Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Four wins in 22 is pathetic... It feels like we’re waiting to be put out of our misery
PUBLISHED: 13:08 23 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:14 23 February 2020
Ipswich Town suffered a damaging 1-0 home defeat to League One promotion rivals Oxford United yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Ipswich Town players and staff spent the afternoon on a team bonding session at an 'Escape Rooms Adventure' earlier this week.
For those not au fait, a small group of you are willingly 'locked' in a room and have to hunt around for clues that lead to a series of tasks which open the door. It's a race against the clock.
Paul Lambert, his mood lifted by the win against Burton a few days prior, joked in his pre-match press conference that very few of his troops had the mental dexterity required for the problem-solving task. Unfortunately, as the games slip by, it's increasingly looking like they might not have what it takes to escape League One before the time runs out either.
Town don't have the attributes to bash the door down and, when the puzzle is tougher, have struggled to unpick the lock.
There are still 11 games to go, but Ipswich have put themselves in a position where the need to win a sizeable number of those now. Can anyone honestly say, with conviction, that they see them going on that charge? It's four wins from the last 22 games across all competitions. That is simply not good enough. It's pathetic, in fact.
History and fan base counts for nothing. Ipswich have no divine right. Yes, yes, we know that. The sensible, most in-tune supporters were always realistic with their expectations. We were right to expect more than this though. It is beyond doubt that Lambert and these players are underachieving.
The squad is good enough. The budget is big enough. Key injuries, bad luck, poor refereeing decisions, opposition raising their games - none of it is an excuse for, and I'll say it again, just four wins in 22 games. Or six wins in 29. Or 25 points claimed from a possible 66. Or five blanks in the last nine. Use whatever stat you like.
Town are down to eighth and could slip to ninth after a round of midweek games they are not involved in. They now look to be in a little group of teams, also including Oxford, Gillingham and Doncaster, who are waiting for those above them to falter.
Will a hectic cup schedule catch up on Portsmouth? Will the season as a whole catch up on underdogs Wycombe? Can Sunderland handle the heavy weight of expectation from their fans? Will Peterborough fall apart in Peterborough fashion? Can Fleetwood sustain their current run?
The odds are, one or two will stutter at some point. It's all very well waiting for others to blow up though. The bigger issue is Ipswich have got to be able to capitalise.
Yes, the run-in looks kind on paper. Ipswich have shown they can beat the likes of Bolton, Southend, Rochdale, Shrewsbury and MK Dons. But they've got to get to those games still in with a genuine shot though.
Already struggling for goals, Town are now without strike duo James Norwood and Kayden Jackson for three make or break games. Will Keane isn't a lone front man and Freddie Sears is far from up to speed following his recent return from a long-term knee injury.
It feels, if I'm honest, like waiting to be put out of our misery. The consistency and clinicality is simply not there.
On Saturday, it's a long trip to Blackpool to face a team that, although winless in six, may well benefit from a new manager bounce.
Then it's home games against Fleetwood and Coventry. Town, realistically, need to produce at least one - probably two - statement wins in those matches. They haven't managed one of those since October 5.
That was the 1-0 victory at Fleetwood. Town's hand-waving team celebrations around that time were met with scorn by Cod Army boss Joey Barton. He questioned whether such overt celebrations were built on solid foundations. Ironically, it could be the return fixture against the Cod Army which puts the final nail in the coffin.
The most galling thing of all? This season was there for the taking. Ipswich did the hard part by getting off to a good start. And this isn't a year where a team or two have really stood out. It might not be that way next time.
Looking back, the squad rotation and postponing of games for international breaks when momentum was there looks like an act of self harm. January, once again, feels like a missed opportunity - the Blues didn't tool up for the fight. That saved cash better be used wisely in the summer.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope something ignites. It just felt the time for that to happen was yesterday.