Monday verdict: Mick McCarthy has credit in the bank, but it’s beginning to run out

Mick McCarthy after the final whistle at Leeds. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Mick McCarthy after the final whistle at Leeds. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Mick McCarthy has plenty of credit in the bank at Ipswich Town, but that could rapidly start to run out unless things begin to change.

Salvation from relegation, followed by finishes of ninth, sixth and seventh on a shoestring budget has garnered him immense respect and gratitude from supporters, but a safety-first, ultra-pragmatic approach has never brought universal love.

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds was typically uninspiring. A comeback never looked likely after Chris Wood nodded home from close-range in the 35th minute. The margin of defeat could, and should, have been greater.

Since the Grant Ward hat-trick-inspired 4-2 home win on the opening weekend of the season, the Blues have scored just three goals from open play. On average, over the last nine outings, they have produced three shots on target per match.

In 2016 results read P34 W10 D12 L12 F30 A34. Those statistics backs up what the eyes see. This is a team likely to go nowhere fast – either up or down.

McCarthy has been given the benefit of the doubt a lot over the last nine months. At the back end of last season several of his creative sparks were injured. We all liked to think that signing young players, like ball-playing centre-back Adam Webster and direct winger Ward, might help change the dynamic and that life after target man Daryl Murphy may be a blessing in disguise.

The tactics have not changed though. Too much of the play is hard-wired. The full-backs always look long, the defensive midfield duo of Cole Skuse and Jonathan Douglas are too deep, there continues to be precious few goals or assist from the midfield as a whole, while the role of lone striker looks a thankless task.

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This is not an over-reaction to one poor performance, but a highlighting of some frustrating recurring themes.

Much has been made about McCarthy’s ability to turn average players into better ones through good man-management, but there are also several cases of in-form players having the life sucked out of them by being constantly played out of position.

Freddie Sears has gone from in-form goalscoring extraordinaire to a confidence-shot left-midfield grafter in the space of 12 months.

Ok, so there have only been two truly bad 45-minute performances across nine league matches so far this season (second halves at Brentford and Leeds). On the flip side there has only been one half (second against Barnsley) that has set the pulses racing.

At what point do we stop saying ‘be careful what you wish for?’

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