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Town still in play-off touch after fast start - Interview
Monday, 25th Dec 2017 16:15 by Clive Whittingham

Ipswich have fallen away slightly after a flying start to the season, but it’s still a vast improvement on 2016/17. Blair Ferguson from our sister site TWTD tells us the story so far.

Fallen back a bit after a flying start, how would you assess Ipswich’s season so far?

BF: It’s been quite hit and miss from the end of August. Some of that has been down to injuries and the subsequent changes in formation and personnel that have followed. Until recently we were playing with at least three strikers, with one usually out of position, and that does allow for some defensive frailties when you’re missing all of your recognised centre-backs. Getting Luke Chambers and Adam Webster back in the middle of defence has coincided with a slight upturn in form, and the new 4-2-3-1 formation has allowed players like Bersant Celina and Grant Ward to play in their natural positions, which has benefited the team as a whole. Seeing as we are scoring plenty of goals and are still well in touch of the play-offs I’d say our good start gave us a strong foundation, but we need to get some consistency if we are going to finish in the play-offs.

The football at least seems to be a bit more entertaining, with more goals, than last year’s snoozefest, is that fair?

BF: There have been a lot of goals which has brought about a fair amount of entertainment, but sometimes you have to ask yourself if you want entertaining 2-2 draws against Hull and Sheffield Wednesday or two 1-0 wins and three-points. After last season, I’m sure the popular vote would sit with the goals, but hopefully with the defence coming back we can keep scoring plenty and stop conceding.

How’s the relationship with Big Mick? What alternatives do people talk up when he gets stick?

BF: I think the style of play was the biggest sticking point last season. Our football – as you’ve said – wasn’t great to watch and we weren’t getting much in the way of results, so the relationship between Mick and the fans has become quite strained. At times throughout this season he hasn’t been shy in having a dig at the fans in press conferences, so there are definitely some hard-standing differences. There isn’t really much talk of alternatives because in reality there aren’t many managers out there who could do as well with such limited funds.

Bersant Celina came on and scored a worldie against us at Loftus Road, but I notice McCarthy has been reluctant to start him, and gets cross when it’s brought up, what’s the score there? Show pony or stubborn manager?

BF: I think it was a combination of wanting to play McGoldrick, Garner and Waghorn and not trusting Celina. That being said, he’s started eight of the last nine games and really found a place in the 4-2-3-1 system. He’s offering a direct, skilful attacking edge we’ve been missing and should continue to feature.

Stand out players and weak links in the side?

When he’s on his game Bersant Celina can produce exciting moments, like the one at Loftus Road. Martyn Waghorn has made a big contribution going forward and Bartosz Bialkowski has been fantastic in goal again this season. The main weakness has been at the back but hopefully returning players should help with that.

Where do you see the rest of this season going?

BF: A lot of that depends on finding some sort of consistency. As it stands we get near the play-offs, hit a bad spell of form and then have to start playing catch-up again. Recent performances, especially the one against Reading, have been really good and I think by building on that and having a good Christmas period we can push on and have an outside chance of the play-offs.

Any chance of this 16 year stint at this level ending any time soon?

BF: With the lack of investment ending the stint would be some achievement. We’ve given ourselves a decent chance this season, but the next month or two will be very crucial.

The Twitter @twtduk, @loftforwords

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