Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: A week which suggests Town are heading for mid-table mediocrity
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It was a week of highs and lows which ultimately suggested Ipswich Town are destined for a mid-table Championship finish at best.
The Blues are more than halfway through their so-called acid test of five tough fixtures in 15 gruelling days.
First, they snatched a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Hull City. The positive – yet more comeback spirit shown. The negative – a sense of an opportunity missed given the tame Tigers were wounded early on.
Then the boot was on the other foot as Town conceded a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 midweek draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road. It had been an impressive performance against a high-flying side, but profligacy and late naïvety saw two points dropped.
There could be no arguments following a 2-0 defeat at in-form Aston Villa on Saturday. Town gifted the hosts both goals in what is becoming a worrying recurring theme.
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Were they utterly outplayed? No. It’s no coincidence that they keep coming out the wrong side of these fine margins affairs with the division’s leading sides though.
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Every single one of Town’s 26 points have been claimed against teams currently in the bottom half.
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Mick McCarthy’s men have now claimed 14 points from their last 14 games (relegation form).
And they are yet to play four top-half sides, including potential runaway leaders Wolves.
Winning that long-awaited game-in-hand at Derby tomorrow night would close the gap to the play-off places to three, but defeat against Tom Lawrence, David Nugent and co would see it widen to nine.
The iPro Stadium may have been a happy hunting ground for Town in recent years (unbeaten in nine), but the Rams recorded an eye-catching 3-0 win at Middlesbrough on Saturday to make it six wins from eight.
Town punched above their weight in the early years under McCarthy’s management, underachieved in finishing 16th and are now realistically performing to the level of their budget.
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At least it’s been more entertaining this season and should continue to be with creative midfield men Emyr Huws and Teddy Bishop back from injury.
There’s enough firepower and togetherness to beat the strugglers, but too many technical and defensive limitations to mix it at the top.
Too good to go down, not good enough to go up and almost certainly set for a 17th successive season in the second-tier. That’s just where we’re at.
How do we break such a state of inertia? That’s a discussion for owner Marcus Evans and soon to be out-of-contract McCarthy to have in the new year. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.