Championship Analysis – Five-star Ipswich arrest slide to overcome in-form Barnsley

Ipswich Town came spectacularly from behind to defeat Barnsley 5-3 at Oakwell on Saturday evening and provide the Tractor Boys with a morale-boosting, if still worryingly narrow, buffer over the relegation zone after halting a run of seven consecutive defeats. In today’s pressure-cooker world of football, managers have little margin for error, as Sean O’Driscoll, Keith Millen and Sven Goran Eriksson have found out this season, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when a chairman or club owner is willing to back his manager through a horrendous run of poor results as Marcus Evans has done with Paul Jewell.

For all at Portman Road the season so far has been a somewhat baffling see-saw ride. Despite a 3-0 win at Bristol City on the opening day, Jewell must have feared the worst in the subsequent three weeks, which saw his side suffer four defeats on the trot, starting with a Carling Cup exit at home to League 2 Northampton and ending with a humiliating 7-1 defeat against Peterborough. Four days earlier they had also shipped five at home to Southampton.

Despite the debacle at London Road, however, Jewell rode the storm, and Ipswich then notched 18 points from a possible 24 to edge into the top ten, featuring wins over Leeds, West Ham and Brighton, and draws with Middlesbrough and Cardiff. The fact that their second alarming slump included defeats by Nottingham Forest and Doncaster Rovers perhaps epitomises Ipswich’s inconsistency. Whatever, newspaper reports that Jewell had lost the dressing room were clearly rubbished by the manner of his team’s comeback from 2-0 down at half-time to a Barnsley side that had before this game won four on the trot.

The Tykes, of course, will be kicking themselves. Three points would have lifted them to seventh and just two points off the play-off places. Instead, they have to make do with 12th spot in the heart of the mid-table scrap, which became even more congested on Saturday due to a largely poor day for the sides at both ends.

At the summit, only one of the top six – Middlesbrough – tasted victory, one that has pushed Tony Mowbray’s side back alongside third-placed Cardiff and to within two points of the automatic promotion spots. It capped a perfect week for the club, with Mowbray winning the North East Sports Personality Of The Year award on Wednesday, and chairman Steve Gibson bagging the Jackie Milburn Award, given for his lifetime contribution to North East sport.

Southampton’s 100 per cent home record finally came to an end in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, and Nigel Adkins’ side needed a last-gasp goal to avoid a third defeat in four games against Blackpool. Nevertheless, it proved a useful point as the Saints’ lead over West Ham streched to three points after the Hammers suffered their second successive loss at Reading.

Coventry City, who are now 11 games without a win, remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, and the surprise appearance of Ken Dulieu, the club’s former chairman and now its head of football operations, alongside manager Andy Thorne on the bench against Hull suggests all is not well at the Ricoh Arena off the pitch. The Sky Blues remain seven points adrift of safety as Doncaster, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City all also suffered defeats.

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