January is not very exiting for Ipswich fans with Mick McCarthy having limited funds to make any major additions, but can he continue to upset the odds and push into the top six?
The January transfer window will no doubt have harmed the Tractor Boys play-off chances as most of the teams around them have strengthened whilst the Suffolk side have just been looking to retain their current talent.
If Ipswich were to make the play-offs it can be assumed that they would have to nip into 5th or 6th place as the top four teams currently have a strong lead.
To make matters worse, Nottingham Forest who currently sit in 5th place have just signed highly rated left-back Danny Fox from Southampton and Olympiacos striker Rafik Djebbour. You may not have heard of Djebbour before but the Algerian has Champions League experience and has scored 39 goals in 56 league appearances for his former employers.
Many will expect Forest to push on and I can see the top five teams pulling away from the other contenders in a bid to win automatic promotion. That will only leave Ipswich with one play-off place to grab and there will be fierce competition for that place too.
Brighton, Wigan, Reading, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Leeds are all looking like strong sides that could easily finish in 6th place and without any major additions Ipswich could drop off.
Of course this is no criticism of McCarthy or even Marcus Evans as the club are looking to meet financial fair play guidelines and are doing what is best for the club’s long-term future by not overspending.
There are also some positive aspects to take from January because Ipswich have managed to keep hold of their best players. Additionally, having a smaller closely knit squad will help maintain a great atmosphere in the dressing room and McCarthy will continue to get the most out of the average group of players he has at his disposal.
I believe that the recent addition of right-back Frazer Richardson is a real positive move too. The former Leeds man has taken the captains armband before and the leadership qualities that he possesses will be vital in the later part of the season. Furthermore, Richardson was part of the Southampton team that won back to back promotions from League One to the Premier League, but he has also suffered defeat in four other play-off campaigns.
These statistics show that Ipswich’s new addition is very much used to being a key part of successful teams and it seems likely that he could do a great job in final part of the season. Obviously Luke Chambers has been playing well but there may well come a time when his form drops, he needs a rest or picks up an injury and it is reassuring to know that you have a solid player like Richardson ready to replace him.
McCarthy will also be fully aware of the challenge that faces him and as long as they keep themselves within touching distance then with a bit of luck they may pull off a surprise. The Ipswich boss tends to pick up a lot of points in the later part of the season when other managers start to feel the pressure kicking in so I certainly would never count the Tractor Boys out.