Ipswich Town 1 Barnsley 1
A TACTICAL change at half-time - and possibly a few sharp words - transformed Ipswich Town so completely at Portman Road last night that, having been booed off after 45 minutes, they could have beaten a Barnsley side needing a win themselves to return to the top of the table.
Two teams playing 3-5-2 cancelled each other out early on, with nobody in the claustrophobic midfield able to dictate either the pace or the flow. Then Barnsley began to break forward from that area in the manner that had brought them three away wins out of three.
In the 25th minute Andy Liddell paved the way for an opening goal as his through ball sent Carel van der Velden into a huge gap where at least one of the three Ipswich defenders should have been.
The Dutchman pushed the ball wide of goalkeeper Craig Forrest, who, according to referee Andy D'Urso, then clipped him as he went past. Forrest was booked - and ought logically to have been sent off - before Neil Redfearn beat him from the penalty spot.
Redfearn might have doubled the lead when hitting the post after Liddell's square pass and drawing a splendid save from Forrest when Danny Sonner failed to clear.
The equable temperament of Ipswich manager, George Burley, must have been tested at the interval, but his decision to introduce young striker Richard Naylor and change to a 4-3-3 formation brought a huge improve- ment. Naylor twice went close, before Alex Mathie hit the bar and then equalised with a cool finish from Steve Sedgley's pass.
Redfearn should have scored again on the break. Unmarked in front of goal, he screwed van der Velden's cross over the bar. Redfearn was unluckier later, lowering his sights and hitting the bar with a 25-yard free-kick.
The crowd of only 9,041 were left lamenting Ipswich's miserable first-half performance.