Blues escape with a point
LET'S be brutally frank about this – Ipswich were lucky to get a point at Gillingham, writes Derek Davis.Only dreadful finishing from the Gills, Jonathan Douglas in particular, and outstanding goalkeeping from Kelvin Davis, allowed the off-colour Blues to salvage anything at a sunny Priestfield Stadium.
LET'S be brutally frank about this – Ipswich were lucky to get a point at Gillingham, writes Derek Davis.
Only dreadful finishing from the Gills, Jonathan Douglas in particular, and outstanding goalkeeping from Kelvin Davis, allowed the off-colour Blues to salvage anything at a sunny Priestfield Stadium.
As it happens, the result was far from disastrous, although Sunderland won, Wigan dropped a couple of points and, you never know, this single point in Kent could prove vital come May.
It was Ipswich's first scoreless draw in 69 games, a run stretching back to December 13, 2003, when a 10-man Town were held goal-less by Millwall.
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It also took them to seven points in three games, the last two away, which is not a bad haul, although time is ticking away.
With no Championship games scheduled for a fortnight, after three games in a week, there will not be an opportunity for Ipswich to close the gap on the leading pair. From seven games left after the enforced Easter break, at least five more wins is going to be the minimum Town will require to be in with a chance.
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If Town can carry on keeping clean sheets the way they have on the last three matches, they have every chance of succeeding.
Manager Joe Royle kept with the same side and formation that had started in the win at Cardiff – and that meant that Jim Magilton, although passed fit, started on the bench.
Once again the defence had to be on top of their game as the Gills, pumped up by going four games unbeaten, pounced on sloppy Blues play.
A loose ball by Tommy Miller allowed Micky Flynn a free run but his low shot was easily gathered by Davis.
Chris Hope beat David Unsworth too easily but captain Jason De Vos cleared before Mamady Sidibe could get there.
Fabian Wilnis was also alert to danger after Matt Richards made a couple of basic errors, allowing Darius Henderson to break. The Gills' top scorer also escaped to chase a long ball into the area and as Davis rushed out to meet him Henderson tumbled in the box, but his premature fall over the keeper earned him only a booking and not the penalty he was after.
On the whole, Richard Naylor was handling Henderson well when he was in the box but a couple of slips allowed the striker room to manoeuvre. Luckily for Town, his shooting was weak, especially an attempted left-foot volley which sliced hopelessly wide, and his partner Sidibe failed to take advantage of a ball laid on a plate.
Although The Gills were winning the midfield battle, therefore stifling what few attacks Town were attempting, they never exploited the possession and chances they enjoyed.
Five minutes before the break Douglas mis-cued a cross which turned into a dangerous angled effort, and whether the on-loan midfielder from Blackburn meant it or not, it brought out a wonderful tip-over save from Davis.
The Blues keeper made an even better stop on the hour mark when Flynn let fly from the edge of the area and the keeper got down smartly to tip the ball around a post after seeing it arrive late through a crowd of players.
The Blues offered little in the way of attack themselves.
Shefki Kuqi is still looking sluggish and has not yet returned to his incredible pre-injury form; he was substituted in the second half.
Darren Currie and Fabian Wilnis were supplying most of the balls for Darren Bent but too often he was forced into dead ends, and even when he cleverly wriggled fee to put in a cross or shot he had little support from midfield.
A 40-yard Currie free kick found Naylor but his weak stooping header was simple for Jason Brown, while De Vos headed a Currie corner over the bar.
But the first half was littered with mistakes as the midfield struggled to get a grip on the game and the forwards were left too isolated.
When Magilton replaced an out-of-sorts Matt Richards a half-time – and the team went to a straight four-four-two – gaps were starting to be forced open
Bent's pace beat Brown to a long ball, and as he nicked it past him the keeper took him out but earned a yellow card as he was a long way out of his area and defenders were covering. A good run from Bent onto a Miller ball over the top ended as he hooked it in, but the keeper grabbed it before Kuqi arrived.
He also shot wide into the vociferous travelling Town support after a good turn.
Magilton hit a free kick into the keeper's arms and then showed tricky skills to dribble into the area but his chip to the far post attracted no takers.
The toothless Blues were almost made to pay as the Gills pressed, and looked more likely to get a winner.
Davis kept his cool to block a Sidibe effort after a rare De Vos error and in the dying moments an unmarked Douglas hit the crossbar from 10 yards out.
It was a lucky let-off for an under par Town side who need to come back next month with some brighter ideas to rediscover the sort of form that pulverised Forest.