FULL-TIME: Town shine but have to settle for a point against Birmingham City
IPSWICH Town produced one of their best performances of the season – but it was not enough to take all three points against play-off chasing Birmingham City.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas grabbed a deserved equaliser midway through the second half after Town had gone in at half-time a Chris Burke goal behind with City’s only chance of the first 45 minutes.
But despite a performance full of hunger and passion, the home side could not grab the all-important winner after creating a host of good chances.
Town were somehow a goal behind at the break after Burke curled a 20-yard shot past Arran Lee-Barrett in stoppage time following a 45 minutes that Town dominated.
As play-off chasing City offered little, the best chances all fell to Ipswich.
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Michael Chopra will be relieved that his weak header, which went wide of the far post, would have been ruled out by a linesman’s flag before his striker partner, Jason Scotland, muscled his way onto Lee Martin’s through ball but shot straight at the legs of Colin Doyle.
In the 41st minute, the home side went close again when Aaron Cresswell’s 20-yard free kick rocketed straight at Doyle with Martin and Chopra unable to latch onto the rebound.
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But after enjoying the majority of the possession, and with several stand-out performers, it was the Blues of Ipswich who went in behind after Burke’s late strike following former Town loanee Andros Townsend’s pass inside.
After Marlon King caught the Blues cold straight after the restart, but could only fire at Lee-Barrett, the home side began to dominate again.
Chopra could only head Cresswell’s driven cross over the bar, in truth the ball coming too quickly for Town’s top scorer, before Martin and Murphy both went close.
Jewell opted for a fairly early change with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas coming on for Scotland in the 64th minute and the former Arsenal man instantly looked in the mood.
All that was missing was a goal and JET couldn’t have gone any closer midway through the half when his personal battle with the Portman Road woodwork continued.
Drury laid a 25-yard free kick off to him and Emmanuel-Thomas smacked a left shot against the top of the crossbar in front of the baying Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
Town were putting Birmingham under intense pressure but a counter-attack was always a danger.
And so it proved in the 72nd minute when Townsend broke clear following a home corner before laying the ball off to King.
The City striker thought nothing of drilling a first-time shot towards the far post but Lee-Barrett was equal to it, a save made all the more impressive given the increasingly poor conditions.
But the home side were still well on top and Birmingham finally cracked in the 74th minute.
Emmanuel-Thomas took the ball down the right hand side, went on the outside of left-back Murphy and then sent a low cross-cum-shot that went in off the far post.
There might have been a degree of luck about the goal but it was deserved both for side and player – following his frequent close calls at goal.
Birmingham, who could have booked their place in the play-offs if results went their way, fought back and Lee-Barrett allowed King’s shot to squirm out of his hands.
Zigic was alert enough to turn the rebound away from Lee-Barrett but he was denied another goal against Ipswich by Cresswell who cleared off the line – not for the first time this season.
There was still time for one last piece of drama when Murphy got his head to Martin’s fizzing cross but could only divert it away from goal – from his position just yards from the target.
Paul Jewell has restored Michael Chopra to the starting line-up in place of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas for tonight’s home match against play-off chasing Birmingham City.
Town are expected to start with a 4-4-2 formation – the same as their opponents – with Chopra partnering Jason Scotland.
The make-up of the Ipswich bench is equally intriguing with Luke Hyam returning to the 16 and Cody Cropper missing out.
Birmingham make two enforced changes from the side that drew 2-2 at home to Bristol City on Saturday.
Central midfielders Jordan Mutch and Keith Fahey are injured with Morgaro Gomis and Wade Elliott coming in for City, who will book their spot in the play-offs if results go their way tonight.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Lee-Barrett; Edwards, Smith, Delaney, Cresswell; Martin, Drury, Leadbitter, Murphy; Chopra, Scotland. Subs: Bowyer, Emmanuel-Thomas, Stevenson, Hyam, Sonko
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Doyle; Ramage, Caldwell, Davies, Murphy; Burke, Gomis, Elliott, Townsend; Zigic, King. Subs: Ibanez, Huseklepp, Rooney, Redmond, Butland