The Verdict: The best thing about Ipswich Town’s start? A sense the best is yet to come

Skipper Luke Chambers congratulates David McGoldrick after he headed Ipswich Town into a 2-0 lead ag

Skipper Luke Chambers congratulates David McGoldrick after he headed Ipswich Town into a 2-0 lead against Preston. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The best thing about Ipswich Town’s start to the season? A sense their best is still yet to come.

Mick McCarthy’s men go into the third international break of the campaign on a high after beating Preston North End 3-0 at Portman Road on Saturday.

Eight wins and seven defeats (it’s now 22 matches without a draw across all competitions) has the Blues on the cusp of the Championship play-off places with a game in hand on most.

• HIGHLIGHTS: Watch Town’s goals versus Preston

This latest victory was thoroughly professional rather than utterly convincing. The first-half was a stop-start, scrappy snoozefest. And Preston, who have now lost four on the spin, really should have been put to bed given their patched up back four.

Town still haven’t beaten any of the division’s leading lights. All the evidence so far suggests the Blues will end up in the middle of the pack. And yet you can make a strong argument that an underdog success story is brewing again.

Joe Garner (4), Martyn Waghorn (8), David McGoldrick (7) and Bersant Celina (6) – the fantastic front four – have now bagged 25 goals between them with two thirds of the season still to go.

• COMMENT: Seven observations from Town’s win against Preston

At the other end of the field, talented centre-back Adam Webster is ominously returning to form following a lengthy injury lay-off.

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And an injury-ravaged midfield should soon be given an injection of drive and positivity by the return to fitness of Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi and Teddy Bishop.

Underpinning it all is a close-knit team spirit reminiscent of 2014/15. Just look at the way half the team ran to Jordan Spence to celebrate his assist after McGoldrick scored – they were delighted for him after a couple of previously shaky outings.

• REACTION: McCarthy hails his team’s battling qualities

McCarthy appears to have taken on board the criticism of his dismissive tone towards fans and instead is educating people about his thought processes. You have to say he got his squad management absolutely spot on last week. Six points from a possible nine over a tough eight-day period vindicated all the team changes and substitutions that came under the spotlight. Humble pie never tasted so good.

The gruff Yorkshireman may have lost the hearts and minds of a significant proportion of supporters, but he never – as the cliché goes – appears to ‘lose the dressing room’.

• RATINGS: How do you grade Town’s players out of 10 against Preston?

Town face Hull, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Reading and Wolves in the hectic run-up to Christmas. The expectation is a natural order will soon begin to take shape.

If there is one certainty in the Championship though it’s to expect the unexpected.

• REACTION: Celina’s praise for two of his team-mates

Norwich have gone from ‘team of the moment’ to bottom-half in the fortnight which has followed the East Anglian derby. Brentford failed to win any of their opening eight league games, but have since dropped just six points from a possible 21 now. Fulham looked a class act at Portman Road back in August but find themselves in 17th.

Maybe, just maybe, Ipswich might be able to stick around in the higher echelons.

• GALLERY: Can you spot your face in the crowd at Portman Road?

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