Damien Delaney believes Tommy Smith deserves a new Ipswich Town contract

TOMMY Smith deserves a new contract at Ipswich Town.

That’s according to team-mate Damien Delaney as the duo’s central defensive partnership continues to flourish.

Since fate saw the pair reunited in the Blues’ back line just 11 goals have been conceded in 11 games, with Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Barnsley the fifth clean sheet during that run.

Academy-produced Smith, still only 21, is out-of-contract in the summer though and is yet to be offered a new deal by manager Paul Jewell.

“I think he deserves a new contract, but whether he gets one is another matter,” said Delaney, who himself signed a new two-year deal late last season following much speculation.

“I know Tommy, Grant (Leadbitter) and Jason (Scotland) are all keen to stay, but it is up to the powers that be. I think the manager would like them all to stay but we can’t control that. Tommy’s performances certainly warrant a new contract though.”

A nightmare start to the campaign saw Smith and Delaney ship six goals in two home games – a 1-0 loss to Hull and 5-2 thrashing by Southampton – with both quickly falling down the pecking order as Ivar Ingimarsson returned to fitness and Ibrahima Sonko and Danny Collins were both brought to the club.

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Goals continued to be leaked at an alarming rate though and, with nine different centre-back partnerships come the middle of January, Town found themselves out of both cups and very much fighting Championship relegation after conceding 59 goals in 29 games.

Following back-to-back wins over West Ham and Coventry there was therefore understandably concern when an injury to Sonko, in the abandoned home game against Middlesbrough on February 11, left the team with the division’s worst defensive record with just two fit centre-backs.

Smith and Delaney – helped greatly by an improvement in work-rate and team work all over the pitch – have put in a string of solid displays since though.

“It’s not perfect, but a goal-a-game isn’t bad,” said Delaney. “If we went through the season like that, you wouldn’t have the worst record in the world. The top sides concede about 45 to 50 goals a season.”

The vast improvement in defence certainly bodes well when you consider the fact that only table-toppers Southampton have scored more goals than Town’s 63 in 40 Championship games this season. And it may mean that Jewell’s previously frantic search for centre-back reinforcements is not so intense this summer.

With the Blues now mathematically safe from relegation following an impressive return of 27 points from a possible 39, Delaney said: “A settled defence is important because there is so much emphasis on helping each other out.

“When a lot of goals went in at the start of the season, there seemed to be an awful lot of people with hands on their hips looking at each other as if to say ‘that was your fault’. Now I have Cressie (Aaron Cresswell) or Tommy helping me out.

“I remember one occasion against Watford, I slipped but Tommy was behind me and made a great challenge. Earlier in the year, one centre-halve was looking at the other one just saying ‘what happened?’. I think there was a kind of ‘looking after your own corner’ mentality, but now there definitely seems to be a cohesion.”