MONDAY VERDICT: Ipswich Town now in a three-way scrap for sixth-spot
Three into one – that’s the situation now seemingly facing Ipswich Town.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy conceded that his side’s automatic promotion hopes are over following Saturday’s damaging 4-1 defeat at fellow high-fliers Middlesbrough.
Indeed, their chances of securing a play-off place are very much now in the balance with nine games to go.
Bournemouth, Watford, Boro, Derby and Norwich look set to make up the top five positions in some order. The cream, it seems, has risen to the top.
Then it’s a case of Brentford, Ipswich and Wolves scrapping over sixth spot.
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The Blues may be in the exact same position they were before the weekend – still one point adrift of the play-off places courtesy of Brentford’s 2-1 home defeat by Cardiff – but the nature of their own set-back felt like a significant body blow.
The Suffolk side played well at times – leading the possession, shooting and corner stats – while Boro were nowhere near their dominant best. And yet still Town suffered their biggest defeat of the season, two short corners and two long balls – all badly defended – allowing the Teesiders to become the first team to score four times against Ipswich all season.
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The stark reality is that the Blues, second at the turn of the year, have claimed 14 points from a possible 39 in 2015.
The good news is that Brentford were beaten 2-1 at home by Cardiff on Saturday, while Wolves are now winless in three following their 1-1 draw at Brighton.
The bad news is that a Town defence which looked as shaky as it has since the dark days at the end of the Paul Jewell era will soon be coming up against free-scoring Watford (Saturday, away) and Bournemouth (Good Friday, home).
Before that is tomorrow night’s visit of Neil Lennon’s well-drilled Bolton outfit to Portman. It’s got a bit of a must-win feel to it.