Monday verdict: Different season, same mistakes – Ipswich Town’s promotion hopes are fading fast
There is a growing feeling that Ipswich Town’s season is slipping away.
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at relegation-battling Bristol City was a fourth loss in five games across all competitions. There has been just two wins in 2016.
Just like last season, Mick McCarthy’s physically demanding style of play seems to be taking its toll on the squad at a vital moment. And once again no cavalry was called for in January.
The two carbon copy headed goal from Aden Flint at Ashton Gate were fitting really. Town, it seems, do not learn from their past mistakes – on or off the pitch.
The gap to the play-off places may be only three points but right now that seems like a chasm as the final straight fast approaches.
A crippling injury-list has robbed Mick McCarthy of the services of his three chief entertainers. Who knows where the Blues would be had the talented trio of Ryan Fraser, Teddy Bishop and David McGoldrick been fit and firing all season?
They haven’t though and a squad which had been hailed as having the most strength in depth for years is beginning to look short of the required quality for a sustained promotion push.
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Town never roll over and get their tummies tickled. They never look like they are going to hand out a thrashing either. At Ashton Gate they were far from gutless. Confused and clueless were apt adjectives though. It was all a bit too predictable.
Back last August it seemed as though the Blues’ style of play was evolving. A bit of style was being added to the steel, some guile supplementing the grit. The only way seemed up following the club’s first top-six finish in a decade. Then came that 5-1 loss at Reading and McCarthy slammed the breaks on.
The major weaknesses – nowhere near enough goals or invention from midfield and too many predictable long balls – are beginning to far outweigh the undoubted qualities of team spirit and work ethic. Poor aesthetics makes for less latitude when it comes to criticism.
If things don’t improve quickly then two big questions will arise – who is to blame for not building on the momentum that was gathering and where does the club go from here?
Are McCarthy’s hands tied by owner Marcus Evans when it comes to the transfer market and he’s simply keeping his frustrations well-hidden? Or is Town’s pragmatic boss genuinely happy to stick to his tried and trusted budget buys? It may well be a bit of both. If it stay this way though then it’s hard to see the Blues joining the Premier League elite any time soon.