It’s not over until the fat lady sings – Ipswich Town aren’t out of the play-off picture just yet
- Credit: Archant
With less than a fortnight of the Championship season to go, Ipswich Town are one of seven teams that still have a genuine chance of finishing in the final play-off position. STUART WATSON takes a look at how the Blues’ form compares to their rivals.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings.
Ipswich Town may have passed up two golden opportunities to move into the Championship play-off places over the weekend – losing 3-1 at Watford and twice being pegged back in a 2-2 home draw with Bournemouth – but it’s far too premature to begin praising the gallant efforts of Mick McCarthy’s men and start talking of using the final two matches to experiment.
With the top five spots spoken for, Town are one of seven teams still with a genuine chance of claiming sixth spot. And, analysing recent form and the games ahead, you can make a strong case for the Suffolk side to win the race.
Yes, realistically it’s going to require two wins from the final two matches for Ipswich to stand any chance. And Saturday’s trip to a second-place Burnley side who have lost just two home games in the league all season is not an ideal fixture to start with.
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Town can take heart from the way they have played on their travels against the division’s leading sides this season though. They more than matched Reading, QPR and Wigan in narrow early season defeats, led 4-1 at Derby (eventually drawing 4-4), before claiming a morale-boosting 2-0 victory at Brighton recently.
It’s only really table-toppers Leicester who have sent them back to Suffolk comprehensively beaten (3-0). Speaking of Leicester, there’s another reason to keep the faith. The Foxes had lost just one of their opening 20 league games at the King Power Stadium, but four days after sealing promotion with a 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday they were thrashed 4-1 on home turf by top-six hopefuls Brighton.
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There’s every chance that Burnley – whose 2-0 home win over Wigan on Monday sealed automatic promotion and sparked a joyous pitch invasion at Turf Moor – could subconsciously lose their competitive edge at the weekend.
Ipswich’s season then ends with the visit of a mid-table Sheffield Wednesday side with little to play for. Town have lost just one of their last nine games at Portman Road and, should it still be all to play for, would undoubtedly be roared on by a bumper crowd.
Back-to-back wins (something Town have achieved four times this season) would leave the chasing pack powerless. All it would take then is for those in front – Reading, Brighton and Nottingham Forest – to slip up just once each.
On Friday night, the Seagulls host Yeovil. The rock-bottom Glovers may have had their relegation back to League One sealed on Monday, but they have been no pushovers this season – as recent draws at the likes of Blackburn, Leicester and Wigan have proved.
Expectation levels at the packed Amex Stadium have been huge and Oscar Garcia’s side are faltering under the pressure – as Monday’s 1-1 home draw against a free-falling Blackpool proved.
Forest – who went 12 games without a win before back-to-back victories over the Easter weekend put them right back in the mix – face the tricky trip to Bournemouth on Saturday.
Even if the duo both win those games though, they still have to play each other on the final day of the campaign. And a draw at The City Ground would leave the door open.
Reading – who have blown and cold all season – have to travel to a Doncaster side still fighting for their lives, before hosting Burnley on the final day. Prior to Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough, the Royals had failed to win in seven outings at the Madjeski Stadium.
Pressure does funny things to teams at this stage of the season and there are sure to be plenty more twists and turns. Expect it to go right down to the wire.
Form: WDWLDWLDLW (15pts)
– Royals have suffered badly from inconsistency, although enjoyed a crucial victory over Middlesbrough last night.
Previous 10: Leeds (A) W 4-2, Derby (H) D 0-0, Birmingham (A) W 2-1, Barnsley (H) L 1-3, Huddersfield (H) D 1-1, Charlton (A) W 1-0, Bournemouth (A) L 1-3, Leicester (H) D 1-1, Wigan (A) L 0-3, Middlesbrough (H) W 2-0.
Last two: Doncaster (A), Burnley (H)
Form: WLLLDDWWDD (13pts from a possible 30)
– Faltering in front of expectant home crowds. Unbeaten in six, but only two wins in last 10.
Previous 10: Bolton (A) W 2-0, Ipswich (H) L 0-2, Sheff Wed (A) L 0-1, Middlesbrough (H) L 0-2, Blackburn (A) D 3-3, Barnsley (A) D 0-0, Leicester (A) W 4-1, Charlton (H) W 3-1, Huddersfield (A) D 1-1, Blackpool (H) D 1-1.
Last two: Yeovil (H), Forest (A)
Form: DDLLDLDLWW (10pts)
– Went from top-two hopefuls to mid-table during miserable 12-game winless streak, but back in contention after back-to-back Easter victories.
Previous 10: Middlesbrough (A) D 1-1, Doncaster (H) D 0-0, Derby (A) L 0-5, Charlton (H) L 0-1, Ipswich (A) D 1-1, Millwall (H) L 1-2, Sheff Wed (H) D 3-3, QPR (A) L 2-5, Birmingham (H) W 1-0, Leeds (A) W 2-0
Last two: Bournemouth (A), Brighton (H)
Form: WLWWDLWWLD (17pts)
n Lost just five of the last 18. Flown under radar. Grind out a result just as people start to write them off.
Previous 10: Yeovil (A) W 1-0, Wigan (H) L 1-3, Brighton (A) W 2-0, Derby (H) W 2-1, Forest (H) D 1-1, Blackburn (A) L 0-2, Huddersfield (A) W 2-0, Doncaster (H) W 2-1, Watford (A) L 1-3, Bournemouth (H) D 2-2
Last two: Burnley (A), Sheff Weds (H)
Form: WDDDDWWDDW (18pts)
– Rovers are unbeaten in 10 with strike duo Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede in red-hot form. May have left too late.
Previous 10: Huddersfield (A) W 4-2, Leicester (H) D 1-1, Watford (A) D 3-3, Millwall (A) D 2-2, Brighton (H) D 3-3, Ipswich (H) W 2-0, QPR (H) W 2-0, Sheff Weds (A) D 3-3, Yeovil (H) D 0-0, Birmingham (A) W 4-2
Last two: Charlton (A) Wigan (H)
Form: DLWWWWWDLD (18pts)
– Eight wins from 10 catapulted Cherries into contention, but hit the buffers slightly with just two points from a possible nine. Boss Eddie Howe written off top-six hopes.
Previous 10: Middlesbrough (H) D 0-0, Charlton (A) L 0-1, Barnsley (A) W 1-0, Leeds (H) W 4-1, Birmingham (A) W 4-2, QPR (H) W 2-1, Reading (H) W 3-1, Yeovil (A) D 1-1, Sheff Weds (H) L 2-4, Ipswich (A) D 2-2
Last two: Forest (H), Millwall (A)
Form: LWLDWDWDWL (15pts)
– No back-to-back wins since mid-February. In red-hot form at home, but won just one of their last 14 away. Game-in-hand, but two tricky trips up next.
Previous 10: Doncaster (A) L 1-2, Barnsley (H) W 3-0, Wigan (A) L 1-2, Blackburn (H) D 3-3, Sheff Weds (A) W 4-1, Burnley (H) D 1-1, Leeds (H) W 3-0, Millwall (A) D 2-2, Ipswich (H) W 3-1, QPR (A) L 1-2
Last three: Derby (A), Charlton (A), Huddersfield (H)