We often hear the term ‘a tale of two halves’ used in football, but if we take a closer look at how Ipswich Town’s season has gone, there can be no better description for it.
Ipswich found themselves in uncharted territory after the conclusion of last season, after their 15-year stay in the Championship came to an end as they suffered relegation for the first time since 2002.
Coming into the 2019/20 campaign – their first as third-tier team in over half a century – it was expected that the Tractorboys would be in pole position for an immediate return back to the Championship.
There are many examples of teams that have bounced back up from League One at the first attempt, such as Wolves and Leicester City, and Ipswich were keen to add their name to that list.
Under the guidance of Paul Lambert, the Tractorboys made an excellent start to life in the third tier, dropping just six points from their eleven league games, which saw the side top the league table. All was well.
Then, a first test of their character and resilience came after back-to-back defeats to Accrington and Rotherham respectively in October saw the side relinquish their grip on top spot.
They responded by going five games unbeaten, which left them in 2nd place, four points behind Wycombe with a game in hand.
However, since then, it has imploded at Portman Road. The Tractorboys now sit in 10th, fifteen points off Coventry in top spot, and seven points short of the play-off places.
Last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Coventry at home was their fourth straight defeat, and the pressure on Lambert has been ramped up significantly. Many Ipswich fans have accepted that they’ll be playing another season of League One football.
So, what has gone wrong?
Firstly, results have not been good enough for months. If we take a look a little bit deeper, Lambert’s side have managed just four league wins in their last 21 league games, a run stretching all the way back to the end of November. In that sequence, they have suffered no less than ten defeats.
Despite the poor form, at the turn of the new year, the side remained in fourth place, four points off top spot. Although their league placing had not taken too much of a hit at that point, it papered over the cracks.
A further element to the situation was added when Paul Lambert signed a new a deal at the club, committing him to Ipswich Town until 2025.
That decision has proven to be very ill-thought through. Ipswich have suffered seven defeats since the announcement, and parting company with the 50-year-old at this moment in time would cost the club an alarming amount of money.
Understandably, there was a mixed reaction from Tractorboys, and claims that the decision was a tad premature from sections of the fan base have proven to be true.
The buck has to fall with owner Marcus Evans, who has faced criticism in recent years from Town fans for his lack of investment in particular.
As it stands, it will be difficult for the club to make the gap up to the teams that are fighting for the play-offs, but it still remains possible.
Their run-in is favourable, as they only come up against one side that currently sit in the top-six – Portsmouth. Nevertheless, making this season a success looks like a tough ask.
One thing is for certain though if Ipswich finish the season where they are now – major changes could happen in the summer to ensure that next season is a success.