|A Happy New Year for ITFC|
Written by Steve_M on Wednesday, 31st Dec 2014 10:09
Well, 2014 comes to an end with ITFC in a position that not even the most optimistic of us would have predicted. True, we finished 2013 in the top six but that was a fleeting stay for only three days and we never looked too likely - three minutes at Watford apart - to finish there. Now, however, failure to finish in the top six would be disappointing and it's impossible not to wonder if we might just manage more than that.
August, and its many disappointments, seems a long time ago now. That game a clear watershed in our season but not the only one. Crawley was as disappointing but it did at least confirm that some players had no future here but others, Teddy Bishop especially, very much do.
Any team can have a good month though and, whilst four wins in a row in September was very good, the failure to win any of the next five matches raised a few questions.
It's been the form since beating Blackpool at the start of November that really impresses though - Wolves, Watford, Bournemouth, Charlton, Leeds, Bolton, Middlesbrough, Brentford, Charlton.
Only four points dropped during that spell, the only fortunate ones gained the extra two at Charlton, matches that looked difficult in advance generally well negotiated, even if two of those teams have fallen away badly.
What has changed from last season? The dynamism and flexibility of our play certainly but also the sense of belief in the team, something apparent both on and off the pitch at the moment.
Taking the former, attacking full-backs and a flexible midfield where at least one player can carry the ball change the way we play; what was flat and predictable last season now allows for variety that makes it difficult for defenders, David McGoldrick is no longer our only creative influence.
That, together with results, feeds the belief. It's not an arrogance but a genuine belief that we will get something out of every match we play as long as we play well and put the effort in. When was it last like this here? Probably in 2004/05, before that the late 90s under George Burley I suppose.
Despite all that, we'll lose matches at some point and probably in a really annoying manner. One defeat in 20 matches is a little freaky for this division. That's fine as long as we can bounce back. Lesser sides wouldn't have come back from our October, let alone August so we should be able to expect a positive response.
As for last night, a slightly nervous performance but Charlton - at the back and in midfield anyway - were better than some Town fans are allowing for. Their 3-5-2 gave them an extra man a lot of the time which negated our pressing. At times in the first half they really cut us apart, just like Boro did, but fortunately their strikers were as woeful as at The Valley last month.
We played OK, just not as consistently well as we have done recently. Good bits of football created pressure, our high corner count something of a testament to this and we scored all three goals at good times. Tommy Smith really does have a striker's instinct in the area and Daryl Murphy just continues to impress.
In many ways the most pleasing goal was the third; I've rarely seen a player more deserving of a goal than McGoldrick last night. Everyone else knew it too, it just looked like being one of those frustrating nights for him.
And so on to 2015. Last time we were so well placed at the end of a calendar year was a decade ago and what happened next - Kelvin Davis's only two errors here, Ivar Ingimarsson's equaliser, Shefki's injury, Darren Currie's miss - is ingrained on the minds of all of us who were there.
Just like this season we started hesitantly but grew in self-belief as the year went on but we blew it and it still frustrates me ten years on, a frustration compounded by the largely mediocre seasons since.
So, no one can take anything for granted at this stage but we have a strong, resilient squad who look capable of lasting the season. The only real worry is that we lack adequate cover for our front two, probably Berra too so some judicious transfer dealing might be required to bolster the squad in the next month.
Whatever happens, it is fun to be an Ipswich fan again and Mick and Terry deserve our thanks once again for that. I've mentioned it many times before and make no apologies for doing so again, but the other thing to remember from 2004/05 is the steady progress of Mick McCarthy's Sunderland side to the title that year - a far more encouraging precedent to take into 2015.
Happy New Year.
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