'We can be that team next year' - Town out to learn from promotion-chasers

RH - Ipswich Town vs Gillingham

Christian Walton and Ipswich Town face Rotherham on Saturday - Credit: Ross Halls

Christian Walton wants Ipswich Town to learn from high-flyers Rotherham and Wigan as the Blues bid to prove themselves against the League One promotion-chasers. 

Town face back-to-back games against the sides sitting third and first in the third tier over Easter, as the Suffolk side finish out a season which started with so much promise but will end in disappointment. 

Though Ipswich won’t make the play-offs there is optimism following the arrival of manager Kieran McKenna, with Walton seeing enough in the Ipswich dressing room to believe they can be in the thick of the promotion hunt this time next year. 

“I think it’s massive to finish really well,” the Town keeper said. 

Town team members huddle at Shrewsbury.

Christian Walton believes Town can be a promotion-contender next season - Credit: PAGEPIX LTD

“There’s no point working so hard to this point and then tailing off at the end of the season. 

“We have big games coming up with Rotherham and Wigan and we have to test ourselves against those teams. 

“That will prepare us for next season. We have shown we can do it and we were unlucky not to take anything from Sheffield Wednesday and then I thought we were the better team against MK Dons. 

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“It’s easy for me to sit here and say that but we do need to take positivity from those games going into these next two. 

“I think we’re more than capable of getting results and putting on a good show for the fans who will be there.” 

Asked what Town can learn from the sides at the top of the table, Walton said: “A big thing is holding onto leads and then seeing games out.  

“That’s a massive thing in this league because every team will have opportunities, be it in the first or the 90th minute. You can’t disrespect the opposition and you have to be on your guard all the time. 

“Once you’re on top you need to drive at that, keep moving forward and penetrate. 

“We will be coming up against teams who aren’t trying to beat us and just want to hold on for a draw and are happy to take anything from the game. 

“A massive thing for us is seeing games out when we take leads and then holding on to leads. That’s been disappointing.” 

First up are Rotherham on Saturday, with the Millers at one stage looking like champions-elect but are now facing a battle to win automatic promotion after a poor run of form. 

Ipswich keeper Christian Walton pictured after the game.

Ipswich keeper Christian Walton pictured after the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“Rotherham are a settled team,” Walton said. “They have been in League One and the Championship with a similar squad and with the same manager and have consistency. They are all on the same page and I feel like that’s coming here. 

“Kieran (McKenna) coming in and putting in a new style of play which we’ve all learnt from and enjoy is important. Hopefully we will be that team next year where everyone knows their roles and we can get out of this league. 

“I wouldn’t have signed if I didn’t have that ambition and the players didn’t have that ambition either. 

“That’s where I want to be this time next year, sat in first with points clear at the top of the league. That’s my ambition and it will be the same for everyone else here. 

“It won’t be easy and we’ll need to have a good pre-season and start the season well, then put together consistent runs. Teams will always have poor runs but we need to overcome those.” 

Easter was shaping up to be a pivotal time in Town’s season as they hunted down the League One play-off places but, with that dream now over, the Blues have been left to reflect on what went wrong. 

“We have done everything we can to get into the play-off spots but we’ve just fallen short,” Walton said. “The table shows that, sadly. 

“The teams above us have been on good runs as well and just haven’t slipped up at all. It must be a record points tally to make the play-offs this year. 

“If we were on the same amount of points in League Two or the Championship then we would be comfortably in the play-off places. So it shows the standard of this division with the top 10 teams in the league all capable of playing in the Championship. 

“I don’t think the wheels have come off but performances maybe haven’t where we wanted them to be. 

“It’s been a really big effort from everybody since the start of the year and we’ve had some really pleasing performances and results. Some haven’t been so pleasing but ultimately we’ve shown everything and a new style of football, taking on everything the new manager has wanted from us. 

“We’ve just come up short but we’ll be doing everything we can to put on good performances to the end of the season and be raring to go next season.”