Battling Blues earn a point

THIS was not as spectacular or as fruitful as all the wins in October but it was none the less just as impressive. It was a point gained when not so long ago all three would have been lost, and keeps Town in among the leading pack.

THIS was not as spectacular or as fruitful as all the wins in October but it was none the less just as impressive. It was a point gained when not so long ago all three would have been lost, and keeps Town in among the leading pack, writes Derek Davis.

Fair enough, winning at Palace after going two down may on the face of it appear a bigger feat. But Palace are no Preston and four wins on the bounce at Deepdale indicates how good Craig Brown's men are at home.

They showed why they are doing so well with a mixture of some clever tactics early on, doubled with attacking play which rocked sluggish Ips-wich back on their heels.

It came as no real surprise when they scored, having forced a good save by Kelvin Davis from Ricardo Fuller, although no corner was given, and David Healy had headed wide.

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But perhaps the manner was disappointing and a warning that Ipswich need to get off the mark quicker.

Richard Cresswell, full of pace, and strong running, evaded Fabian Wilnis's lunge like an Australian centre getting past a Namibian defender, and crossed from the dead ball line inside the 18-yard area, where David Healy escaped Ian Westlake to head downwards. Kelvin Davis almost stopped it on the line but the ball spun off his body, against a post and into the net.

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It was the Northern Ireland international's first goal for Preston since last December, although he netted twice while on loan at Norwich last March.

Wilnis earned his redemption by surging into the penalty area to a take a return pass from Pablo Counago and as he cut back inside was taken out by Paul McKenna for a clear penalty.

Counago showed he had not lost any confidence even though he had a spot-kick saved at Bradford, and hit the penalty as he always does, right-footed to the keeper's left and although Jonathan Gould guessed correctly he could not get a hand to it.

Like those around him, the Dutchman improved as the game went on but he will not have been happy with that early lapse of his usually high standards.

If Preston had been a little sharper, and a touch more fortunate they could have been out of sight before Ipswich woke up.

Davis saved well and either side of the break Bart-Williams and then Naylor cleared off the line.

But on the whole Naylor and Santos were magnificent at the back against a three-pronged attack.

Naylor went looking to add to his five goals for the season and went incredibly close with a diving header to meet a Magilton free-kick which Gould brilliantly saved by pushing it onto a post and away.

Santos was back to his uncompromising best, showing the backbone worthy of another famous French hero, Jean Viljean, the star of Les Miserables. Certainly he ensured it was a miserable and unprofitable afternoon for Fuller.

When the Jamaican went out wide he did not fare much better against a rapidly-improving Matt Richards and did not fancy chancing his arm against Wilnis again too often. Bart-Williams even got in on the defensive act by clearing a Fuller effort off the line before being replaced by the attack-minded Tommy Miller.

That left the way for Wright to drop effectively into the anchor role but still he surged forward and might have snatched the winner in the dying embers of the game but shaved a post with a 20-yard shot.

Kuqi, like Naylor before him was prepared to sacrifice his body for the cause putting his head in where it hurt but failed to find justice in the form of a goal or even a penalty when he appeared to be pushed by Lucketti as he went for a corner.

Given Town's recent impressive run of eight wins in nine games, dropped points may be disappointing. But after their poor start they will be delighted to go six games unbeaten and have lost just one in 10.

The balance of the side looks good and the blend of youth and experience is working, although the depth of the squad will be tested as suspensions and injuries kick in, so thankfully players like John McGreal, Chris Makin, Martijn Reuser and Drissa Diallo are getting fit. Miller's quicker than expected return will be a boon, with Bart-Williams and Naylor banned for a game and the Yorkshireman already started on his next five bookings.

While they may turn out to be promotion pretenders, Preston will take a great deal of points off the top teams and come next May this draw could be seen in a whole new, more significant light.

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