PREVIEW: Ipswich Town’s season at a crossroads ahead of Reading visit

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town - Credit: Archant

Ipswich v Reading: Ipswich Town’s season has hit something of a crossroads heading into this tomorrow’s home match with Reading.

A fortnight ago the Blues were sixth in the Championship table and unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions.

The January curse (16 defeats, seven draws and just three wins in the last 26 matches played during this month) has struck again though.

Three successive defeats – the first time that has happened during Mick McCarthy’s management – has seen Town exit the FA Cup and drop to 10th in the Championship table.

If the Blues’ recent dip in form has provided them with any doubts about their top six potential, Reading – by contrast – have renewed belief following last weekend’s 7-1 thumping of Bolton, a result which lifted them into the play-off places.


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The Royals have blown hot-and-cold following their relegation from the Premier League and, not helped by several key injuries, had been struggling for goals (six in nine matches prior to last weekend).

COMMENT

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Logic tells us that, when looking at the bigger picture, we couldn’t have expected much more.

Less than 15 months ago, the Blues were a team devoid of confidence, rock-bottom of the Championship, leaking soft goals on a weekly basis, capitulating to defeats at the slightest whiff of a set-back, heavily reliant on loanees, had precious few sellable playing assets, while those of any real value were regularly leaving on Bosman free transfers at the end of their contracts.

Manager Mick McCarthy has now got players in demand (Aaron Cresswell, David McGoldrick), the core of a young squad to build upon, the majority of contracts tied up will in advance of the season’s end and an organised team which has proved competitive in virtually every match to sit just five points off the top six heading into game number 27 of 46. All achieved, it must be remembered, on a shoestring budget.

The problem is that emotion often overrules logic when it comes to the past-time of supporting a football team.

It’s not a cheap hobby and, following a decade of little to shout about, it’s understandable that the heart (maybe this is our year) had started to speak louder than the head (mid-table consolidation would represent good progress) following a nine-game unbeaten run.

Years of false dawns meant it was never going to take much for Blues fans to resort of pessimism. The uneasy on the eye style of play – necessary when fighting the drop last season, but having not evolved much this campaign – certainly comes under the spot-light more when the points aren’t coming with it.

McCarthy has undoubtedly made huge progress in a short space of time at Ipswich Town. That’s an undisputable fact.

If this season is to meander towards a mid-table finish though, a more entertaining brand of football would certainly go a long way towards keeping a lid on the natural cynicism which has developed following the repeating cycle of failure during the Marcus Evans’ ownership era.

TEAM NEWS

IPSWICH TOWN

– Midfielder Luke Hyam is sidelined with the deep cut he suffered to his leg at Millwall last weekend. He could be replaced by Stephen Hunt, Jay Tabb or Paul Anderson.

“I hope we don’t miss him at all,” said McCarthy. “That’s not being derogatory to him, I just hope we don’t miss him and we play well and win without him. He’ll be back in three weeks.”

– Striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is still out, but has begun running again after straining his hamstring in the 1-1 draw with Preston.

“It will be the first week in Feb that he’s back,” said McCarthy. “If we can get February, March and April out of him then it will be a good 12 weeks workout.”

– Anthony Wordsworth is back in the squad having recently been laid low by tonsillitis.

READING

– Royals boss Nigel Adkins has chopped and changed his side this season, with last weekend’s 7-1 win over Bolton only the second time this season that he named the same starting line-up for successive games. Unsurprisingly though he has signalled his intentions to stick with the same team today.

He said: “I expect to name the same team. I’m coming out and saying that now.

“We’ve got that momentum with us and we need to keep that going.”

– The Royals still have a lengthy injury list, including Sean Morrison (knee), Wayne Bridge (knee), Danny Guthrie (calf), Jason Roberts (hip), Mikele Leigertwood (ankle) and Jem Karacan (knee).

– Winger Jordan Obita has been filling in at left-back recently after Stephen Kelly and Shaun Cummings failed to nail down that position after Bridge’s injury.

Mick’s musings

MICK’S MUSINGS

Mick McCarthy on Reading’s 7-1 win over Bolton: “I’ve watched the game. They played well, but they were aided by some poor defending.

“They’re not like when we played them at the start of the season and they were expansive. They are a bit more direct with two wingers and two strikers now. Sometimes you find a formation because of injuries and it works.

“I fancied them (for promotion) at the start. I think there’s been another takeover muted, which doesn’t always help. I know he (Nigel Adkins) has had injuries, though he’s still got a good squad of players. They seem to be on the move and heading in the right direction at the right time of year. I expect them to be in the shake-up for the top six.

“It doesn’t always work out the way you expect though. Wigan have struggled what with being in the UEFA Cup, QPR have not ripped it up, they’ve got 1-0 wins based on a solid defence. It’s not easy. When you come down with a good squad it doesn’t just happen for you. I think based on the last two wins they probably see themselves going in the right direction though.”

TOMORROW’S EADT

Mick McCarthy reveals who will play in goal against Reading and why, explains why he is looking for right-back cover rather than recalling Elliott Hewitt or Freddie Veseli and responds to reports that Titus Bramble could sign for the Blues again.

MATCH UPDATES

Follow @Stuart_Watson on Twitter for live match updates.

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