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Stuart Watson’s Verdict: Ipswich Town’s half-term report should be stamped with a ‘B+’

PUBLISHED: 11:55 24 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:44 24 December 2017

Callum Connolly holds his head at the final whistle after Town's 1-0 defeat at Wolves. Photo: Pagepix

Callum Connolly holds his head at the final whistle after Town's 1-0 defeat at Wolves. Photo: Pagepix

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Ipswich Town’s imagined half-term report should probably be stamped with the grade ‘B+’ heading into the Boxing Day home game with Queens Park Rangers.

First and foremost, the teacher’s barely legible scrawl on the bottom would read ‘much improved from last year’ and ‘exceeded expectations’.

We’re exactly halfway through the campaign and the Blues are 10th in the Championship table, just three points adrift of the play-off places and among the division’s leading scorers.

• ‘Nobody thought we’d be in this position’ – Bialkowski

Not a bad turnaround for a club that had just endured its lowest finish in 58 years, bored everyone in the process and, following a 6-1 pre-season thrashing at Charlton, went into the campaign among the bookies’ favourites for relegation.

Mick McCarthy’s men have played everyone now following Saturday’s narrow 1-0 defeat at league-leaders Wolves. It was yet another fine margins affair. Fulham’s dominant 2-0 win at Portman Road back in August aside, the Blues haven’t been comprehensively outplayed by anyone.

• Stuart says: Five observations from Town’s 1-0 loss at Wolves

The red ink should also acknowledge that Town have ‘overcome adversity’. Firstly, in terms of a shoestring budget. Secondly, in terms of a ridiculously unlucky run of injuries. All three senior centre-backs were sidelined for a spell, now there are seven – yes, seven – central midfielders unavailable, while key strikers have also missed games.

That’s not to say that ‘must concentrate better’ shouldn’t feature in the feedback. Conceding soft goals, not looking as potent away and coming up just short against the leading sides are recurring themes that needs addressing.

• McCarthy on recurring themes, ‘over-achieving’ and injuries

Ultimately, the good far outweighs the bad though. Everything we could realistically have hoped for has come to pass. Town, following their annus horribilis, are punching above their weight again.

Middlesbrough set off looking to ‘smash the league’, according to chairman Steve Gibson, but are level on points with Town and have just sacked Garry Monk.

The Blues are also above the likes of Reading (third last season), Sheffield Wednesday (who have just sacked Carlos Carvalhal), recent Premier League duo Sunderland and Hull (who have also sacked managers) and Norwich (one win in 11 since the East Anglian derby).

• Andy Warren gives his player ratings following Town’s 1-0 loss at Wolves

The Championship is one of the most brutal, gruelling and unforgiving leagues in world football and Town are once again proving highly competitive against the odds.

Pessimists will worry that injuries will finally bite, there will be no major strengthening in January, a usual early FA Cup exit and a 16th successive season in the second-tier will drift. Optimists will keep believing that team spirit, one or two decent loan signings and the return to fitness of players can keep Town in the top-six mix.

Either way, the report at this stage should end: ‘Well done! You can be proud. Keep up the hard work’.

Former Ipswich Town player Georges Santos joined Andy Warren for a special edition of the Kings of Anglia Podcast.

Joe Garner turned home to finish off a superb Ipswich Town move as the Blues rescued a draw at Bolton.

Town fan Karl Fuller looks back at Town’s draw at Bolton and why one of Mick McCarthy’s after-match comments was not needed

The answer to the question Mick McCarthy posed after his side’s 1-1 draw at Bolton is undoubtedly ‘no’.

Terry Hunt says a feeling of togetherness between fans and the club appears a million miles away at Portman Road right now.

Player watch: It’s fair to say Ipswich Town’s two Friday signings split opinion when they were unveiled.

Ipswich Town drew a scrappy Championship match 1-1 at Bolton Wanderers this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.

Joe Garner netted an 82nd equaliser as Town draw 1-1 with Bolton at the Macron Stadium.

- Here is the selection of tweets from Town fans

How impressed and who had more to give? Andy Warren hands out his player grades after Town’s 1-1 draw at Bolton.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy admitted that this afternoon’s scrappy 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers was ‘the worst game I’ve seen for a long time’.

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