Heath blunder hands Town a point

NEVER, just never, write this Ipswich side off.The Blues looked dead on their feet after suffering a battering for large periods by a fired-up City side but,when all looked lost, they came back to snatch a point and were a controversial refereeing decision away from taking all three.

By Derek Davis

NEVER, just never, write this Ipswich side off.

The Blues looked dead on their feet after suffering a battering for large periods by a fired-up City side but,when all looked lost, they came back to snatch a point and were a controversial refereeing decision away from taking all three.

That would have been greedy and unjustified but, after going into the Foxes' lair and drawing first blood within a minute, then going two down and on the ropes, the Blues once again showed that indomitable spirit to earn a reward.

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It took Ian Westlake just 40 seconds after City's kick-off to put Town ahead but City responded through David Connolly and Matt Heath before the Leicester defender put into his own net.

Town survived a first-half hammering, with Lewis Price once again outstanding and Tommy Miller saving off the line.

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Darren Bent showed no ill effects of his recent hamstring injury to beat Martin Keown in the race to a marvellous Kevin Horlock long ball. The deadly striker's first-time shot from 20 yards was blocked by Kevin Pressman, who staggered backwards with the force.

Westlake followed up with a sweet hooked volley from 18 yards, which dipped into the net despite two City sentinels on the goal-line.

The Blues had a chance to grab another early goal when Bent almost skipped through to score but his shot was deflected for a corner.

Shefki Kuqi had a weak effort easily gathered and, even though he forced Pressman to drop one ball, the keeper recovered.

City had only won twice in the past 10 months at the Walkers Stadium and their crisis of confidence in front of goal was highlighted when a clever Dion Dublin backheel released Gareth Williams, but the midfielder, bought from Nottingham Forest, chose to pass instead.

Connolly, no slouch in front of goal as Town know, took a touch too many and his shot went straight to Price.

But the former Wimbledon hit-man found his nerve and finishing ability five minutes later.

The Foxes equalised on 33 minutes when James Scowcroft flicked on for Connolly, who got goal-side of Jason De Vos and beat Price from 10 yards.

That precipitated a City onslaught and Ipswich were forced to defend stoicly as all the defenders and Kuqi won vital headers in an aerial bombardment.

Miller cleared off the line when Lilian Nalis followed up with a header to a partial corner clearance.

But the main vanguard was again Price, who made two excellent full-stretch one-handed saves to deny Connolly and another to beat away a Danny Tiatto effort.

The 20-year-old keeper, in only his fifth league appearance, drew half-time praise from former England and Leicester goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton, who described him as "some keeper, that lad."

But the Wales Under-21 keeper was beaten on the hour as Town failed to deal with City's relentless pressure.

Scowcroft was again the provider as he knocked down a cross into Heath's path and the defender struck his volley sweetly to beat Price just inside a post from 18 yards.

Former Blues hero Scowcroft has only notched three goals himself this season but thought he might have grabbed a fourth with a terrific curling shot, but Price once more flung his body across to turn the ball wide.

He also pushed away a fine Jordan Stewart effort from 35 yards but was not concerned with a shot from substitute Trevor Benjamin which was far too high.

The vociferous travelling Town support booed Makin, who left Portman Road for Leicester without explanation.

They didn't stop chanting even when a goal down and found further voice when Kuqi got on the end of an in-swinging corner from Miller, only to see it tipped over the bar by Pressman.

Pablo Counago was thrown on in place of skipper Jim Magilton as Ipswich hunted the equaliser.

The Spaniard's strength and clever play almost bore fruit when he played a one-two with Drissa Diallo before holding off a challenge to lay a ball off for Miller, but his shot had the sting taken out of it by a defender before rolling to the keeper.

Counago had a shot knocked away for another corner as his arrival heralded a sustained period of pressure for Town, putting City on their heels.

Three minutes from time Ipswich thought they had snatched an equaliser when another substitute, Dean Bowditch, headed on a Fabian Wilnis cross.

Pressman dropped the ball of his own volition and Kuqi forced it over the line from a yard out. Although the assistant didn't see anything wrong with it, the referee, from more than 30 yards away, ruled there had been an infringement and, without consulting his linesman, ruled the goal out despite Town's furious protests.

Justice was served two minutes later when Heath jumped to try to clear a header into the six-yard box but could only head his attempted clearance past his own keeper.

A brilliant end to a rip-roaring game between a very determined Leicester and a never-say-die Ipswich.

PABLO Counago and Dean Bowditch were last night named in an otherwise very young Ipswich Town reserves squad to face Charlton at the Valley tonight.

Steve McCall, who was also on first-team duty at Leicester as a coach last night, will be looking to take his young charges off the bottom of the Premier Reserve League.

Ipswich Town Reserves: Supple, Synott, Sobers, Hogg, Collins, Atay, Flack, Murray, Mitchell, Beveridge, Lordan, Guentchev, Bowditch, Counago, Knights, Casement, Craig and Hammond.

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