Play-off heartache can spur on Ipswich Town, says Ipswich Town legend

Tommy Smith exhorts his team mates to fight on as Ipswich fall further behind at Norwich

Tommy Smith exhorts his team mates to fight on as Ipswich fall further behind at Norwich

Terry Butcher believes the scars from Ipswich Town’s play-off semi-final defeat to bitter rivals Norwich City, in May, can spur them on between now and the end of the season.

The Blues lost 4-2 to the Canaries over two legs, the Norfolk club ultimately reaching the Premier League, and are in the mix for promotion again, sitting in the Championship’s final play-off spot, two points clear of Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City.

After this Saturday’s FA Cup third round clash with Portsmouth at Portman Road, Town face three mid-table sides at home during January – Leeds, Preston and Reading – and a chance to consolidate, if not improve their position in the top-six, although their recent record in Suffolk, two wins in the last 10 games, isn’t ideal

Reaching the top-two is not beyond the realms of possibility but, sitting seven points behind second-placed Derby, could prove to be a bridge too far.

“Town have got to look to the play-offs, having had that experience last year,” said Butcher.

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“They will remember losing to their main rivals and how much that hurt.

“They then had a dip at the start of the season but came through it and possess some experienced, wise heads who know the division and know how to win games when they are under pressure, like at MK Dons.”

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The most experienced of those wise heads is manager, Mick McCarthy, who after the heartache at Carrow Road last season, has tweaked with his squad, producing a stronger outfit with more flair this time round, while keeping the core of last season’s squad. Butcher, who played against McCarthy when the two represented Rangers and Celtic respectively in the Old Firm derbies of the 1980s, said: “Mick was a strong player and his teams play the way he used to play and are good at winning the ball.

“But as a manager, Mick likes to get his teams to play on the floor and pass it.

“They perhaps don’t play as much football as Bournemouth did last season, but they play to their strengths.”

McCarthy has built his talented side by spending next to nothing on transfer fees, while utilising the loan market well. Ryan Fraser is a prime example of how the loan system can work successfully and Butcher is delighted the diminutive Scot, on a season-long loan from Bournemouth, is back after injury.

“With Fraser coming back and Tommy Oar also at the club, Ipswich have got good width in their side, whether those players start or come on as substitutes.

“There are also other players in the squad that can come in and do a job and give you something different. Mick has a good format.”

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