When the clocks go back and the weather turns cold, you’ll invariably find Mick McCarthy conducting post-match interviews with a big grin on his face, because that’s when he’s in his element. Survival of the fittest. Games at this time of year are as much about stamina, tenacity and endurance than technical brilliance or tactical prowess. Precisely the things his teams excel at.
The big Yorkshireman has spent nine of the past 13 winters managing in the Championship and his record combining the months of November and December is remarkable. Over the course of 91 matches, he boasts a 54 per cent win ratio and a 1.91 points-per-game average. Basically, it’s the equivalent of winning automatic promotion twice.
And it’s a trend that’s only becoming more profound with age and experience. At Ipswich, his record across the two months reads W23 D9 L4, which is an average of 2.17 points per game, or a play-off place secured with ten matches still to play. Last season, the Tractor Boys picked up 26 points from a possible 30. This season, they’re already on ten from a possible 12. In that light, odds of 15/8 about the home win are simply too good to resist.
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Bolton, Rotherham and Charlton represents a fairly weak run of opposition but anyone who witnessed Town put the Addicks to the sword in such ruthless fashion last Saturday must now be willing to accept that the creases witnessed earlier in the season have been ironed out. McCarthy has a settled back four and Daryl Murphy is proving the consensus inside Portman Road that form is temporary, class is permanent.
As much as Ipswich like a heavy schedule, they should also benefit from having six days to prepare. Middlesbrough, by contrast, face a quick turnaround following their midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Everton, which might also have clipped their wings somewhat. Talk in the local media now is of a reality check, that maybe Aitor Karanka’s men aren’t quite a Premier League team in Championship clothing just yet.
That defeat to the Toffees and an equally-convincing 2-0 away win at Huddersfield last weekend both reinforce the trend of their matches resting heavily on the first goal. Since the beginning of last season, league points in Boro games have gone the way of the team that broke the deadlock in 48 out of 57 matches. That works out at 84 per cent, significantly higher than the 69 per cent average across the division.
With that in mind, there’s also value to be found in the Ipswich/Ipswich double result at nearly 4/1. Going back through the records, 16 of the Tractor Boys’ 23 November/December wins under McCarthy have been achieved by this method, while 15 out of Boro’s last 18 defeats under Karanka have been set in motion before the interval.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.