Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Progress for Ipswich Town, but hard to know just how much

There's much to ponder for Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy over the next fortnight. Photo: Steve Wal

There's much to ponder for Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy over the next fortnight. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

It’s time to pause, breath, recover, assess and analyse for Ipswich Town.

We’ve reached the second international break of the season after the usual frenetic opening two months of the Championship campaign.

Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Bristol City means the Blues have played 10, won six and lost four in the league. They’re eighth in the table with a game in hand on most. They have five more points than they did at this stage last season. This is a replica of the start made during the play-off season of 2014/15.

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They’re scoring more goals (it took them until mid-December to reach 20 last season), on the whole have looked more dynamic and been more entertaining, summer signings have impressed, homegrown players are getting game-time, while there are some key players to return from injury. It’s everything we realistically could have hoped for. And yet...

Four days on from that scintillating 5-2 dismantling of Sunderland on Suffolk soil came a limp showing. Luck and the referee were not on the Blues’ side, but they didn’t help themselves either. The impressive Robins, who must take credit, are now unbeaten in 11 games across all competitions. Town once again came up short against one of the division’s better sides. And that’s the worry.

All six of the teams they’ve beaten are in the bottom half. Five of them are 18th or below. Sunderland game aside, the victories have not been utterly convincing.

We won’t be able to fully judge how far Town have progressed until they’ve played everyone once.

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After winning the opening five in all competitions, it’s now five losses from seven. There will undoubtedly be plenty more twists and turns to come.

The problem is, there’s a zeitgeist in place. A new generation of fans don’t remember this club in the top-flight, let alone conquering Europe. This is year 16 in the Championship. It’s been a slow and steady decline full of false dawns.

Is it harsh on Mick McCarthy and his players for every small set-back to be hyper-analysed because of that background? Yes, but that’s where we are at.

This season could still go one of two ways. Deep down there’s a nagging sense this is a mid-table outfit at best. At least the ride might be a bit more enjoyable this time around.

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