Stuart Watson’s Verdict: Counter kings to counter chumps – Town must refocus on maintaining fun factor at Portman Road

Adam Webster voices his frustration after Patrick Bamford scored Middesbrough's second on Saturday.

Adam Webster voices his frustration after Patrick Bamford scored Middesbrough's second on Saturday. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

From the counter kings at Derby, to the counter chumps at Middlesbrough. With five of the next seven games at home, Ipswich Town need to take their medicine and quickly refocus on maintaining the fun factor at Portman Road.

Grabbing an early goal, parking nine organised men behind the ball and frustrating the hell out of class opposition worked a treat when securing a 1-0 win at Pride Park less than a fortnight ago.

It was Town who were frustrating to watch at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday though. Two sloppy goals conceded either side of half-time effectively ended the match as a contest with 40-odd minutes still to play, with the Blues failing to produce a meaningful attempt on goal all afternoon.

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Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Goals change games. As always, it was fine margins.

Perspective is required of course. Middlesbrough spent in excess of £40m on signings following their relegation from the Premier League last summer.

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Spirited away points gained at mega-money promotion favourites must be viewed as bonuses along the way. It’s results and entertainment on Suffolk soil that this campaign will ultimately be judged on.

Six of the last nine have been away and now the fixture list either side of Christmas looks like this: Reading (h), Wolves (a), QPR (h), Derby (h), Fulham (a), Sheffield United (h, FA Cup) and Leeds (h).

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It would certainly help if Town stopped shooting themselves in the foot. So many of the goals conceded have been soft and preventable. It’s not just as black and white as saying ‘we need better defenders’ or ‘it’s the inevitable result of being more open’ either. Lots of little individual errors have come from players in all areas of the field.

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We must be realistic and accept some deficiencies though. With that in mind, attack, more often than not, is probably Town’s best form of defence at the moment. Go toe-to-toe. Trust in the firepower. Win or bust.

A repeat of the last three home displays – wins against Preston (3-0) and Nottingham Forest (4-2) sandwiching that unfortunate 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday – would bring plenty of festive cheer.