Match report: Ipswich Town 1 Preston North End 1 – Blues drop out of play-off places following stalemate
17:43 16 January 2016
Â© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town have dropped out of the Championship play-off places following this afternoon’s 1-1 stalemate with Preston North End at Portman Road.
Daniel Johnson gave the visitors the lead in the seventh minute following a series of poor clearing headers by the Blues, before Daryl Murphy equalised against the run of play with a crisp low shot from 25 yards out in the 38th minute.
The only thing memorable from a scrappy second half was two controversial refereeing decisions.
Preston had a goal disallowed for offside just after the hour mark when it looked like Jonas Knudsen may have been playing Ben Pearson onside.
The Blues were then left screaming for a penalty in the 84th minute after defender Paul Huntington clearly handled Luke Hyam’s low shot on the floor. Referee Simon Hooper was unmoved.
A draw extends the Blues’ unbeaten run to six in all competitions but sees them drop to seventh in the table due to Sheffield Wednesday’s win earlier in the day. Just nine points now separates third-place Derby and ninth-place Cardiff.
Preston – playing a 4-3-3 formation – showed their attacking intent from the off and inside two minutes Dean Gerken was beating away a swerving 40-yard free-kick effort from Paul Gallagher.
Ipswich responded when Freddie Sears latched onto Murphy’s diagonal pass and sent a dangerous low ball across the face of goal.
The visitors broke the deadlock in the seventh minute following a series of small defensive mistakes by the hosts. Jonas Knudsen and Christophe Berra were both guilty of not getting enough distance or direction on clearing headers before Johnson’s shot crashed into Tommy Smith. The ball fell straight back at the midfielder’s feet and he rammed home at the second attempt for his eighth goal of the campaign.
Preston were undoubtedly looking the better team and they came close to doubling their lead in the 13th minute when, following a clever free-kick routine on the edge of the box, Gallagher curled an effort inches past the right post.
Ipswich had played with tempo in the impressive midweek win against Leeds, but they looked timid against the well-organised Lilywhites.
Fraser’s high cross was headed wide by Berra, while the former’s attempt to catch the keeper out at the near post with an angled free-kick was well-read by Sam Johnstone.
A low Sears cross was scrambled away just as you thought Town might start to be getting a foothold in the game, but Mick McCarthy’s men weren’t able to sustain any sort of momentum and almost went further behind just after the half hour.
Gallagher’s raking pass over the top was inch-perfect, Eoin Doyle cut inside from the left and his sideways pass found Joe Garner in acres of room. Thankfully for Town, the pace of the pass was too strong and he couldn’t get a decent connection on his volley.
Ipswich had lacked ideas going forwards but, out of nowhere, they drew level in the 38th minute. After Luke Chambers moved the ball inside with an outside of the boot pass, Murphy spun his marker, held another off and, after drifting across the pitch from right to left, fired a crisp, low shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
It was a moment reminiscent of Murphy’s form in front of goal in 2014/15. With his confidence high he attempted an audacious long-range effort moments later which ended up going well over the bar.
Town started the second half on the front foot and Fraser had the crowd off their seats when he almost danced his way to goal with some mesmerising footwork.
Then, in the 56th minute, Murphy robbed a hesitant Ben Pearson of the ball on the blindside and strode forwards before unleashing a shot which was pushed behind.
Preston gradually worked their way back into the game though and it required a fine recovery tackle from Smith on Garner on the hour mark.
A minute later there was a big let-off for the Blues after the visitors had a goal controversially ruled out for offside. Berra was left on the deck and clutching his face after a collision high up the field, but the referee waved play on. Pearson drove forwards, exchanged a neat one-two with Doyle and coolly finished. Replays suggested that Knudsen may have played everybody onside. It was a very tight call indeed.
A terrible throw out from keeper Johnstone presented Town wit a good opportunity in the 70th minute. The ball landed straight at Murphy’s feet, but, after his quick ball back into the area, Sears put an angled volley into the side-netting.
The quality of the game had slowly degenerated throughout the second period and neither team really looked like winning it.
Preston came close to getting their noses back in front in the 81st minute when centre-back Bailey Wright glanced a header inches wide of the far post following Gallagher’s dangerous delivery from the left following a well-worked short corner.
The game was beginning to drift, but suddenly came alive in the 84th minute when Ipswich had huge penalty appeals turned down.
First, Knudsen’s cross was flicked on by the head of substitute Brett Pitman and Chambers was presented with a close-range headed chance himself. His effort was straight at keeper Johnstone, the ball was beaten away and Luke Hyam smashed a low shot back into a crowded area.
Preston defender Huntington, already on the floor amongst the chaos, stuck out his arms and almost caught the ball. The Ipswich players went crazy but referee Hooper was unmoved.
Ipswich finally piled on some pressure in the closing stages but it led to nothing.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse, Douglas (Hyam 74); Sears, Bru (Pitman 69), Fraser; Murphy (Varney 82).
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Malarczyk, Oar, Maitland-Niles.
Booked: Pitman (90)
PRESTON NORTH END (4-3-3): Johnstone; Woods,Wright, Huntington, Cunningham; Browne, Pearson, Johnson; Doyle (Robinson 87), Garner (Hugill 87), Gallagher.
Unused subs: Kirkland, Vermijl, Kilkenny, Woods, Welsh.
Booked: Woods (40), Garner (69), Johnson (84)
Attendance: 21,108 (436 away)
Referee: Simon Hooper