Why do Ipswich Town make life hard for themselves at Portman Road?
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
‘If there was a cup for making life difficult for yourself, we’d be sure-fire winners. Behind yet again’.
The above tweet followed Preston’s seventh minute opener at Portman Road a fortnight ago and rather summed up the frustrations of Ipswich Town season ticket holders.
Mick McCarthy’s men have been brilliant on their travels this season, racking up six victories thanks to some fast starts, high-pressing, speedy counter-attacking and brave rearguard action.
Those that only get to see their team in action on Suffolk soil probably question the authenticity of such reports given what they have witnessed with their own eyes.
Take nothing away from the never-say-die spirit which led to the two equalisers against Wolves, the late leveller against Preston and those last-gasp winners against QPR and Leeds. It’s just hard to remember a time when Town started on the front foot, got themselves a comfortable lead and allowed everyone to relax.
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It would be churlish to expect that to happen all the time in this ultra-competitive Championship, but now and again it would be nice to see the opposition sent home with their tails between their legs.
‘Someone is going to get a real beating soon’ was a phrase used by many a Town fan following that dominant display against Leeds. Then came the usual uphill battle against Preston four days later.
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Forceful, relentless second-half attacking has seen many a visiting side crumble. Tired legs and minds eventually leads to a loss of organisation and concentration in the away ranks. Ipswich’s direct, physical approach has a way of grinding teams down. It’s exciting to watch at those moments.
At the very start of matches, when the away team has set out their stall, a little bit more patience, finesse and subtlety is required though. It’s at those moments which Town’s direct approach is painful on the eye. First you should try and unpick the lock, then you resort to smashing the door down.
Statistics back up the above observations. On average, Town have held a lead for just 13 minutes at Portman Road in the league this season. They have been leading at half-time just once. On just four occasions have they been the team that scores first.
It’s not always been this way. Ipswich finished sixth in 2014/15 with the joint-best home record in the Championship – W15 D5 L3. Perhaps it is no coincidence that McCarthy has been without his two arguably most gifted technical players this season in Teddy Bishop and David McGoldrick.
Finding someone of their ilk as a temporary replacement would have been the preference of many. Jonny Williams and Lee Tomlin have gone to Championship rivals MK Dons and Bristol City on loan respectively. The former is injury-prone, the latter is inconsistent. That’s probably why none of the promotion front-runners went for them.
Town have many unquestionable qualities, and they are very much in the promotion mix with just 18 games to go, but the addition of a midfield maestro – granted not plentiful or cheap – would have provided a timely boost and much-needed extra string to the bow.
Instead, the weight of creative responsibility remains firmly on the shoulders of Ryan Fraser.
With Reading the visitors at Portman Road tonight, you could forgive Blues fans for expecting to be put through the emotional wringer again.