Another case of what might have been
Ipswich Town 1Hull City 1THIS was very much a case of what might have been.The frustration of only getting a draw when Town had pulverised Hull for much of the first half and large sections of the second was compounded when the players saw how results had gone elsewhere in the Championship.
By Derek Davis
Ipswich Town 1
Hull City 1
THIS was very much a case of what might have been.
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The frustration of only getting a draw when Town had pulverised Hull for much of the first half and large sections of the second was compounded when the players saw how results had gone elsewhere in the Championship.
Only Sheffield United from the top 16 clubs won, so the extra two points that Town could, and should, have collected would have left them just that little bit closer to a panicky Preston.
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But might-have-beens have figured largely for Town this season.
You can't help but wonder where Town would be if they had not lost so many players to injury all season.
And you never know what might have happened if Richard Naylor and Ricardo Fuller had not been dismissed by referees, generally considered to have had off-days.
Perhaps Fuller would have been thwarted and frustrated as much as Alan Lee, who had a shot cleared off the line by Andy Dawson after being set up by the irrepressible Owen Garvan.
The eccentric City keeper Boaz Myhill denied Lee with two good saves and when the Republic of Ireland international turned provider substitute Dean McDonald spurned the gift-wrapped chance.
Lee was also clearly concerned about his hamstring, which forced him to miss two games earlier in the month and he needed treatment at half-time to keep the leg muscle from tightening up.
Perhaps the luck of the Irish was all used up the week before at Cheltenham and Twickenham.
Lee was not the only one to be left denied and frustrated.
Darren Currie put in an excellent shift and scored the opener after just 23 minutes.
His fourth goal of the season came from near the touchline in front of the Cobbold Stand about midway in the Hull half. He curled it in towards skipper Jim Magilton and Lee but neither got a touch and the stranded Myhill could only watch as the ball carried on its journey into a corner of the net.
The way Ipswich were playing at that point you fancied them to go on and get a net-full of goals.
Some of the football was dazzling. Breathtaking passing and moving and when they weren't playing short, crisp balls, Magilton, Garvan and Currie were spraying 50-yard diagonal passes right on the button.
What was lacking was an actual end product in terms of goals.
Currie hit the crossbar with a superbly clipped free kick that curled over the wall and dipped on top of the woodwork.
After placing the ball casually too close to Myhill, having being set clean through by Lee, McDonald hit a post from close range and Magilton's follow-up was cleared off the line, again by Dawson.
In what was an agonising afternoon for him and the team, the contract-seeking McDonald must have thought that each miss was another nail going into his coffin. He will need to find the net at least once more before the end of the season to convince his manager to keep him on.
Other clubs will no doubt be waiting in the wings but many would like to see the former Arsenal trainee secure a deal at Portman Road - and only goals will make that happen.
Because the goals didn't come on Saturday from anyone in the second half, despite more frenzied defending from Hull to deny Wilnis and Garvan, Town were made to pay.
A short corner was floated in by Stuart Green and Leon Cort got above his marker to power in a header from six yards and give City an unlikely equaliser.
After dominating for so long in open play it seemed the only likely way they were going to concede was once again from a set play when their lack of height counted against them. While Town only had De Vos and Lee, Hull were not short of six-foot-plus players.
The Tigers might even have nicked a win at the end although Scott Barron made a goal-saving tackle on Jon Parkin to deny him a tap-in and Kevin Ellison blazed inches wide in time added on.
Whether it was because Town could not kill off Hull, or there is an early end-of-season nothing-to-play-for attitude, the Portman Road crowd was fairly muted, but even though clearly frustrated by the result they gave a warm round of applause at the final whistle.
The season probably is over for Town but you never know what might have been if they had done better than a draw against Millwall and again against Hull.
Four extra points would have set up the remainder of the season nicely but one win in six, whatever the mitigation, means what might have been is irrelevant and what could be is more pertinent.
With Chris Casement making his home debut, following his senior bow at Crystal Palace last week, the Blues finished with four 18-year-olds on the pitch.
Add them to the four former youth team players and the undoubted importance of the old guard such as De Vos, Wilnis, Currie and Naylor when he returns, it all bodes well.
Royle may have handed out 18 debuts this season, but the arrival of Lee and Sito Castro have already reaped benefits and you have Sam Parkin, Gavin Williams and Nicky Forster coming back from injury.
With Magilton the only player from the current squad likely to leave, the future is starting now and looks more than promising. So this time next season the club should not have to worry about what might have been.