Final chance to save Town's season

OPERATION Season-Saver starts today.After two dismal league defeats in a week, Ipswich are now totally relying on FA Cup victory at Watford on Saturday to salvage something from Jim Magilton's first year in charge.

By Derek Davis

OPERATION Season-Saver starts today.

After two dismal league defeats in a week, Ipswich are now totally relying on FA Cup victory at Watford on Saturday to salvage something from Jim Magilton's first year in charge.

The Blues are this morning heading for the Five Lakes hotel and golf complex near Colchester for a couple of days training and team-bonding ahead of Saturday's visit to Vicarage Road where the Hornets await.

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The idea is to take the sting out of the painful losses suffered at Palace and now at home against Leicester City - and for Town to inject some life back into their season.

With the launch of the season-tickets campaign on hold until there is an upturn in form and results, a win at Watford is even more vital for Ipswich who, while not exactly destitute even with a £36m debt hanging over them, are walking a financial tightrope.

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While the hardcore supporters will renew no matter what, and well done to them, many more will not dig deep yet again, knowing they can comfortably pick and choose which games they go to next season.

There was little on show at Portman Road against a very ordinary Leicester side to entice the waverers as Town's Achilles heel was exposed yet again.

Just when it appeared that Ipswich had found the resolve to hold out against even the biggest of men, as they did at Stoke, the quintessential Land of the Giants, they concede two goals in the most basic of fashion at set plays.

Gareth McAuley had never scored a league goal for Leicester before since joining from Lincoln but headed in two at Ipswich.

The first was from a straightforward Levi Porter corner as he escaped Sylvain Legwinski's attentions and stumbled before connecting with a header that went through Lewis Price.

His second, after the break, came in similar fashion when he was once again allowed the freedom of the area to get in front of Price and power in a cross from Mark Yeates after he played a short corner from Porter.

Hopes of a fight-back were seriously hampered when Owen Garvan got himself sent off for a second yellow card, which could easily have been a straight red, when he did his impression of a Chinese Olympic team player against QPR and launched himself into a two footed challenge on Porter. The young Irishman had been booked just three minutes into the second half for a challenge on Andy Johnson and knew he was walking a thin line before the first sending off in his professional career.

The 19-year-old Garvan will now miss at least two games, starting at Watford, after also reaching five cautions for the season.

There could be no complaint against referee Carl Boyeson for the red card, although it was a little strange that he took no action against City defender Alan Maybury, who clearly turned round and struck Dan Harding after they chased a ball that went behind for a goal kick. It was to Harding's credit that he didn't make more of it.

But no matter what Magilton seems to preach, the players don't appear to have learned and Town's discipline this season is the worst it has ever been and has done the team no favours whatsoever.

Family commitments in Belfast meant Magilton did not make the post-match Press conference to explain away the defeat, leaving the uncomfortable task to first- team coach Bryan Klug, who did well in trying circumstances.

It was a pleasing result for under-threat City boss Rob Kelly, the only Championship manager not to have paid money for a player, and Milan Mandaric, who just needs shareholders' approval for his £25million takeover at Leicester City and he was on the official guest list at Portman Road as the Foxes' owner.

The sad thing for Ipswich is that, for the most part, they played the more attractive football of the two decidedly mediocre sides.

Jaime Peters, in particular, stood out with his determined running and was denied by Australian keeper Paul Henderson, who Town rejected as a trialist in 2005. The young Canadian's first-time drive from a Darren Currie cross was turned away by Henderson and if that had gone in then, perhaps, the whole complexion of the game would have changed.

Peters also went close at the death when his persistence and pace paid off but, typically, the finish was not good enough.

Currie was a surprise starter and, after playing some superb balls in the first half, his lack of games appeared to catch up with him and he was less effective in the second half.

Jon Walters continues to impress and was desperately close to bagging his first goal for Town on a couple of occasions. He misses the Watford game as he is cup-tied but a goal will do his confidence the world of good and could burst the dam.

Billy Clarke could also do with a goal and looks out of sorts recently, with his belief visibly drained - perhaps that will also change at Vicarage Road when he and Danny Haynes look the most likely front pairing.

George O'Callaghan had to settle with a place on the bench but he looked lively when he came on, with a good attempt on goal and a wonderful piece of skill to put in a teasing cross which was wasted.

So patched-up Ipswich will go to Watford this weekend looking to pull off a cup upset, or at least a money-spinning replay, and then, hopefully, get through to a decent quarter-final draw and give Town fans something to look forward to for a little longer this season.

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