
“I can’t comment on Paul Jewell because I wasn’t here long enough but I can tell you that Mick’s brought in confidence and belief.
“His record speaks for itself. It’s been great working with him.
“I think he was hard done by (at Wolves). I’m sure he’s not bitter about it but it would be nice to go over and put in a great performance for him.
“I know I’ll be trying my best to keep a clean sheet.”
– See today’s EADT for full match preview. For live match updates, follow @Stuart_Watson and @davegoods on Twitter.