Last goal drought sent Town down

A QUICK test. Who has scored most goals this season - Ipswich or Wolves?Bearing in mind the clubs' respective positions in the Championship, where they are separated by nine places, together with the fact that Town have failed to score in their last five outings, you might be tempted to plump for the Molineux men.

By Mel Henderson

A QUICK test. Who has scored most goals this season - Ipswich or Wolves?

Bearing in mind the clubs' respective positions in the Championship, where they are separated by nine places, together with the fact that Town have failed to score in their last five outings, you might be tempted to plump for the Molineux men.

In which case, I'm afraid you would be wrong. Despite their current drought, Jim Magilton's men have actually scored three more league goals than the team who beat them at Portman Road on Tuesday.

Wolves may be sitting pretty on the same points tally as sixth-placed Southampton, but they could never claim to be prolific in the goalscoring department.

They have netted a mere 37 in 34 league games, which is only three fewer than bottom club Leeds have managed - and in one game less.

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All of which confirms that goals conceded, every bit as much as those scored, will determine a club's destiny.

Ipswich's lack of success this season is not solely attributable to a lack of goals. Not when they can only boast a miserable five clean sheets - two of them courtesy of goalless draws - in their 33 league games to date.

Back to Wolves. Their 1-0 win the other night was their 11th by the same scoreline in the current campaign.

Furthermore, ever-present goalkeeper Matt Murray has kept 14 clean sheets in the league, so it's clear their promotion challenge is based on solid defence rather than all-out attack.

Incidentally, a lack of goals at Portman Road is nothing new. Rewind to the 1994-95 season, when George Burley was still finding his feet as Town careered towards relegation, failing to hit the back of the net in seven successive games.

So, unless Alan Lee & Co continue to fire blanks against Southampton, QPR and Hull, that's one club record that will hopefully be safe for a few more years.

And, while it may only represent a crumb of consolation, Town are not leaking goals the way they did 12 years ago.

Sorry to remind you, but as they couldn't find a way past the defences of Newcastle, Manchester United, Tottenham, Norwich, Aston Villa, Leeds and QPR, their own was breached 23 times.

The big discussion point among Town fans at the moment is whether or not they are going to be dragged into the annual relegation dogfight.

Some supporters have revelled in Norwich's misery, apparently unaware that while the Canaries are two points worse off, they also happen to have two games in hand.

Difficult to envisage, perhaps, but should they win them both they will be four points better off - no, let's not go there!

If the present trend continues there is going to be a lot more riding on the East Anglian derby at Carrow Road on April 22 than has been the case in recent years.

The last relegation scrap at that venue was in that ill-fated campaign of 12 years ago, only someone forgot to tell Canaries' chairman Robert Chase.

Town were as good as down but Chase, under severe financial pressure but fooled into thinking his side's 3-0 win was sufficient to secure their Premiership status, seriously misjudged the situation.

Norwich went on to lose seven on the trot for the first time in their history and although they collected a point on the last day of the season, at home to Aston Villa, the damage was already done and John Deehan's team accompanied Ipswich through the relegation trapdoor.

Early days, still, but the game in eight weeks' time is shaping up to be a relegation showdown - something that very few people could have foreseen prior to the big kick-off last August.

The safety barrier is usually 50 points, which means Ipswich must take a minimum of 11 points from their remaining 13 games.

That may not sound too tall an order, but when you consider that their last 13 games reaped just 15 points, there is very little margin for error.

Actually, history dictates that it is best not to take your foot of the pedal at 50. Gillingham had that many points in 2005 but were still relegated and the previous year Walsall took the plunge on the 51-point mark.

Another point to ponder is that Ipswich are currently five points worse off than at the same stage last year, when they eventually finished with 56 after winning just one of their last ten league games.

Four wins and Town will almost certainly be safe. It appears an attainable target, but when you are a team who cannot score, and for whom clean sheets are the exception rather than the norm, nothing is certain.

Town's dry run of 1995

February 28 1995: Ipswich Town 0 Newcastle Utd 2

March 4 1995: Manchester Utd 9 Ipswich Town 0

March 8 1995: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Ipswich Town 0

March 20 1995: Norwich City 3 Ipswich Town 0

April 1 1995: Ipswich Town 0 Aston Villa 1

April 5 1995: Leeds Utd 4 Ipswich Town 0

April 11 1995: Ipswich Town 0 QPR 1

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