Mike Bacon: No ifs, no buts, one thing is a must for next season

Town fans at the Morecambe game.

Super Town fans, most can't wait for next season - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

Be honest, it doesn't seem five minutes ago Town fans were cheering a white-topped, all waving, all dancing and very excitable Paul Cook onto the Portman Road pitch back in August for Town's opening day clash with Morecambe.

It was the beginning of a new era, a mass exodus of players, new owners, a new CEO, new chairman.... new everything. Well, almost everything.

A crowd of just over 21,000 singing their hearts out, sunshine and shirt-sleeves and high hopes that day for the season ahead. We remember it well.

I suppose that first League One fixture of the season, Macauley Bonne's late strike grabbing the Blues a point against a very game, organised and determined Morecambe side, pretty well summed up the season as it went along.

Lots of promise, lots of hope, lots of quality, plenty of endeavour, but the team coming up short, while the fans excelled.

I know the phrase 'it's the hope that kills you', is bandied around much by football fans these days, especially Ipswich Town ones. But it really does ring an awfully familiar tone at Portman Road.

Macauley Bonne celebrates after scoring to level the game at 2-2.

Back in August, Town were grateful of Macauley Bonne's late equaliser on opening day - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

With the play-offs now a very, very remote dream and hanging by the thinnest of cotton thread - Town are eight points adrift of sixth place as I write this - thoughts begin to turn to next season.

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And I would already suggest it is one of the most important seasons in the club's history. And not just recent history.

The goodwill that has emanated from fans towards the new owners and all they are trying to do has been top drawer and vice-versa. Season tickets are going to go well, they already are.

The Portman Road match-day experience is a joy... But it's on the pitch the magic happens.

Quite simply, Ipswich Town can't afford to be anywhere other than top six almost all season in 2022/23.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

No ifs, no buts. It's not a case of putting Kieran McKenna and the team under undue pressure. Quite simply the Blues can't keep mucking about and not finding a way to put to bed the likes of Morecambe, Cambridge, Cheltenham,  (dare I mention Barrow?) to name just a few.

We know the score. Goodness me, we all know the score. Teams will come to upset us and break our game pattern. Town have to be different when required.

Cambridge United was the classic example we have witnessed far too much of in recent seasons at Portman Road.

As if to rub salt in the wound, after the 'job' Cambridge did on us last Saturday, Wycombe duly went to the Abbey Stadium on Tuesday night and thrashed the U's 1-4.

Ipswich celebrate Bersant Celina's second score with the fans at Adams Park.

Ipswich Town players and fans celebrate Bersant Celina capping off a 4-1 win at Wycombe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Over recent seasons, Town haven't done enough of putting mid-table and lower division sides to the sword.

Okay, the Blues netted four at Wycombe and Portsmouth, but their record against lower opposition has been poor this season.... and it's cost.

Anyhow, enough of the little grizzle but the reality will hit when the fixtures are released later this summer, trips to Accrington, Fleetwood and Cheltenham (no disrespect to any of them, they are worthy League One clubs) likely still on the list. As well as perhaps a trip to Forest Green, or Exeter, maybe Port Vale. It's where our Club is.

Like most of you I believe McKenna has been a breath of fresh air. But last week's defeat to Cambridge now leads to the biggest test of his managerial career so far at Portman Road.

Not the fact Town lost. That's not the issue. It's how he viewed what went wrong, why the team lost, and what he is going to do not to allow teams to dictate patterns of play to us.

It's a big ask and he's a young manager and thankfully, there is much to be positive about.

However, Ipswich Town are likely still to be in League One for a fourth season next campaign. '100 goals and 100 points'? Most of us would settle for 75 of each to be quite frank, but hey, it was fun hoping.

Of course, it's not completely over this season, but the Fat Lady is clearing her throat.

I look forward to the summer and I look forward to next season, even if there is a lot to do and a lot to accomplish.

I do feel positive, there is no doubt about that. I suppose, like many of you, I just feel sad that this season is coming to an end just when the team were in (almost) full flow. Now the Blues have to start all over again.

Oh hell, I'll say it now... We'll go up next season!