|Some Mid-Season Thoughts|
Written by Steve_M on Monday, 18th Dec 2017 09:29
Is this the second best Town team under Marcus Evans? It is certainly starting to look that way, we have regained many of the elements that helped make us so successful in 2014/15: energy in midfield, pressing the opposition further forward, effective set-pieces and most importantly goals.
We did have a good spell, particularly away from home, in the last couple of months of 2015 which was similar to this one but our inability to take games to the opposition at Portman Road really held us back that season and, as we all know, it fizzled out by March.
One very clear truism in football is that if a team consistently wins home matches then the majority of fans will enjoy it. For too much of 2015/16 and 2016/17 we looked timid at home, slow to attack, easy to defend against and vulnerable to better sides on the counter. A handful of good matches aside it's been crap and uninspiring, the high number of draws reflect that.
The clearest manifestation of our improvement this season has been the way we've taken a lot of home games to the opposition, starting games quickly and putting the opposition under pressure. Yes, we've not managed that in every game including a couple we've won but the better home wins - Brentford, Sunderland, Forest and Reading - have all been very impressive.
There seems to be an odd dichotomy of views on Saturday's match, mainly between those who were there and those who just looked at the possession stats and assumed we had been awful. That really wasn't the case; we were incisive throughout, making far more use of our possession than Reading's pointless passing around the back four. That they resorted to lumping the ball forward and diving around in the penalty area in the closing minutes was most fitting.
The period between our two goals, we did sit back too much and Reading's midfield interplay in that spell was very good. Fortunately, Jordan Spence's excellent clearance denied them from their only good chance in that spell. It was Spence again who eased the pressure with an excellent break that led to a corner and our second goal.
It was comfortable after that, Reading looking far more likely to achieve a red card than a goal for the most part and we could have scored three utterly superb goals in the second half. If people aren't entertained by skill and invention like that then football is perhaps the wrong sport.
Where we are well below the 2014/15 side at the moment is defensively, especially away from home. We've let ourselves down with poorly defended goals and allowed the opposition to see out comfortable wins, that's one things against Villa or Boro who are reasonably good, less so at QPR who aren't. We can defend well as shown on Saturday and at Derby, both matches without having to resort to really panicky clearances but two or three more points away from home, a few defeats turned into draws, would make a difference.
The second half of that play-off season we were not as solid defensively though, a loss of form and tiredness hit and the away form, outside of the M25 anyway, was disappointing. In contrast, we might be getting stronger at the back as the current back four plays more together and Webster improves by the match.
Optimism is never a good idea with the Ipswich Town of the modern era, I still suspect we will end up just a little bit adrift of the play-off places but, given that only Wolves look really consistently good this season, we certainly have a chance. After last season, that’s a great improvement in itself but the way we are playing at home is a far greater improvement. After 15 seasons in this division a promotion, even for a season, would be really nice, but enjoying the football at Portman Road in a positive crowd, and not just the pub beforehand, is definitely a good thing.
The biggest question now concerns the future of Mick McCarthy as manager; overall, he has done a very good job here but last season the sense that all involved – owner, manager, fans – might be ready for a change grew increasingly strong.
In many ways last summer was the ideal time for a change but Mick, in his stubborn way, has turned that right round by reinvigorating the team. Given that the only sustained good spells of Marcus Evans’s ownership of ITFC have come under McCarthy that’s a concern. Evans really has to know what is going to happen next summer and how he would replace McCarthy should that be necessary. Does he?
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