Just two spots to fight for – Mick McCarthy believes Hull, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Derby will last the distance
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There may still be two thirds of the season to go, but Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy believes four of the top six spots in the Championship table are already wrapped up.
Hull City, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Derby were the bookies’ favourites for promotion before a ball was kicked and that quartet have lived up to expectations so far.
The Blues, by contrast, have left themselves with plenty of work to do if they are to repeat last season’s feat of securing a play-off place.
Having shot to the top of the pile following a flying start to the campaign, Town secured just one win in 10 matches to tumble down the table.
Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Bolton lifted them back up to 10th, and within four points of the top six, but the likes of Brighton, Birmingham, Reading, Cardiff, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham look much-improved this season.
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Surveying the overall Championship picture ahead of his team’s game at rock-bottom Rotherham this afternoon, McCarthy said: “There will be some who march on and keep going – I think Hull will, I think Derby will, Burnley and Middlesbrough too.
“If you think those four will occupy positions in the top six then it’s going to be hard for the rest of us to take one. But it was the same last year.
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“It’s a tough league this year. It’s tougher than it was I think.”
The Blues boss never got carried away during the highs of last season and he didn’t get too low during his team’s recent sticky patch.
Nevertheless, he looked a far more relaxed and happy figure this week following the midweek victory at Portman Road – one which could very well end up being looked back upon as a pivotal moment in the season.
Today’s match at Rotherham provides a golden opportunity to get some positive momentum going again ahead of an international break.
Then comes a home match against Wolves, followed by three successive Sky televised games – at Charlton, at home against Middlesbrough, then at MK Dons.
“The dodgy run didn’t see us get beaten that many times. I think we’re eighth in terms of losing games,” said McCarthy, referring to the fact that only eight teams have lost fewer than four times in English football’s second tier so far this season.
“It was just that inability to turn draws into wins which set us back. And we had chances to win a lot of those games – Birmingham, Bristol City, Huddersfield, Cardiff...
“We just lost it for a while, but on Tuesday it all came back together again.”
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