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Match preview: Ipswich v Forest

Two games to go. It doesn't matter for us but it does for Ipswich. We spoke to excellent freelancer Nick Ames (of the Guardian, ESPN, the Blizzard and others) about their chances, Mick's shoestring and David McGoldrick...

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Nick Miller: From a casual observer's perspective it seems like there have been several points this season where it looked like Ipswich were about to drop out of it, but seem to come up with a big result in time. Just when we thought you were out, they pulled you back in...

Nick Ames: Yes, although you could actually flip it around and say that there were two or three times earlier in the season when we had the chance to go top, or really dig our heels into the automatic promotion race, and blew it. You're certainly right about recent weeks though.

The big one, and the one we'll look back on at the end if all goes to plan, was away at Watford last month – we'd lost three away games in a row to Norwich, Leeds and Boro, drawn with Brentford when we should have scored five, and you could feel that much more of this would throw away a lot of good work. Nobody really gave us a prayer at Vicarage Road but we won in the 95th minute and fully deserved to. Apart from a slip-up at Huddersfield we've kicked on from there to produce something like our earlier-season form and our current position seems a fair reflection overall.

NM: A lot of people have become bored with this 'narrative' or whatever about the team being put together with 70p, three bits of string and some luncheon vouchers, but it's still pretty remarkable and at the same time not all that surprising, because this is what McCarthy does, I guess - he gets teams playing well in the Championship on minimal resources. I should probably ask a question at some point, and this might be a stupid one, but I take it this 'cobbled together' team is out of necessity, rather than some sort of philosophical choice?

NA: It's necessity, yes – Mick is the last person to be quixotic and nor is the owner, Marcus Evans, whose stewardship has looked increasingly convincing after an utterly horrible first few years in which we frittered money on nonsense hand over fist. Evans has learned from his mistakes, and gets credit for that – he is a fully paid-up advocate of FFP (I'll leave out any snarky comments for now, Forest fans) and the job done over the last two years in cutting our cloth while remaining competitive has been quite skilfully done, particularly with attendances falling until this season.

Mick, of course, is a huge part of that and has done wonders with relatively little. The "10k" line has indeed been overdone but in contrast with virtually every other contender our spend has been small. You know how much Tyrone Mings cost; Freddie Sears came in for around £100k in January and has looked considerably better than players our rivals have spent thirty times as much on. To balance against that, where we do hold our own is on wages: I think we're perfectly competitive on that front and, while players like Christophe Berra and David McGoldrick came in for nothing, they are on a fair whack and for good reason. Chris Wood, on loan from Leicester, won't be costing pennies either. We're spending some money but in a considered way, and I do take heart from how we've dragged ourselves back from a pretty poor situation of our own making.

NM: Ah, David McGoldrick. It's possible he was the most frustrating player I've ever seen at Forest - capable of brilliance, more likely to wander around half-interested for most of the game. He's been injured for a good chunk of the season, hasn't he?

NA: Yes, we haven't seen him since February 7th due to a thigh injury and a setback the other week means any comeback would be in the play-offs. If he'd been fit I think we'd still have a theoretical shot at automatic promotion. Sears has been excellent in his place but McGoldrick really makes this team play and has been badly missed. Daryl Murphy plays a slightly different role alongside Sears and there has been a knock-on impact on his own output too; his partnership with 'Didsy' just worked from day one.

I think it's just been right club, right time for McGoldrick. He has been outstanding from day one – I don't see a better forward in the division when fit. If he isn't scoring, he's getting on the ball and getting us going. We turned down £8m from Leicester for him in August, which might sound crazy to you but it's very much the Ross McCormack/Fulham deal's fault. Your point about body language gets raised now and again but I think that's just his demeanour; he's undemonstrative but has never wavered for us and I hope his injury does, at least, reduce the chances of clubs coming back in for him this summer.


NM: And what of our other former...erm...heroes, Paul Anderson and Luke Chambers?

NA: Anderson has always been around the side in his two seasons and has probably contributed more than many think. He's generally been used in a fairly defensive wide role in a team that doesn't exactly go for it on the flanks, tucking in and doing a lot of dirtier work pretty well. His team-mates seem to appreciate it and, like all of these players, you can't fault the effort. We've not seen quite as much going forward, and he's never looked entirely confident on the ball – you can tell there's a player in there, but you don't see an end product enough and I think Mick would have liked a bit more. Seems a nice bloke too, but think he might move on in the summer.

Chambers....well. After an inauspicious first few months (we were bottom of the league and being tonked most weeks – he wasn't blameless) I thought he was just another of the disappointments that we'd become used to under Keane and Jewell. Wrong, wrong. He has been captain for most of Mick's reign and has played a huge part in what this team is about: attitude, desire, application. There are question marks about his on-pitch position, as he's mainly played at right-back under Mick – defensively this has generally worked well but in terms of distribution and attacking from the back it has obvious drawbacks, even though I think he makes a better fist of getting forward than is generally acknowledged. I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved back inside next season.

The other thing to say about Chambers is that he has been a huge factor in the creation of the closest bond between players and fans I've seen at Ipswich in the last 15 years. He seems to "get it", and if we win on Saturday you'll see the now ritual post-match fist-pump celebration with the support, which gets more extravagant as the stakes get higher. I know Forest fans might have something to say here, but he's very much the front man for a squad of all-round decent guys and a really positive influence.

The fact that we seem to have had such different experiences of Chambers and McGoldrick may well come down to Mick, who just seems to know what individual players need on professional and human levels. It's not a quality we all have, and they respond to it. The team has its flaws, but you can't argue about the characters.



NM: I always quite liked Chambers, and I felt quite sorry for him when he left - I think he probably would've stayed if we weren't such a shambles at the time and could offer him a contract. Who else should we look out for on Saturday, then?

NA: I've already mentioned Sears, who has been a revelation – he did well at Colchester after dropping down the leagues but I wasn't sure he had this in him. Very quick, like to get a shot away early, works hard for his openings. Reminds me a bit of David Johnson, who we both remember well. You have probably heard enough about Daryl Murphy this season; he's had the year of his life with 24 goals so far, the best of which he rates as being his first at the City Ground – the solo one. You've probably heard about Tyrone Mings by now too.

You may know less about Teddy Bishop, who is just 18 and should start in central midfield alongside Cole Skuse. That speaks volumes for the progress he's made – he had looked good in the youth teams but has moved faster than expected. He's an important part of the team now, even if he needs a rest now and then. Bishop has a great passing range, can trick and weave his way past defenders, tends to know when to keep it simple and is and happy to do the dirty bits too. He'll be a very, very good playmaker before long and the big clubs are hovering. It'll be another good test for him against players like Lansbury, Vaughan and Gardner.

NM: Let's have a prediction, then....the way we're playing, I reckon you'll win 3-1.

NA: 2-2. I expect us to make the play-offs but we won't be doing it the easy way. You won't see many of us underestimating Forest, with your teamsheet, and if Blackpool scored two soft goals at Portman Road then you definitely can. Expecting a rattling good game, actually.