'We'll be ready for that' - Walton on Town's promotion push next season
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Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton says going toe-to-toe with League One's top two sides has given the team 'massive confidence' heading into next season.
The Blues were on top for much of the first half at second-placed Rotherham last Saturday, James Norwood squandering a huge chance before the Millers improved in the second stanza and claimed a 1-0 win.
Then on Tuesday night Town were on the verge of beating champions-elect Wigan Athletic, battling back from a goal down to lead 2-1 going into the final minutes.
But ex-Blue Will Keane grabbed a late equaliser - his second strike of the game - to claim a share of the points for the Latics and deny Town their biggest scalp of the season.
"We were disappointed as a team because we played so well throughout the game, dominated possession, I don't think they really threatened us up until they scored the set play goal," Walton said of the Wigan clash.
"We knew that was one of their strengths so we were really disappointed to concede that.
"As a team we'd put so much work into preparing for them because we knew that was one of their big threats, as with Rotherham.
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"So we were disappointed, but also pleased with how we performed, the work rate and energy from the boys and the way we controlled the game was really good."
And the big keeper, one of Town's standout players this season, says he and his fellow Blues have taken confidence from running the division's top two teams so close.
"Definitely. If we take our chances early on at Rotherham, it's a different game," he said.
"They'd lost three going into that game so if we score early the game is a completely different game - their fans would have been on their back, they were for large spells of the first half when it was 0-0.
"If they're 1-0 down, I believe it's a different game. We were disappointed to concede the goal we did. Again, it's a second phase off a set play, a long throw.
"Then Tuesday night we have to take massive confidence off that - a team sat top of the league, everyone's talking about them being the best team in the league, and I thought we dominated them and gave them a really tough game.
"I spoke to a few of their staff and they said it was the toughest game they've had in terms of trying to get control of it - we obviously dominated possession - so I think that's got to be pleasing for everyone.
"Taking it into the next two games now, we need to win the next two, have a summer break and then come back ready for pre-season."
Next up for Town is a trip to already-relegated Crewe Alexandra this weekend. While many will look at the sides and tip Town to win big at Gresty Road, Walton is expecting a tougher test.
"There's no pressure on Crewe, they've been relegated," he explained. "The game at Sheffield Wednesday the other night, it was 1-0, the goal was a penalty, there was no goal from open play from Wednesday, who are flying in the league.
"I think it will be a difficult and different game for us. We obviously want to win it, and go there and show what we can do, put a stamp on our performance.
"But we need to respect these teams. They've got good players, as every team in this league has ,so first and foremost we need to get our fundamentals right and respect the opposition.
"The game goes from there and that's when we impose our style on the game."
Regardless of what Town do over the next couple of games, they will once again miss out on the end of season play-offs, in a year which looks set to see teams need around 80 points - a remarkable figure - to reach the top six.
Indeed the Blues, sitting on 66 points, would be in sixth spot in the Championship - a fact not lost on Walton.
"If we were on these points in either the Championship or League Two, I think we're in the play-offs," he said.
"It's ridiculous. This must be almost a record points tally to make the play-offs in League One.
"It shows that the bottom teams haven't really beaten the top teams.
"It's been a really high quality League One season and it's a really competitive league."
One of the sides still battling for a play-off spot are Plymouth Argyle, Walton's boyhood club, whom Town beat 1-0 at Portman Road last month.
Asked if he'd like to see them make it, he responded: "I'd be pleased, I think they've done really well this year.
"I was buzzing that we beat them because I think that shows we can do well against a good team.
"They've done really well, full credit to them. They've had a tough last month and a bit - all the top teams in this league - but if they can get in the play-offs it would be good for the club.
"But I want that to be us next year - and I think we'll be ready for that."