Ipswich Town 1 Tranmere Rovers 0
AN out-of-sorts Ipswich looked a long way from promotion play-off material as they scraped and scrambled their way to three precious points against unlucky Tranmere yesterday.
It was Town's 20th clean sheet of the season, thus equalling the club record set by Bobby Robson's classic team in the 1979-80 season when they finished third in the old First Division.
But it was a far from impressive display against a bright and lively Tranmere side.
The goal came in the 78th minute after they had been awarded a penalty for a push by Liam O'Brien on substitute Nick Stockwell.
Mark Venus' penalty was saved brilliantly by the Tranmere goalkeeper Danny Coyne. Jim Magilton took the corner, substitute James Scowcroft headed it on and the big French defender Manuel Thetis scrambled it in from close range.
Tranmere's midfield playmaker Liam O'Brien was an inspirational figure, switching points of attack with some excellent precision passing and in Scott Taylor, Lee Jones and Alan Mahon, he had eager, probing strikers.
Tranmere's Andy Parkinson had three shots wide of goal between the 12th and 24th minutes and Ipswich had a lucky let-off in the 27th minute when a cross by Jones from the left was met by Kenny Irons who unleashed a ferocious shot which hit the Ipswich defender Mark Venus in the face.
Ipswich at times looked fitful and hesitant. Their attack of David Johnson and Richard Naylor looked lightweight against a stern Tranmere defence, although Johnson made Coyne produce a good save at his feet after the goalkeeper had failed to hold onto a fierce shot from Bobby Petta just before half-time.