North Stander: Get ready for a mad scramble to the finishing line – we’re still in the fight!
Would the real Ipswich Town please stand up? Is it the one which was so woeful against Wimbledon, or the team who played Burton off the park? I really wish I knew the answer, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
So, what changed in just a few days? We were absolutely abysmal in south-west London on Tuesday evening, and yet just four days later we were sublime in thrashing Burton.
We are so maddeningly inconsistent. A flying start to the season was followed by an awful winless run, then a brief rally which raised our hopes again, then came another dreadful slump, and now this very good performance against Burton.
So what will we see next Saturday when Oxford visit Portman Road? Will it be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? I've never been a great fan of rollercoasters, but that's exactly what our beloved football team is giving us this season.
The unpredictability of it all is infuriating. What on earth are we fans supposed to make of it? I was speaking to a very esteemed and exceedingly wise Ipswich Town supporter who accused me of being like a pendulum, swinging one way and then another. Wildly optimistic one week, in the depths of despair seven days later.
That's fair comment, but it's the effect this up-and-down Blues has! One day I really do believe we are the best team in League One, then a few days later I feel we have absolutely no right to think that way. After the utterly awful Wimbledon match, for instance.
So, where does all that leave us? Despite Saturday's excellent win, we are still outside the top six, and getting back into even the play-off places won't be easy.
What does the remainder of this campaign hold in store? Inevitably, this being Ipswich Town, there are two ways of looking at it. In recent years, automatic promotion has needed more than 90 points. With only 12 games to go, we're on 52. So, no chance then?
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Well, hang on there. Who will get 90 points this season? Someone will need a sensational run-in. In this oh-so ordinary division, with no outstanding team, it's far more likely we're looking at the top two finishing with a points tally in the high 80s. I think it will be a mad scramble for the line.
We're outside the top six, and yet we're only five points off top.
In other words, we've still got a chance. But we have to find some consistency. We must keep producing performances as good as the one against Burton. Eight of our last 12 are at home, so Portman Road must become an intimidating fortress. I know the fans will do their bit - but will the players?
We need more of our best players delivering regularly. Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden have been excellent all season, but others have been patchy. Alan Judge, for instance. We all know he has great quality, but has only shown it sporadically. If we can see Judge playing as well as he did against Burton, our attacking threat will be awesome. We also need Kane Vincent-Young back.
Another encouraging factor is that most of our remaining games are against pretty hopeless teams in mid-table or lower. You know, the ones we usually batter easily. We only have three games against the dreaded top eight. And, actually, isn't it about time we put that unwanted stat to bed?
So we still have a chance - obviously of making the play-offs, and automatic promotion is not an impossible dream. But, as I've already said, it all depends on which Ipswich Town we see between now and early May.
If it's the one which turned in what Paul Lambert believes was the best performance in his time here against Burton, then we have every chance.
But if it's the shambolic outfit which embarrassed and infuriated us at Wimbledon, then we can forget all thoughts of an immediate return to Championship football.
I repeat: Would the real Ipswich Town please stand up?
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