Dave Gooderham: This was meant to be a season of happiness and hope - but it’s all fading away
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, writes Dave Gooderham.
We will never truly know what impact Paul Lambert's decision to postpone matches rather than play them has had on Ipswich Town's stuttering pursuit of an instant return to the Championship.
On more than one occasion, Lambert opted to cancel league games rather than risk fielding a side weakened by having a handful of players away on international duty.
Cast your mind back to more positive, more optimistic, times and there was a chorus of people agreeing with the Town boss just as much as those questioning his wisdom.
For what it's worth, I was more on the side of agreeing with the decision to postpone. On paper, our confident - as it was then - squad would have probably been strong and powerful enough to cope.
But, on the field, I still would have wanted the likes of Downes, Dozzell and Judge to be in contention for selection.
But here we are. Ninth in League 1, three points adrift of the top six, automatic promotion a distant dream and still with some rivals enjoying a game in hand.
It's a pretty dire state of affairs and understandably some are questioning Lambert's decision even louder than they did at the time.
Was momentum lost? Possibly. Was it, in hindsight, the wrong decision? Possibly. But, whatever happens in the next two-and-a-bit months, I won't use this as an excuse. Decisions were made but Town should still have had the quality, the depth and indeed the wage bill to be among the favourites for a top two spot as we enter March.
They are not the only questions that should be raised at the man in the hotseat following Saturday's disappointing 1-0 home defeat at Oxford. I'll give you a few more - why can't Ipswich perform for a whole 90 minutes? Why did we continue to knock it long to Kayden Jackson and Will Keane when both prefer the ball at their feet? Indeed, why was one aimless cross-field long ball directed at the head of tiny Alan Judge? These are questions for the players just as much as the manager. But what about…why did Lambert bring on Teddy Bishop to occupy the left midfield spot and why did it take him so long to bring on Freddie Sears?
Questions, questions, questions. Far too many for this stage of the season. Some fans, far more positive than me, will still look at that fixture list, those home games, and say keep your nerve. But the doubts in my mind weigh too heavy for such positive thoughts.
To make matters worse, a moment of apparent madness has now condemned Jackson to a three-game ban - leaving Ipswich rather threadbare up top, especially if Sears is not yet ready to start. I expect Keane to be partnered with either Judge or Bishop and neither of those thrill me in a 'front two'.
These are pretty sad times for Ipswich Town. The club have done so well to bring fans back on side. But the boos heard after the final whistle and the small amount of verbals aimed at Lambert were sadly predictable and understandable.
This was meant to be a season of happiness and hope. One that would end in promotion and point to more positive times ahead. One where we might enjoy a weekend away at Wembley, even if it was just for the Leasing.com Trophy. That is all fading away right now.
I want to end this column positive. I want a chink of light which will offer us one more round of hope before the season ends. Maybe the scene is ready for Sears to set League 1 alight. Maybe the deadly duo of Judge and Bishop can play in unison and show that they are two of the best performers at this level - as they should.
Wishful thinking? Maybe. But that's all we've got right now. We are at a time in the season when we rejoice a 97th minute equaliser by Sunderland in their home match against Fleetwood. It's quite sad, but that's where we are.
Blackpool away is up next. I'm getting a little tired of writing 'must-win'. So can we just win by any means possible. Give me hope once more.