Jingle bells replaced by alarm bells

Having failed to beat all four of the most likely sides to be scrapping for their Championship status, alarm bells, not Christmas bells, were ringing out around Portman Road on Saturday.

The importance of taking points off the sides around you is often emphasised, as three points are suddenly worth six when snatched from a duel with a fellow relegation rival.

We could have been toasting an eight-point gap over troubled Bristol City on the last home game of 2012, but a lacklustre showing only yielded a point apiece, not much good to either side right now.

And, perhaps just as worryingly, draws at home to City and Peterborough United, and a point at Barnsley, while we suffered a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, show we’re no better than those around us.

What is reassuring, however, is having completed half of the season on Saturday the same return of points by May 5 would have seen us survive the drop to League One in both of the last seasons.

And I can see us getting more than that meagre return under the wily Mick McCarthy.

But with the worst goal difference in the league, the Town boss won’t be wanting to take any chances, which is why I believe a goalscoring midfielder has to now be one of his top priorities in the January sales.

There was an irony about a mistake a national newspaper made in printing Tommy Miller, instead of Smith, as the goalscorer who saved us against Bristol City.

The New Zealand international defender’s second Championship strike of the season incredibly doubled our top scoring midfielders’ returns, with Lee Martin and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas failing to get anywhere near where their natural talents dictate they should be.

A trip to Aston Villa may now be tantalisingly close on the horizon, but the trip to the less glamorous Ashton Gate three weeks later will be the more important trip in our season.