Monday verdict: Ipswich Town’s season is suffering a death by a thousand cuts

Bartosz Bialkowski, wearing yellow and green, is disappointed to have been beaten by Bruno Ecuele Ma

Bartosz Bialkowski, wearing yellow and green, is disappointed to have been beaten by Bruno Ecuele Manga's first half near post header at Cardiff.

Ipswich Town’s season is suffering a death by a thousand cuts.

Mick McCarthy’s men pulled a couple of 1-0 wins out of the bag to keep the Grim Reaper away for a while, and they may well respond to Saturday’s toothless 1-0 defeat at Cardiff by grinding out a win or two in this week’s home games against Blackburn and Rotherham, but it would, unfortunately, only delay the inevitable.

Let’s be brutally honest, this squad’s deficiencies have been exposed in 2016. The table and Town’s fixtures suggest a top-six finish is still very much up for grabs. Recent performances say very much otherwise.

And, realistically, even if they did win at least six of their remaining 10 games to scrape in there then you wouldn’t be putting any money on them to win a two-legged semi-final.

On Saturday, Ipswich got beaten by their own game in south Wales. “They are probably the best at grinding out results in this league, be it was us that ground it out today,” said Bluebirds boss Russell Slade (yes, the game was that dire). Such phrases were undoubtedly compliments last season. One year on and they seem far less flattering.

Town had a clear identity when they secured the club its first play-off place in a decade. They were a low-budget, hard-working team with a fantastic man-manager whose whole was worth a lot more than the sum of the parts.

This season it’s hard to know quite what Ipswich are. They’ve lost that defensive solidity that was such a bedrock to their success, they no longer seem a threat from set-pieces and, crucially, they still lack a creative spark.

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Against a defence-minded, below-par Cardiff, Town ran out of ideas very quickly. McCarthy had four strikers on the field for the last 20 minutes but no-one to supply any ammunition.

Bringing on Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a right-back in the 88th minute rather summed up the season. There have been too many round pegs in square holes. It’s all been a bit make-do-and-mend rather than a clear masterplan. The kit fiasco on Saturday, in which Town wore their orange third kit once again and keeper Bartosz Bialkowski ended up in yellow and green, reflected that.

I still go back to the very opening day of the season at Brentford for Town’s best display. They may have ended up drawing 2-2, but you could see clear evolution from the wingless wonders of 2014/15 – there was proper full-backs, a balanced midfield, pace on the flanks and strikers who complemented each other.

Marcus Evans’ limited spend and McCarthy’s tactical approach has hit a glass ceiling. Town need to go back to last summer’s plan, but this time stick to it with conviction.

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