Monday verdict: Giant strides replaced by baby steps as Ipswich Town edge in the right direction

Tommy Smith appeals after going down in the penalty area following an Ipswich corner.
Picture: Stev

Tommy Smith appeals after going down in the penalty area following an Ipswich corner. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

For three years Ipswich Town have been making giant strides of progress, but at the moment it’s all about baby steps in the right direction.

Mick McCarthy.

Mick McCarthy.

The winless streak may have been extended to seven matches, but Saturday’s goalless draw with Cardiff City suggests the Blues can get their stuttering season back on track.

Mick McCarthy’s men finished sixth in the Championship last season thanks to consistency. The team selection was consistent, they were consistently hard-to-beat and they had a consistent goalscorer in Daryl Murphy.

This season, in an attempt to take things to the next level, it’s been a case of one step forwards followed by two steps back.

The Blues have, by general consensus, their best squad in years – both in terms of quality and depth. All the ingredients are there, but the right blend has not been found.

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A more open and expansive approach paid dividends early on but the ‘we’ll score more than you’ mentality soon proved unsustainable.

The focus has been on getting back to basics and, as a result, the goals have dried up. Having found the net for 24 games in a row, the Blues have now scored just once in their last five.

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A quick look at the table will give Town fans a sinking feeling. For a long time, under the management of Roy Keane and Paul Jewell, 14th felt like their spiritual home.

Nine points from 10 games is relegation form, but the last two matches have at least provided a solid platform to reignite the season. An optimist would call it two defeats in eight.

Defensively, from front to back, Town were back to their rock-solid best at the weekend. Taking the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest the previous weekend into account, the Blues look to have got rid of that soft underbelly which has dogged them throughout 2015.

That, above all else, was the thing that needed addressing the most and the return to form of centre-back Christophe Berra in particular has been a huge boost of late.

McCarthy is a firm believer that the best players prove themselves over a 46-game season and now the hope has got to be that strikers Murphy and David McGoldrick can rediscover their best form. Staying in games throughout 90 minutes can only help.

Tomorrow night’s visit of 22nd-placed Bolton Wanderers to Portman Road provides a golden opportunity for Town to kick-on.

Fine margins, percentage football may not be sexy, but right now a replica of last season’s gritty 1-0 victory over the Trotters would settle everyone down.

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