Sixth-placed finish will feel like sense of achievement to Ipswich Town’s players and stand them in good stead

Ipswich Town FC V Huddersfield Town FC.
Sky Bet Championship.
Daryl Murphy scores the second goal

Ipswich Town FC V Huddersfield Town FC. Sky Bet Championship. Daryl Murphy scores the second goal for Town taking them to a 2-1 victory. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town’s play-off hopefuls will be better prepared mentally for the end-of-season promotion lottery should they sneak into the Championship top-six at the last moment.

That is the view of former Blues midfielder Ian Westlake who fired seven league goals in each of Town’s two unsuccessful play-off campaigns during the last decade.

Westlake and his Town team-mates crept into fifth spot during the 2003-04 season, before narrowly missing out on the second automatic promotion spot to Wigan a year later by two points.

The current Blues team currently sit eighth, two points outside the play-offs with five games to go, and host Doncaster on Saturday, before playing Watford (away), play-off rivals Bournemouth (home), title-chasing Burnley (away) and finally mid-table Sheffield Wednesday (home).

“Players don’t approach the play-offs differently (depending on what position they finish), but they are likely to be in a better mental state, having finished sixth and going in to them on a high,” said Westlake, now plying his trade at Needham Market.

“If Ipswich just slip into the top six, the players will be absolutely buzzing with a sense of achievement that they got there.

“You have still achieved if you finish third but there will also be that feeling that you have missed out, having chased automatic promotion all season.

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“When we finished third we were always chasing Wigan. The year before we finished fifth but always felt comfortable we were going to make it.

“It’s different with Ipswich as they have dropped down and then come back up during the season but you only have to look at Crystal Palace a few seasons ago. They were bottom at Christmas, came into the play-offs really late and won promotion (in 2004).”

Town will be cheered on by a few thousand more fans than usual at Portman Road on Saturday, the club offering a total of 12,000 free children’s tickets to Suffolk schools and FA Charter Standard clubs, although not all have been taken up.

Town academy product Westlake, hopes the Blues can put a smile of the youngsters’ faces but insists Saturday’s clash won’t be a formality.

“If there is one thing I have learned, it is not to study the (Championship) run-in,” said Westlake.

“You can go and win three games against the top-three, then lose three against teams in the bottom half, especially when they are fighting for their lives.

“You can’t predict anything in the Championship.”

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