A resurgent Posh travel to promotion rivals Ipswich on Saturday (1st February) looking to continue this newfound form that a couple of weeks ago would have been unthinkable.
Victory for fourth-placed Posh will result in leapfrogging their opponents into third and within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots. We spoke to Chris Rand of ‘IpswichTownLive!’ for his opinion on this crucial Sky Bet League One encounter.
You’re currently sat in third place after the defeat to Rotherham, did you expect to be towards the top of the table before the season started?
A fairly conservative chat group I’m on does a whole range of pre-season predictions, and the general consensus in August was that a Play-Off place was a possibility. That was perhaps the usual summer optimism; remember, we’d been relegated from the Championship with a miserable 31 points, the club’s worst season in living memory. However, after nicking a string of unlikely points at the start of the season (as Posh fans will know), we quickly found ourselves at the top of the table and idly speculating about running away with it. That didn’t last of course, and 12 games without a win to finish 2019 put us firmly back in our box. The subsequent January renaissance looks a bit shaky to me.
Put the current Ipswich squad back in the Championship tomorrow and I’d expect us to struggle badly, yet we’ve been in the top six in League One from the start. So no, we’ve not been impressed with the third tier. There are no outstanding teams, very few players of note, and the refereeing is often dreadful.
Which teams do you feel will be your biggest promotion challengers? Any late strong finishers or teams you think will fall away?
Promotion is there for any of the top nine or ten if they put a run together. Squad depth may start to count in February and March, which might hurt one or two, like Wycombe. Ipswich will be fine in that respect. However, the teams with a solid, simple plan look the most likely to do well (Rotherham are the best example of this) and if that’s the case, Ipswich could find it hard to hang on. One of the disadvantages of a big squad is that the temptation to chop and change the lineup and the tactics are too great, especially for a manager as restless as Paul Lambert.
Half of Ipswich’s remaining games are against the top ten sides, and our record against promotion challengers this season has been dismal. On the other hand (and I’ve never experienced a fixture list like this before), nine of our last 13 games are at home! I’ve just got Sportsclubstats.com to run more than 10,000,000 simulations of how the season might pan out, and while our chances of promotion are still over 40%, there’s at least a 20% chance we’ll finish outside the top six. The decent odds on Ipswich are in part due to that extended run-in at Portman Road.
Posh, according to the simulator, have a 7% chance of a top-two place but a 16% chance of promotion. I’d have thought it would have been higher. The simulations suggest that only 80 points are going to be needed for a 90% chance of a top-two place: that’s not a very high target at all. Go take a look.
Of the clubs you have faced so far who has been the best side? Have any teams surprised you at all?
Rotherham have beaten us comfortably home and away, just by concentrating on the basics. That should see them past most other opponents too. Your win against them last weekend shouldn’t be underestimated.
At the start of the season, only Bolton and Bury had worse odds than Wycombe but I don’t think they’ll keep up their remarkable performance so far.
Many teams have slipped down into league 1 and have gone on to be promoted to the Premier League shortly after, such as Sheffield Utd. Do you think that is achievable for Ipswich?
Not while we’re owned by a guy who doesn’t want to put silly money into the club. Every few years a team without millions to spend gets promoted through sheer footballing alchemy, but there’s no reason to think that’ll ever be us.
Mick McCarthy infamously spent five-and-a-half years in charge at Portman Road, steadying the club after the reigns of Roy Keane and Paul Jewell, seeing them safely sit in England’s second-tier against all odds and almost no money available to be spent. That didn’t stop fans screaming for his time to come to an end, which it did after he guided them to a solid 12th place in 2017/18. The following season they found themselves relegated with a dismal 31 points. So how do the fans feel now looking back? Do Ipswich fans have any regrets about the anti-Mick McCarthy feeling during his tenure at the club seeing as he kept you up in the championship for a number of seasons and since his departure, you’ve come down to the third tier?
I don’t know any. Keeping us constantly mid-table in the Championship was a remarkable achievement, but the football required to do that on such a small budget was tedious beyond belief – McCarthy knew it as much as we did. The atmosphere was fractious, and the fans were deserting in droves. Something had to change. My son is at university now and we’d been in the same division for his entire life. Think about that. No other team in England had been in the same division for more than about eight consecutive seasons, except for a few at the top of the Premier League. We’d been in the Championship for seventeen. Seventeen!
Now the ups and downs are back, and the fans are back (18,000+ for home games and just about the largest away following in the division). It’s so much more interesting.
If you could sign one current Posh player who would it be and why?
This won’t surprise you. We’ve got some great players, but nobody worth remotely what’s being talked about for Ivan Toney. You’ve got to respect that. From this distance, he looks to me like he’d be at home in any current Championship side – and for strikers, I don’t think the step beyond that is as big as many fans think.
Which Town players should Posh be wary of?
Dealing with James Norwood’s shithousery requires patience, although he’s not always in our starting XI. Also, we have this bit-part player called Gwion Edwards who suddenly seems to have settled into a wing-back role rather confidently…
Saturday’s score prediction?
I am so bad at this. Our recent run is stuttering, just as Posh have turned things around quite decisively. I wouldn’t be disappointed with a draw, so I’ll go for that. 1-1.
Ipswich Town Vs Peterborough United takes place Saturday 1st February 2020, kick-off at 3 pm with a sell-out away end cheering on the Posh. Keep up to date via our Twitter feed @WeAreThePosh and watch out for our match reaction following the game.