Following a bumpy start to the season, Ipswich have now lost just once in their last seven league games as they look to return to the Championship after three seasons in English football’s third tier.
Town certainly had their chances during last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Oxford, hitting the woodwork on two occasions against a side with playoff ambitions themselves.
But this is still a work in progress under Paul Cook and taking a point from fellow promotion rivals at this stage of the campaign is never a disaster.
10 points from their last five leaves the Portman Road side ninth in League One, four points off the play-off places, with Sunderland to come at the weekend – although the promotion candidates who have lost three on the bounce.
“To be fair, he’s been largely consistent with his approach and the issues at the beginning of the season weren’t really his fault.
“A large amount of churn in the playing staff, the familiarity with his way of doing things, even the coaching staff were new as well, and that took some time to gel.
“The other thing that’s changed is that there have been less individual errors which have been costing us points as well.
“So when you factor in the team being more familiar, the system being understood, along with players coming into form and knowing where their colleagues are going to be, we’re now reaping the benefits.
“It was a little bit anxious to begin with and we always have a mistake in us defensively and that’s something that has to be sorted out if we’re going to have any hope of finishing in the top-six.”
Just three points from their opening five games of the season piled the pressure on manager Paul Cook, who took charge at Portman Road last March following the departure of Paul Lambert.
But a recent resurgence has seen his side climb the table rapidly, having once been languishing as low as 21st place in the table, thanks to some rather impressive results.
None more so than a 4-1 away win against promotion-chasing Wycombe Wanderers, who until then, had won all of their home league games to date.
💬 “If they have any aspiration of reaching the top six, it’s beating the teams around that level that’s going to make the difference.”@IpsRich from @BlueMondayITFC says #ITFC's promotion ambitions will be tested by a tough run of fixtures… 🚜 pic.twitter.com/fv7KMk7ijS
— FansBet (@FansBet) November 19, 2021
“Winning at Wycombe certainly raised eyebrows,” explains Rich.
“It also raised levels of expectations too as we set the bar really high by defeating a side who had a 100 percent home record in the league 4-1 and that really sent out a message.
“But that’s been followed by matches in both league and cup where we struggled to score and that is a problem, particularly against the level of opposition we’ve got coming up in the next few weeks.
“If we have any aspirations of a top-six finish, it’s beating the teams in and around us that’s going to make the difference.”
Ipswich went heavy on the recruitment in the summer bringing in 19 new faces following a club takeover in April.
The likes of Conor Chaplin, George Edmundson, Sam Morsy, Rakeem Harper, Cameron Burgess, Joe Piggott and Bersant Celina all arrived at Portman Road as they looked to boost their promotion credentials.
And it’s taken time for those players to gel, though the evidence over the past month or so suggests that the side is improving all the time – increasing optimism among the Ipswich faithful in the process.
“Expectation levels have started to rise as our form has become more consistent,” says Richard.
“Any time we remain in League One is a problem for us because of the way the rest of the pyramid is progressing, so clearly we don’t want to be here any longer than we have to be.
“But I think there is some understanding that this is a tricky division and the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Wigan makes it very difficult to get out of.
“It’s going to require a lot from us to achieve a top-six place and go up via the play-offs because of the calibre of the teams now in the division.
“Though given the backing we’ve got and the quality we’ve brought in from the Championship and elsewhere, top-six has to be the expectation for this season and if we don’t achieve that it will be disappointing.”
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