Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Paul’s positivity bandwagon is losing passengers – it’s now or never

PUBLISHED: 15:53 30 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:43 30 December 2018

Ipswich Town players appeal to the referee after he awarded a penalty at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

Ipswich Town players appeal to the referee after he awarded a penalty at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

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Ipswich Town remain seven points adrift of Championship safety following yesterday’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough. STUART WATSON has his final say on the weekend.

Ipswich Town captain Luke Chambers applauds the travelling fans at Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixIpswich Town captain Luke Chambers applauds the travelling fans at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

Ipswich Town’s miserable year of 2018 ended, rather fittingly, with a bit of a whimper.

And if they fail to start 2019 with anything but a bang then you fear there could be worse still to come.

Let’s start with some sobering statistics (we’ll come on to the positives in a bit).

Town in 2018: P48 W8 D16 L24 F39 A70 GD -31.

Jordan Hugill sends Dean Gerken the wrong way to score from the penalty spot at Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixJordan Hugill sends Dean Gerken the wrong way to score from the penalty spot at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

One: Back-to-back wins;

Two: Occasions where scored more than twice in a game;

Three: The longest unbeaten streak;

22: Times failed to find the net;

39: Points from a possible 138.

MORE: ‘We need four or five new arrivals to make a difference’ - North Stander on Town’s plight

And the breakdown regarding the back end of last season and the start of this one:

2017/18: P22 W6 D6 L10 F19 A26 GD -7.

There were more 300 hardy Town fans at Boro on Saturday. Picture: PAGEPIX LTDThere were more 300 hardy Town fans at Boro on Saturday. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

2018/19: P26 W2 D10 L14 F20 A44 GD -24.

As much as the Paul Hurst experiment proved to be a disaster, that’s evidence the rot had set in before then. Mick McCarthy expertly applied the tourniquet for a while. Town have long needed major surgery to stop the slow bleed though.

There’s one common denominator here – Marcus Evans.

MORE: Ipswich Town set to sign Leicester left-back Callum Elder on loan

Dean Gerken makes a spectacular save from a Jordan Hugill header late on at Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixDean Gerken makes a spectacular save from a Jordan Hugill header late on at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

I don’t buy into the ‘losing interest’ or ‘not caring’ throw away statements. He’s more hands on than ever before. He and his family attend most games. As a highly successful businessman it will sting to see it all going so wrong after pumping in the thick end of £100m (even taking into account any losses offset against profits elsewhere in his empire before the conspiracy theorists start).

Forget the term ‘debt’, because it’s essentially a loss.

He came to the roulette table. He bet big early on, but did not win. He then chose not to aggressively chase his early losses, but instead played it rather safe hoping to land on a number.

MORE: Sunday Snap: Hits, misses and talkings points from Ipswich Town’s Middlesbrough loss

Trevoh Chalobah holds his head after he was denied a goal by a Darren Randolph save. Picture: PagepixTrevoh Chalobah holds his head after he was denied a goal by a Darren Randolph save. Picture: Pagepix

Ultimately the chips have always been dwindling. He may soon have to walk away. The problem is, you need to find someone else willing to risk turning a large fortune into a small one.

That’s the bigger picture. Back to the here and now on the field.

All of the optimism which built following a 1-0 win against Wigan and hard-fought 1-1 draw against Sheffield United at Portman Road quickly dissipated following comprehensive festive defeats at QPR and Middlesbrough.

MORE: ‘Goodbye 2018, you’ve given me the worst of my 40 years as an Ipswich supporter’ – fans react to defeat at Middlesbrough

Brief hope followed by deflating disappointment. Such is the life of a Blues supporter. We should be used to it by now. Doesn’t make it any easier though.

The football has, undoubtedly, been far easier on the eye since Paul Lambert’s arrival. The way the experienced Scot has got this team playing passing football in such a short space of time is remarkable.

MORE: Andy Warren’s player ratings from Ipswich Town’s 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough

You can’t fault the effort and intent. Ultimately, though, the quality is just not there.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert with Jonas Knudsen at the final whistle in Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixIpswich Town manager Paul Lambert with Jonas Knudsen at the final whistle in Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the consistent combination of costly defensive mistakes and a lack of ruthlessness in the final third is a recipe for disaster.

I go back, sadly, to the concerns aired in this column following Lambert’s very first game. Town played to their absolute max and still drew 1-1 against 10-man Preston. That was a warning sign.

MORE: ‘He might move... nobody knows whether he moves’ - Lambert on Knudsen future

Fifteen points after 25 games is the second worst start in Championship history. Only one team on that list has stayed up after having less than 21 points on the board at this stage (Birmingham with 20 last season).

Luke Chambers consoles goalkeeper Dean Gerken at Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixLuke Chambers consoles goalkeeper Dean Gerken at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

If only there had been a couple more results... Preston, Reading, Bristol City... The damage may well have been done.

You sense supporters are rapidly beginning to fall off Paul’s positivity bandwagon. It’s certainly lost some momentum at a crucial time.

And now we head into last chance saloon.

MORE: ‘We need a few in, not just one or two’ – Lambert reflects on defeat at Middlesbrough

A grim-faced Paul Lambert after the defeat at Middlesbrough. Picture: PagepixA grim-faced Paul Lambert after the defeat at Middlesbrough. Picture: Pagepix

Millwall (h), Rotherham (h) and Blackburn (a) are the next three league games. They are 21st, 19th and 18th respectively in the form table. Fail to win at least two of those and the writing could well be on the wall.

It’s now or never.

Jon Nolan plays the ball forward at The Riverside. Picture: PagepixJon Nolan plays the ball forward at The Riverside. Picture: Pagepix

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