Blues forced to settle for a point

Ipswich Town 1 Stoke City 1IPSWICH Town had to settle for a share of the spoils when they met an impressive Stoke City side in the Coca-Cola Championship at Portman Road this afternoon.

Ipswich Town 1 Stoke City 1

IPSWICH Town had to settle for a share of the spoils when they met an impressive Stoke City side in the Coca-Cola Championship at Portman Road this afternoon.

The Blues drop out of the top six despite taking the lead in the 19th minute through the sparkling Danny Haynes. In a period when Town played some excellent football they could have increased their lead.

But Stoke hit back and Ricardo Fuller levelled the scores in the 33rd minute with a well-taken effort, and the visitors showed why they have such a good away record by going close to adding to that score.

The second half was nowhere near as exciting with neither keeper seriously tested after the break.

Fuller had a snapshot in the fourth minute as the visitors opened up attacking the South Stand goal. Alexander was able to get down comfortably to make the save, and it was not long before Town went surging forward.

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Lee, playing up front alongside a shaven-haired Counago, played in Walters down the left and the number 19 fired left-footed just beyond the far post, but from such an angle that the ball went out for a throw-in.

Haynes then went beyond two players down the right touchline before almost beating Simonsen from an impossible angle - the keeper having to tip a 35-yard cross-cum-shot over his bar, and only just managing to do so.

De Vos then had a shot following a corner and this was taken off the head of Counago by Shawcross just as the Spaniard looked set to deflect the ball into the net.

In the 12th minute a cross from the right caused Town a few problems as this game continued at a fast pace, and when the ball arrived at Pugh beyond the far post, the number 14 had a free strike on goal but sent his effort high into the stand.

Lawrence, a tricky customer in the visiting midfield, was given space to run into a shooting position in the 16th minute. His left-foot 18-yard skimmer was destined for the corner of the goal until Alexander intervened with an impressive save.

Ipswich hit a purple patch and could have had the match settled inside a six-minute spell.

Haynes scored his fourth goal of the season in the 19th minute to put the home team ahead. It was splendid finish with his right foot after being fed by Lee. Haynes skipped beyond his marker and then drilled a low shot into the net off the foot of the far post - the ball running along the goal line before entering the net at the far side netting - and then bouncing back into play!

It was a confident strike by Haynes, and after Wilkinson had been replaced by Zakuani, a bubbling Haynes went close again in the 23rd minute.

He made space and then saw his fierce shot blocked by Simonsen. In the next minute, Walters had time to shoot and Shawcross had to clear his effort off the line after the keeper had been beaten.

And soon afterwards - with Town on fire - Lee saw his glancing header from a corner go just beyond the far post.

Bruce had to make a brilliant tackle on Cresswell as Stoke showed their class and came right back into the game.

In the 30th minute Wright just nipped in ahead of Lawrence to clear for a corner, and from the dead-ball kick the visitors should have scored. The ball was headed back into the six-yard box when Fuller and Shawcross got in each other's way when unmarked right in front of goal.

Sito took a knock as the ball was scrambled away, but Stoke were not to be denied and they equalised in the 33rd minute. A move down the left ended with Fuller receiving the ball as he ran forward into the penalty area. Some neat footwork by the number ten saw him go clear of De Vos and then net with a sharp left-footed low shot into the far corner of the goal. It was Fuller's 12th goal of the season, and was certainly well taken.

Stoke had their tails up now, and Lawrence fired just wide with a well-struck volley.

Ipswich were unable to find their best form for the remainder of the half as both sides settled down somewhat after a super-charged opening 35 minutes.

Lee received a pass from the left in the 56th minute, but shot over with a first-time effort with the outside of his right foot as both teams scrapped it out on an even footing.

Town fans were getting a tad restless at the lack of control their side now had, and when Haynes made a good tackle and run in the 64th minute it livened up proceedings only for Dickinson to made a strong challenge to win the ball back.

Wright tried his luck from 25 yards seconds later, and his well-struck shot did not miss the left-hand post by much.

De Vos fouled once too often to go into the book for the fourth time this season, and then striker Parkin came on for the visitors to replace defender Dickinson with Pugh dropping back to left-back.

Supporters in the North Stand were doing their best to raise Magilton's men in blue shirts, and Ipswich were beginning assert some authority again with Haynes to the fore on the right.

Cresswell had taken a left-sided role for Stoke as Parkin had joined Fuller up front, but they could only watch as a 72nd minute free-kick was touched to Haynes who saw his stinging 22-yard shot just clear the bar.

In the 74th minute Fuller was close to a fine individual goal as Stoke counter attacked. He went beyond Wright and then Sito, and as he went to round Alexander the keeper saved his side with a timely touch that took the ball away from Fuller to allow the home side to clear.

Miller was replaced by Legwinski in the 79th minute, and when Haynes crossed from the right it took a desperate clearance from Cort to stop Garvan getting in a free shot in front of goal.

Counago and Haynes came close to presenting Lee with a goal in the 82nd minute - with Haynes' perfect pull-back cleared by a hasty clearance by Zakuani just as Lee was about to side-foot into the net.

Alexander failed to gather a cross from the right and managed to escape with Bruce clearing after a scramble ensued. The keeper was then impeded and dropped another cross as Stoke rallied as the game came to a close.

Clarke came on for Counago, and Legwinski and Haynes were both booked before the game entered four minutes of time added on.

Lawrence fired high into the side netting after a cross from the left went right across the home six-yard box. It was a nervous moment for Ipswich, who were looking unsure at the back and unable to break forward.

In the end a draw was a fair result and one that as the whistle blew Town were glad to take.