Have Ipswich Town finally got into gear under Mick McCarthy or are they still stuck in the mud? McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell weeks after he failed to do the decent thing and succumb to the curse of Charlton.
Ipswich are currently 5th in the form table (Charlton are 20th), having won three, drawn two and lost one of their last six games. They haven't scored many goals away (seven) and have conceded 26, but still have managed to win three games and draw two on the road.
They stuttered somewhat in Saturday's 1-1 draw with fellow relegation strugglers Bristol City. McCarthy commented, 'I was happy to take a point from a game we could have lost, to not lose twice on the bounce and not to crumble when we could have done. In terms of performance it was nowhere near as well as we played against Nottingham Forest or Millwall.'
Up front D J Campbell was quiet, while Daryl Murphy had a frustrating afternoon. Murphy is a doubt for Boxing Day after picking up a knock to his knee on Saturday, but McCarthy is hopeful he will make the trip. Lee Martin can deliver a good corner, but N'Daw was sloppy with has passing and was caught in possession too often. Andy Drury did provide some power and pace in midfield, but skipper Carlos Edwards had another quiet afternoon, creating very little danger from the right. The defence looked quite strong with Tommy Smith defending stoutly and scoring the goal. Bradley Orr made a brilliant first half block.
Of the four most recent games we have played at home to Ipswich in the second tier, we have won three comfortably: the exception was an end-of-season celebration when we had already been promoted to the Premier League as champions.
Odds are 5/4 for a home win, 12/5 for a draw and 21/10 for an away win. Pessimists have already been out in force virtually this morning, one arguing: 'Powell's baffling tactics, team selections, ineffective substitutions and turgid style are causing concern.'
The vapourings of the usual suspects aside, Chris Powell is clearly under pressure. An often reliable source has stated this morning, 'I think it would be very unsurprising if Jimenez sacked Powell before or after the Watford game, should we fail to pick up, say, four points over Christmas. There are strong indications it was intended to sack him after the Cardiff game and a meeting had been scheduled for the following morning.'
The suspension of Lawrie Wilson is a blow as he is a real menace down the right. Even so, I am going for a 2-0 win for Charlton, although I should warn you that I am bottom of the West Sussex branch prediction league.
Happy Christmas! Greetings from the players and Sir Chris here (well worth a watch): Christmas