Ipswich step closer to Division One
Ipswich took a step closer to the 1st division today, when they failed again to take all three points at home to Aston Villa...
Today, a tense Portman Road, full of the anxieties of relegation, were given another frustrating afternoon against opponents who came for nothing more than a point and were successful in their task. To be fair, Town did everything but score, and with just a tiny bit of luck, could have had a hatful. If we had scored one, we would probably have won by several. But that didn't happen, and is scant consolation when Town's inability to take chances sees us drop back into the relegation zone.
The signs were not good when Sixto Peralta failed a fitness test. The creative Argentinean was replaced by Finidi George, otherwise the team was the same as the one that finished at Newcastle.
But there was further injury setback in the first ten minutes, when Chris Makin had to leave the field of play after picking up an injury. The tough-tackler went in hard on a 50/50 ball. He was successful in winning the ball, but unfortunately knackered himself in the process. With a lack of full-backs on the bench, Jermaine Wright switch to the position with Jim Magilton coming into the centre of midfield.
The first half was one of few opportunities. Town started brightly, but never looked like breaking the score line. Holland, Finidi and Bent forced good saves out of Peter Schmeichel, but it was only at set pieces and corners that Town looked dangerous. The Danish keeper started winding up the crowd with his constant time-wasting, although I'm too sure why he considered a 0-0 draw at Ipswich something to hold on to. Villa were restricted to playing on the break, and a couple of wayward headers from Dion Dublin were the best they could muster.
The crowd were generally being patient with the Town team, although the tension was building. Burley, never one to rush into making changes when things aren't going right, kept faith with the same eleven in the second half, and the performance did improve.
Jermaine Wright swept in a lovely ball that Marcus Stewart stooped to head home. It looked a certain goal- Schmeichel didn't know anything about it, but Stewart could only direct a tame effort straight at the keeper.
Town continued to dominate, and the next golden opportunity came after great work from Bent. He won the ball, cut-in past a defender, and had the option to shoot or lay the ball into the path of the advancing Stewart and Clapham. He opted to unselfishly lay the ball off, but amazingly missed both players. It was harder to evade them both with his cross ball, but he managed it, and the chance was gone.
After 68 minutes, it was the old cursed North Stand post that thwarted Town. Marcus Bent saw hit shot saved by Schmeichel's legs, and Magilton fired the rebound into the woodwork. At that point, you just knew deep down, it wasn't going to be our day. Bent had another chance, when he was picked out unmarked in the area, but as he swivelled to shoot he was charged down by Mellberg.
Villa looked dangerous in the final ten minutes, as Ipswich found themselves stretched pushing forward, and Matteo Sereni made great saves from Boetang and Hizlsperger. Magilton also had to head the ball to safety, after it cannoned off the bar from a corner.
So, another game gone without victory. It's looking very bleak now with Bolton winning, and I'm not sure we have the games left to get out of trouble. On a plus note, we didn't lose, and if we can gain a surprise victory at one of the games earmarked for a certain defeat, this point may count at the end of the season.
As with Newcastle last week, you just have to wonder why Villa are so high in the table. I've seen us play them twice this season, and we've looked the better team on both occasions. But that counts for little- at the end of the day the current Town team just can't get the result when it matters, and that might be our ultimate downfall.
From The Terrace