Tommy Smith is blossoming at Ipswich Town, says Terry Butcher

Tommy Smith, right

Tommy Smith, right - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town and England defensive legend Terry Butcher believes Tommy Smith is ‘blossoming’ as a centre-half, and has hailed the New Zealand international’s recent displays at the heart of the Blues’ rearguard.

Smith was one of several players to come in for criticism during the Blues’ early-season blip, but manager Mick McCarthy stood by his squad and has reaped the rewards in recent weeks.

Ipswich have lost just two of their last dozen games, are unbeaten in seven matches away from Portman Road and kept their second successive away clean sheet on Saturday, coming away from promotion rivals Burnley with a hard-earned point, following a 0-0 draw at Turf Moor.

Smith, and defensive partner Christophe Berra, put in a stellar performance in that game and Butcher, who made over 350 appearances for Town, said: “I have seen Tommy start to blossom in the last few weeks.

“As a defender he is more mature and he is part of a defence that is not conceding as many goals now.

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“Before, he seemed to do well for 20 or 30 minutes then all of a sudden, he would make a mistake and would not be able to get back into the groove.

“Now his consistency levels are higher, he seems more confident and is improving as a player.

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“He has done very well in his partnership with Christophe Berra and is part of a back five that provides a solid base.”

That solid base yielded 12 points from a possible 18 last month and kicked off 2016 with a well-earned point at Burnley.

At Turf Moor, Town showed all the battling qualities needed to get through a typical blood and thunder Championship clash.

Butcher was delighted with that result and said the top-two could be within their grasp provided they can rectify their recent ropey home form.

The Blues have won just two of their last 10 games at Portman Road, although they were victorious last time out against QPR.

“Everyone is playing their part,” insisted Butcher, who won 77 caps for England and won the UEFA Cup with the Blues in 1981.

“Sometimes you lose a game, like Ipswich did against Middlesbrough, and that gives you an opportunity to bounce straight back.

“Ipswich were able to do that, whereas last year they may have struggled.

“Mick has got a group of experienced players together who are prepared to run through brick walls for the club, they are very resilient and have the capabilities to nick points off the top six teams.

“You look at the recent QPR game at Portman Road and that was not the best, but yet they were still able to finish it nicely and get a win from somewhere.

“It’s a role reversal of last season when they were very strong at home.

“I am not sure if they can catch the top-two but if they can start picking up points at home and remain a good solid unit away, then they will give themselves a chance.

Ahead of home games against mid-table teams, Leeds, Preston and Reading later this month, Butcher added: “They are in a good position and have a chance to consolidate their position with the games at Portman Road they have coming up.”

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