Berra leads by example as Ipswich Town stand firm in Burnley war of attrition
It wasn’t a classic, but as team performances go you will be hard pressed to find a better one from play-off chasing Ipswich Town this season, as they battled to a 0-0 draw at Burnley.
The Blues failed to break a club record as the opportunity to win a sixth successive away game went begging, but Mick McCarthy’s men showed character and guts in abundance – two attributes that will be required in spades between now and the end of the campaign, in what has become another uncompromising Championship season.
Braveheart Christophe Berra, head bandage and all, epitomised the Blues’ resilience, recovering from a heavy first-minute knock to put in an heroic performance.
A sixth away win on the trot was always going to be tough to achieve, against a well-drilled, talented Clarets team that had a good showing in the Premier League last season, before being relegated.
Sean Dyche spent big and well in the summer, but star purchase, £9m striker Andre Gray, alongside the physically imposing Sam Vokes, was excellently shackled by Berra and Tommy Smith for the most part in what became a fierce war of attrition.
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Town, who completed the loan signing of young Barnsley midfielder Paul Digby, on Saturday, rode their luck at times, Burnley’s Ben Mee having a first-half header disallowed for a seemingly soft call, while Gray was the recipient of some fairly robust attention from Town’s central defensive duo that wasn’t deemed illegal by referee Peter Bankes.
When Gray did get a sniff at goal, Dean Gerken – arguably Town’s most-improved performer in recent times – denied him.
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Let’s face it, this is the sort of gutsy display we have come to expect from McCarthy’s men, but the spirit of the team is still something to behold when watched live.
But there’s more to Town than work ethic.
On several occasions at Turf Moor, the Blues showed the type of craft and guile that can be the difference between making the play-offs and finishing up as also-rans.
Daryl Murphy led the line superbly, Freddie Sears and Ryan Fraser never gave Burnley’s full-backs an inch, and Kevin Bru always looked threatening in the final third.
The end product was missing, but Ipswich’s performances in recent weeks suggest they will be back firing soon. They have also started taking points off the teams above them, which is encouraging.
After next week’s FA Cup tie with Portsmouth, the Blues face four teams – Leeds (h), Preston (h), Birmingham (a), Reading (h) – that could well see them grab four wins, provided they don’t let their standards drop.
On Saturday’s showing, Blues supporters should have no concerns on that score.