Mick needs more aces in pack for magic to rub off

MM

Mick McCarthy’s reign as Ipswich Town manager is now 10 games old. A fair point you could argue to sit down and assess the impact he has had.

His record reads like this: Won five, drawn two, lost three, scored 13, conceded 18.

Added to that, he has taken the side from bottom of the table with just nine points to the relative safety of 20th and 24 points.

But, there is still a huge challenge ahead for McCarthy to keep this side in the division and away from the drop zone. Christmas is always a tricky time to negotiate and the games come thick and fast.

Following a less than convincing 1-1 draw at home to Bristol City before Christmas, Town take on Charlton and Wolves away before Brighton at home on New Year’s Day.

All three games are arguably very winnable, but what will test the side’s resolve is how McCarthy shuffles his pack of what still is a very disjointed squad.

He inherited a absolute mish-mash of loannees and out-of-form players when Paul Jewell departed and there is still a considerable overhang.

He has managed to add the likes of Bradley Orr and Tyrone Barnett to the squad since his arrival as well as plucking a youngster by the name of Tyrone Mings from non-league Chippenham Town.

In terms of trimming the loannees, sadly an injury to Tyrone Barnett has cut short his loan from Peterborough, while no new deal was struck to hang on to Richie Wellens from Leicester City, who impressed many with his performances.

What is clear is that McCarthy is slowly identifying which players could form part of his long-term strategy.

Tommy Smith has found himself paired with Luke Chambers in central defence ahead of the more experienced loan signing of Danny Higginbotham. Elsewhere, skipper Carlos Edwards has returned to his natural environment of right midfield rather than right back and his preferred front pairing of Daryl Murphy and DJ Campbell has edged out an eager-to-impress Michael Chopra and a hit-and-miss Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

In midfield, Guirane N’Daw, Luke Hyam and Andy Drury have all played their parts in shoring up the team in the middle third.

January looks set to be a very telling time for how this season will pan out, not just in terms of the transfer window reopening but also a fixture list that includes Aston Villa away in the FA Cup, then trips to leaders Cardiff and fellow strugglers Bristol City either side of an almost “must win” home clash against lowly Barnsley.

Who goes and who comes in the new year will ultimately define if the second half of the season becomes the all too familiar elevation to the mid-table or continues to be a dogfight at the bottom with clubs of similar stature and inconsistency.

Holding on to DJ Campbell and his goal threat looks like being McCarthy’s biggest challenge. A certain Mr Redknapp in West London may decide to recall the striker and use him as his plan B to rescue QPR from their Premier League predicament.

Others who look set to go at the end of their loans are the afformentioned Higginbotham, Bilel Mohsni from Southend United, goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to West Ham and Nigel Reo-Coker at the end of his less than successful short-term deal.

More long-term members who have found themselves down the pecking order include Jason Scotland and Josh Carson.

Both could well see themselves heading out on loan while others come in.

Not surprisingly, McCarthy has beeen linked with some of his former Wolves signings such as former Town target Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, along with Richard Stearman and Ronald Zubar.

McCarthy and assistant Terry Connor certainly looked to have instilled a bit more confidence and lifted morale around the club since taking over at the start of November, but there is still work to be done to add quality in key areas.

They must also be applauded for picking the team up from two thumping defeats at Crystal Palace (0-5) and Leicester City (0-6) early on and for stringing three wins together, which included an impressive late win at Bolton (2-1) and an almost routine dismantling of in-form Millwall (3-0).

There is, for the first time in a while, reason to be optimistic, but pessimistic supporters out there (like myself in case you hadn’t already noticed from the tone of this) will be cautious of what could happen next.

If the results and the performances on the pitch come, the club will see the difference in the mood of supporters and the community.

Sadly, home attendances have so far hovered around the 17,000 mark all season and it’s high time the club were pulling in bigger crowds and raising the atmosphere around Portman Road.

Like Goldfinger, hopefully Mick can be the man with the midas touch.

Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams

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