FULL-TIME: Brighton 1 Ipswich 1
Brighton v Ipswich: Daryl Murphy scored his first of the season but Brighton pegged the Blues back in an entertaining 1-1 draw.
One of Town’s best performances of the season actually saw them slip closer to the bottom of the Championship – Peterborough’s win at Barnsley now means the gap is just one point.
It also saw Brighton go from top of the Championship to third after Paul Jewell’s gameplan stifled the usually free-flowing Seagulls.
Solid at the back, dangerous going forward, the Blues pushed the Seagulls all the way – deservedly taking the lead through the excellent Daryl Murphy.
Will Buckley equalised with 10 minutes remaining, but Ipswich deservedly held on to suggest brighter times might not be too far away.
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The hosts should have taken the lead within two minutes when a razor-sharp move, led by Ashley Barnes, saw Stephen Dobbie dummy the ball into the path of Kazenga LuaLua but he shot wide from a good position inside the area.
Town responded well and Emmanuel-Thomas hit a low shot across the wet surface that was well held by former Ipswich target Tomasz Kuszczak.
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Chances continued to be swapped with Dobbie shooting meekly at Loach before Town carved out the best chance on 13 minutes.
Carlos Edwards’ thought nothing of swinging in an early deep cross that caught Brighton napping and in stole Murphy to head across goal but wide of the far post.
Back came Brighton with Loach having to tip over the dangerous Andrea Orlandi’s inswinging free kick before Inigo Calderon’s effort was destined for the corner but Aaron Cresswell stuck out a leg to divert the danger.
The Seagulls were made to pay for their missed chances in the 27th minute following a carbon-copy of Murphy’s earlier missed chance.
Edwards gained a yard on the right-hand-side and his cross saw Murphy stoop low and direct the ball into the corner.
Restricting their ball-playing hosts to non-threatening possession, it was Ipswich who almost doubled their lead in the 33rd minute.
Emmanuel-Thomas’ strong – but fair – tackle on LuaLua saw referee Fred Graham wave play on and the former Arsenal man did just that, picking up Edwards pass to drill a first-time centre across goal with Chopra just failing to add the finishing touch.
In front of a vociferous home support, Jewell probably sent his side out telling them to keep it tight in the opening stages of the second half.
In fact, they cam agonisingly close to doubling their advantage when Chopra’s cross saw Murphy’s first-time shot brilliantly saved by the legs of Kuszczak as he dashed across goal.
Brighton, through Stephen Dobbie, had half-chances before equalising, somewhat out of nothing.
Calderon burst into the box, evaded Danny Higginbotham and his chip over Loach and across the goal was turned in by sub Will Buckley.
It was a vital 10 minutes for Town, and their manager, but they almost restored their winning margin when Jason Scotland, on for Chopra, turned and saw his low drive spilled by Kuszczak but Bridge got across to clear.
The final whistle blew, the run of winless games increased. But Town fans, both in and out of the Amex, can be very proud of their team’s showing.
Brighton: Kuszczak, Calderon, Greer, El Abd, Bridge, Hammond (Dicker 62), Bridcutt, Orlandi (Lopez 77), Barnes, LuaLua (Buckley 62), Dobbie. Subs – Ankergren, Dunk, Harley, Painter.
Ipswich: Loach, Edwards, Chambers, Higginbotham, Cresswell, N’Daw, Drury, Emmanuel-Thomas (Carson 84), Martin, Murphy, Chopra (Scotland 64). Subs – Lee-Barrett, Luongo, Ellington, Smith, Ainsley