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Year End Review: How Do ITFC Compare to a Year Ago?
Written by Steve_M on Thursday, 31st Dec 2015 11:55

Just past the halfway point of this season with ITFC slowly picking up a bit of form, it feels an apposite time to compare where we were a year ago. I wrote something similar then and, although in retrospect, it was a little over optimistic it provides a good comparison.

We've finished both years well, but we're not quite at the level of a year ago. Then there was real confidence and belief throughout the side and the feeling that we were going to score goals at will - 26 points out of the last 30 in 2014 was very impressive, the late winner at Charlton probably the only undeserved points.

We have been slower to find form this season, well, since the first month anyway, and that we've achieved 22 points from the last 30 available this year has crept up on us a bit. The belief, on and off the pitch, isn't where it was last year just yet. Looking back at where that belief came from though gives reasons for encouragement.

It’s hard to believe that we went to Blackpool at the start of November 2014 with a degree of trepidation now, but October had been a frustrating month of dropped points and too many draws (doesn’t that sound familiar?) but a straightforward win followed by an enjoyable cold Tuesday night win over Wolves made things a lot better. It was the long-overdue victory over Watford though that really started that surge of belief; a competitive game against a talented side (when they weren’t clogging and diving) capped with a late winner.

In the following match we were outplayed by Bournemouth for 25 minutes in a way I’ve rarely seen in this division; they were excellent and deserved to be more than one goal ahead. They weren’t though and in the end we played our way back into the match for a deserved draw much to the consternation of some of their more precious fans.

The following week at Charlton was not quite so good but Charlton’s insistence on playing one really crap striker (Vetokele last season) helped us to a clean sheet and a point – or it would have done but for Noel Hunt’s late winner.

Late goals, resilient performances, good football, players swearing on TV all added up to the best time to be an ITFC fan in years. Sadly, 2015 didn’t quite live up to what might have been at the end of December. The tendency to give up two or three good chances per game, a complete collapse in away form (outside of the M25 anyway) and the seemingly inevitable play-off defeat to Norwich all got in the way.

The home leg of the play-offs was however the best day I’ve had watching football in years and there’s still nowhere else I would rather have been for the second leg though – the reaction of Town fans at the end was class (and the 'pitch invasion' right up there with 'taking' the designated away fans pub in terms of tinpot).

That’s all history now, what about this season? It took us a long time to recover from being outplayed by Brighton and the Jewell-esque defending at Reading. Slow, predictable home performances and more sloppy goals conceded have made us very easy to play against at Portman Road as the succession of dire draws demonstrates. It’s certainly been easier playing away from home and five away wins in a row is impressive by any standards, but teams do not tend to get into the play-offs if they consistently fail to win home matches.

If September and October were full of mainly turgid football then November and December were slightly better but we came up against better sides and the results showed little improvement. Wolves could have been a win but was let down by poor defending which let them back into the match but Boro and Derby were both too good for us – even if the former match remains a case of what might have been had we taken any of our chances.

That QPR game though was abject; two poor sides giving the ball away at every opportunity which we then capped by conceding in injury time at the end of the first half. It needed a big reaction in the second half which we just about got and the reaction from players and fans at the end showed how much we all needed that win.

Tuesday night at Brighton though was almost a different sport, a controlled, intelligent away performance with Murphy taking his one good chance with the sharpness of last season. The second half was a little more ragged but we restricted Brighton excellently, they may have had injuries but still had Bobby Zamora and James Wilson on the bench.

Late goals, confident performances, fans becoming (tentatively) optimistic. If we’ve not quite reached the point we were at a year ago then we might be approaching it again. This year we have a stronger squad, being able to bring Brett Pitman and Luke Varney on instead of Conor Sammon should demonstrate that, and it still feels as though no-one gives us a chance.

Maybe, we can build on where we are now rather than being left clinging to a play-off spot by our fingertips. My optimism this year is tempered by doubts about our home form but if we can improve that then, although the top two certainly isn’t realistic this season, there is no reason to think that another play-off place is beyond us, not now anyway.

And here's my blog from a year ago for comparison.

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BossMan added 16:26 - Dec 31
Good read Steve and captures the mood of the moment really well in my opinion. I'm not a Mick fan but I also thought the display against Brighton was excellent and hopefully we can produce something similar at Burnley. After that we have 3 home games which will hopefully see us grab 6 points and progress in the FA Cup. Most of the squad will get some game time over those 3 fixtures and if we deliver 3 victories then the level of optimism will go up another notch. If however we can produce 3 home performances as good as the away performance at Brighton as well as 3 victories then there will be so much more to celebrate for those of us who aren't enjoying the style of football being dished up by Mick especially at home.

Steve_M added 20:05 - Dec 31
I think confidence is a big problem at home - that applies off the pitch as much as on it. Last December, the atmosphere against Leeds and Boro was incredible, even below the stand at half-time. This year has been flat on and off the pitch far too often. The reaction at the end of the QPR game though, that was relief, pent-up frustration and the knowledge of having something to build on.

BlueKush added 10:40 - Jan 11
That win at Blackpool last November started an 11 match unbeaten run, it was also the first run of matches we played Bialkowski. Bialkowski was a major component of that run.

Re: this season, we look decent considering our 2 best players are out injured and we've been playing our hopelessly out of form deputy keeper. Gerken looks more confident now (the last 5 games) but our hopes remain (for me) on his undroppable shoulders.

I certainly like our position, trajectory and off-the-radar-ness - I'm quietly confident. If we can get into the playoffs and Bishop and McGoldrick are fit for the run in (and the playoffs themselves) then we've got a great chance.
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