IPSWICH TOWN: The play-off run and looking back at recent sixth-place finishers
PUBLISHED: 17:52 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:52 10 April 2014
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It may be asking a lot for Ipswich Town to reach 73 points, but given their current form, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
That magic number represents the tally averaged over the last 10 years by the team that has finished sixth in the table at the end of the regular season.
And on three occasions during that period, teams that have made a late surge to grab that final, coveted spot, namely Crystal Palace, West Ham and Blackpool, have gone on to reach the Premier League.
McCarthy’s men are building momentum just at the right time, with three away wins in their last four – with just two goals conceded during that spell – complimenting a run of just one league defeat in their previous seven home games.
Should they reach the end-of-season lottery, they will also be likely to call on the services of top-scorer David McGoldrick, below, who has been injured since mid-February.
Getting to 73 points would mean Ipswich winning four of their five remaining games – a feat managed by sixth-placed teams Preston in 2009 and Nottingham Forest in 2011.
However, that didn’t translate into success for that duo, while West Ham’s modest eight points from a last possible 15 did spur them over the play-off finish line in 2005.
Town have nothing to fear though and the minimum they should rack up at home from their remaining three games is seven points, with games against strugglers Doncaster and mid-table Sheffield Wednesday eminently winnable.
No one would be surprised if they finished the season off with a perfect treble, given their ability to grind out results when they are needed most, although Bournemouth are currently on a tremendous run, having won eight of their last 10 games.
A few months ago, a trip to Burnley on the final day was a lot more daunting than it is now, given Sam Vokes’ sidelining through injury, and the fact that the Clarets will more than likely have been promoted by the time the Blues travel to Turf Moor.
However, a word of caution, given Leicester’s 4-1 home drubbing at the hands of Brighton, on Tuesday; the title may still be in Sean Dyche’s team’s grasp. That pressure in itself, however, brings its own headaches.
The last game to mention is Watford away, the one that I believe could cause the Blues the most consternation.
Tipped for the top under Gianfranco Zola at the start of the season, the Hornets stuttered under the Italian, who was replaced by Beppe Sannino.
They took a bit of time to get going under the new man but with Troy Deeney back amongst the goals, they possess a nasty sting again.
With home form and consistency so important in this division though, Town must be seen as one of the favourites to take that last spot, especially given Reading’s recent woes at home, the Royals having not won at The Madjeski since January 28.
They also have the top two to play at home before the season ends, in addition to a tough-looking trip to Wigan. Their chances look slim.
Nottingham Forest are in terrible form, just below Ipswich, having taken just five points from a possible 33, while Blackburn may have given themselves just too much to do.
Brighton and Bournemouth are likely to cause Town the most concern.
Bournemouth have only lost at home to Leicester and Liverpool (FA Cup) this year and could force Forest out of the equation when the two teams meet on April 26.
As for Brighton, they hammered Leicester on their home patch on Tuesday, and with five games left, including three at home, against Charlton, Blackpool and Yeovil, have arguably the easiest run-in.
However, the only consistent thing about the Championship is its inconsistency, meaning Reading can take heart and the likes of Town and Brighton must stay on their toes.
It will be a frantic end to the campaign.