North Stander: We’re great at going forward, so why does Mick set out to defend?

Mick McCarthy at Middlesbrough. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Mick McCarthy at Middlesbrough. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Play to your strengths. It’s a well-worn piece of wisdom which applies in most walks of life, and certainly includes sport, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.

This season, it’s clear where Ipswich Town’s strengths lie. They are potent in attack, which has resulted in them being one of the Championship’s highest scoring teams. It’s been a welcome contrast to last season’s boring sterility.

Our defence, on the other hand, has been leaking goals at an alarming rate. Many of them have been very soft, which must have left Mick McCarthy fuming.

-REACTION: Mick reacts to defeat at Boro

So, call me old-fashioned, but doesn’t it make sense to play to the team’s strengths? In other words, go out to attack the opposition? When we do that, we look impressive, and exciting.

But on Saturday at Middlesbrough, we did the exact opposite. Despite fielding an attacking looking line-up, it seemed as though the players were under instruction to sit in, get behind the ball, and frustrate the home team.

I can see the logic, but how often does our defence manage to keep a clean sheet? Rarely, is the answer. Then, what’s Plan B if and when we concede “soft” goals, as we did on Saturday?

Of course, it did work at Derby. We nicked a goal from a set-piece, from pretty much our only chance, and then parked the bus. McCarthy would have absolutely loved that performance, I’m sure.

Most Read

But, given our record this season, to try to repeat it at Middlesbrough was asking for trouble. The home side were lacking in confidence after a lean run. If we’d gone up there and scored early on, the crowd would have been on their backs.

- TALKING POINTS: Stuart Watson’s observations from Middlesbrough

I felt really sorry for the hundreds of Town fans who set off at the crack of dawn for a long journey in horrible weather, only to watch their team fail to muster a meaningful shot on target.

It’s been a rollercoaster season. Just when we think we’re gathering some momentum, along comes a result and performance like Saturday’s to leave us deflated again.

That’s the fate of the vast majority of football fans. I accept that. But I do think the defensive mindset of our manager costs us on occasions. Saturday was a classic, frustrating, example.