We have had some very important games against Ipswich over the years. The two play off games in 1998 were huge for us - especially with what followed that mightn't had we not won the playoffs that season. We played Ipswich in our first season back in the second division. Mid March 2008, we went there in fifth and lost 2-0 and found ourselves outside of the top sex for the first time that season (well first time since early October - five games in). We never got back into the top six and lost out on what is traditionally the best chance of getting back into the Premier League.
I talked about that game in 2008 as being a six pointer, and it was as the defeat meant that we dropped form fifth to ninth and Ipswich rose from tenth to eighth. Neither of us actually made it into the top six again that season, but Ipswich came close, and finished just one point short of the sixth placed side with a better goal difference.
That is all history, but it does indicate that we have some previous with games against them being more than just three points.
Saturday was a big game for us (and Ipswich). It was not a massive game, it was not a must win game, and I don't think that it will look like a six-pointer as the season goes on. I don't think we will both be challenging for the playoffs (or top two) and I don't think we will both be in a relegation fight come the end of the season - or by Christmas.
It was a big game for both sides as they were both in the bottom three and wanted to climb out of it as soon as possible as the longer a team is in that position the more they play like they deserve to be there.
The result, as always, was the most important thing, but we also needed a decent performance. That meant we needed to play a more open game and we needed to attack more, opposed to trying to keep it tight and snatch the odd goal. That worked well enough last season as the opposition were less likely to break us down, and we were more likely to 'steal' a goal playing defensively against weaker opposition in the third division.
We don't need to be promoted this season, so we don't need to win most of our games. We can take the approach where we go out to win games and win some and lose some. Ironically, with three points for a win a team is better to win half of the games and lose half of the games than to be undefeated all season, and not win once. With that in mind if our target this season is to avoid relegation while giving the players the experience of this division to give us a chance of challenging for promotion next season then gambling in most games (assuming that enough of the gambles come off) is a perfectly acceptable approach.
Clearly the further away from the bottom three we get (both in terms of places and more importantly points) the more we can relax and play the kind of football that I believe can make us successful in this division - in the longer term.
I wasn't at Ipswich as I'm just not ready to pay £34 for second division football, but I have read a few accounts from those that were, and I've seen the goals on the TV. Our goals looked good, and their's looked rather fortunate. That limited TV clip, plus the suggestion that Ipswich were poor makes me believe that we were worthy winners in the end. This was not something that could have been said at the home game to Palace - the last time I saw us play.
My expectations have changed radically this season. I thought we were going to be real challengers at the top of the division. The draw at Birmingham and the win over Leicester at home confirmed my beliefs. The draw against Hull was not a disaster, especially with the terrible conditions in the second half. However, the three successive defeats changed all that. I know we all keep hearing that any team can bean any other team in this division on their day, but I think the evidence thus far suggests that mid table is more likely than top six, and a bad run and a knock to confidence could see us dragged into a relegation battle.
We will know more as we face more teams - we still don't know which of the teams we have played are going to struggle or be successful this season. For now I think we have made a good, if not unspectacular, start and I think we have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.
Up the Addicks!