IPSWICH TOWN GALLERY: Mick’s the man!
- Credit: Archant
MICK McCarthy guided Ipswich Town to Championship safety, the situation at Portman Road having looked hopeless on his arrival at the start of November.
The Blues were five points adrift at the bottom of the table, prior to McCarthy’s first game in charge – a 1-0 away win at Birmingham – in which the Blues showed the kind of defensive steel and resilience that was to serve them well for the rest of the campaign.
However, it was not all plain sailing for McCarthy and the honeymoon period was quickly over when Town went to Crystal Palace three days later and were thumped 5-0.
His first game in charge brought a 2-1 victory against Burnley and he followed that success up with four points from two games at Portman Road against Nottingham Forest (3-1) and Peterborough. In between those games though, Town’s defensive frailties reared their ugly head again, Leicester hitting them for six without reply at the King Power Stadium.
December saw Ipswich gain 13 points from a possible 18 and by the end of 2012, and a 2-0 win at his former club Wolves – an emotional return to Molineux for the former Republic of Ireland manager – Town had move up to 18th, eight points clear of the drop-zone.
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By the end of January, Town had dropped to one place above the drop zone, six points clear of the bottom three, late goals costing the Blues valuable points. After a 3-0 home defeat to Brighton, Town followed that up with a gutsy 0-0 draw at league leaders Cardiff.
But just when Town fans thought the corner had been turned, Danny Rose popped up with an 89th minute equaliser to earn Barnsley a point at Portman Road, before Jon Stead returned to haunt his former club with a last-minute winner, Bristol City taking a 2-1 victory at Ashton Gate.
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February started with Tommy Smith bagging a brace in a 4-0 home win against Middlesbrough but followed that up with a 1-0 defeat in a drab game at Blackburn, former Town man Jordan Rhodes scoring the winner.
McCarthy’s men finished the month off with four points from three games, a home win against Blackpool, followed by a home defeat to an impressive Watford side and a boring goalless draw at Huddersfield.
Town’s lack of goals was becoming a concern, with just one strike in four games, but David McGoldrick’s strike earned the Blues a much-needed three points with a 1-0 victory over fifth-placed Leicester.
Two players, Richard Stearman and Lee Martin were then sent off as Ipswich suffered a late 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, but Town hit back with Elliott Hewitt and Frank Nouble impressing on their full league debuts, in a 0-0 draw at Peterborough.
In-form Bolton were next to bite the dust as Ipswich’s impressive home run continued (1-0), before Leeds, who dominated the first half, were swept aside 3-0 following Tom Lees’ red card.
Town had climbed to 16th prior to the 0-0 draw at Millwall but such was the condensed nature of the division, Ipswich were only four points clear of safety.
Carlos Edwards grabbed a late, spectacular winner at Derby, five days later, before Premier League-bound Hull strengthened their top-flight credentials with a narrow 2-1 win at Portman Road.
Nerves were beginning to jangle with Town just four points clear of the drop with just four games to go, but three goals in a spectacular last eight minutes of the first half – from Aaron Cresswell and Frank Nouble (2) – gave Ipswich a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at Portman Road.
A week later, Jay Tabb grabbed his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, before Town secured their Championship survival with a 3-1 home win over Birmingham.
McCarthy gave Jack Marriott and Tyrone Mings their debuts in the final-day 2-0 defeat at Burnley, but by that point, Town had done more than enough to survive.