Ipswich Town 3 Middlesbrough 3
Tony Mowbray was the defensive linchpin at the heart of Ipswich Town’s promotion
to the Premier League in 2000. How the Middlesbrough manager’s former club
– and his own backline for that matter – could have done with a smidgen of
his on-pitch nous given the porous effort in this six-goal thrill-a-minute
Mowbray’s influence on that successful side 11 years ago is still highly-regarded
in Suffolk, but the four centre-halves on display at Portman Road this evening
will hope that their contributions are quickly erased from memory. Given the
quality of defending on show, it is probably just as well that neither team
is bound for the Premier League in the immediate future. Ipswich lost 7-0
at Chelsea in the FA Cup in January and it was easy to see how.
“We looked so nervous and it could have finished 7-7,” said Town manager
Paul Jewell, who admitted his side is short of a holding midfielder to provide
a barrier in front of Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney, who endured a hapless
evening. “The two centre-backs have both been brilliant since I have been
at the club but tonight was not their best night.”
For Mowbray, his side passed up the opportunity of recording their first
back-to-back victories since August 2009 after leading 3-1, and he was in
agreement that six more goals would not have been a surprise or exaggeration.
“Our left-back [Joe Bennett] could have had a hat-trick, but credit to Ipswich
for getting back into it,” he said.
For Town’s sake, it was probably just as well that Middlesbrough went into
the game with just one available striker – Scott McDonald. But it was the
home side who took the lead in the sixth minute when Grant Leadbitter’s low
drive from 20 yards flicked in off McAuley, though he preferred to look sheepish
and let Leadbitter take the plaudits
Five minutes of madness before half-time from Delaney helped the visitors
go in front, as the Irishman first sliced a Tarmo Kink cross against the crossbar,
with the ball falling invitingly for substitute Andy Halliday six yards out,
and Halliday then slid a cross through Delaney’s legs for the unmarked McDonald
to finish with ease.
Town’s defence failed to find their bearings during the break as McDonald’s
shot was cleared off the line seconds after the restart, and in the 51st minute
Halliday found Andy Taylor in acres of room to fire home emphatically.
Connor Wickham’s powerful 64th minute header from a Jimmy Bullard free-kick
gave Town hope of ending their run of losing all of their Tuesday night home
matches this season.
Substitute Lee Martin was then tripped in the penalty area by Matthew Bates,
a former Portman Road loanee, and Leadbitter converted from the spot.
Either side could have won the game late on, with both goalkeepers – Town’s
Arran Lee-Barrett and Middlesbrough’s Paul Smith – required to perform heroics
until the very end.
Ian Oxborrow (The Telegraph)