Gallery: Town can’t recover from first-half Hornet sting
A SECOND-half surge from Ipswich Town failed to rescue a point as Roy Keane’s men nosedived out of the top six at Watford last night.
Powder-puff with their finishing early on, Town were left to rue their missed chances as two goals in a three-minute spell at the end of the first half left them with a mountain to climb.
Midfielder Stephen McGinn and striker Marvin Sordell showed them how to finish, but the Hornets were hanging on grimly at the end as Town mounted a second-half rally.
David Norris halved the deficit in the 69th minute, with a long-range header after a mistake
by keeper Scott Loach, but a late equaliser proved beyond the visitors.
McGinn broke the deadlock in the 41st minute. Centre-half Martin Taylor headed on Lloyd
Doyley’s long throw and an unmarked McGinn turned to lash home a volley from 10 yards out.
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The goal stunned Town, who up to that point had been the better team, and they were further rocked by a quickfire second to leave them shell-shocked at the interval.
Left-back Andrew Taylor had enough time and space to deliver a pinpoint cross for Sordell to head powerfully home.
It was all change in the second period, and Norris’ fifth goal of the season gave them hope, But that was all it was, as Town faced up to their second 2-1 defeat in four days.
Keane made no fewer than six changes from Saturday’s dismal 2-1 home defeat to Coventry. He also tinkered with his formation, from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2.
Keeper Marton Fulop was out with a back injury, so in came Brian Murphy for his first league appearance of the season, after three outings in the Carling Cup.
Jack Colback made his welcome return in a Town shirt, following his loan move from Sunderland last Friday, while Damien Delaney and Troy Brown came into the defence, David Norris was recalled to midfield, and Tamas Priskin joined Jason Scotland up front.
Town had a chance after just four minutes, with Scotland sensing an early opportunity to chalk up his fifth goal of the season.
Priskin headed on Jake Livermore’s cross to the far post, where Scotland screwed his shot horribly over the top from eight yards out.
Watford old boy Priskin, attracting a few predictable boos from the Vicarage Road faithful, was homing in on goal in the seventh minute.
But the Hungarian dragged his shot wide of the far post from a narrow angle.
Both Priskin and Scotland then had further chances in quick succession.
First Priskin, put in the clear by Delaney’s big punt upfield, lost control at the vital moment with defender Andrew Taylor gratefully mopping up.
It was Scotland’s turn to run at Watford’s defence in the 11th minute, as Town maintained their bright start, and the ex-Wigan hot shot was not far adrift with his fiercely-struck 20-yarder that whistled a foot wide.
Murphy was not forced into a save until the 19th minute, with the Hornets having resembled the away team, such was their lack of possession in dangerous areas.
The Irishman dived forwards to smother Danny Graham’s cross/cum-shot from the right edge of the box.
Town gradually began to be pegged back, with Watford warming to their task, yet the lively Priskin was only a whisker away from intercepting Martin Taylor’s poor back pass on the half-hour mark.
Keeper Scott Loach rushed out of his penalty area to hack clear.
At the other end, danger-man Danny Graham sent a header looping wide of target, from Michael
It was a warning of things to come.
The two goals from McGinn and Sordell, in a three-minute spell just before half-time, no doubt ensured another blast from manager Keane in the dressing room during the interval.
Keane resisted the temptation to make any changes for the start of the second half, but his side were hanging on at times as Watford sensed that a killer third was there for the taking.
McAuley stooped to head Andrew Taylor’s cross away for a corner in the 50th minute, and Murphy managed to get his fist to Bryan’s inswinging cross on the edge of six-yard box, otherwise either one of Graham or Sordell would have nodded home from point blank range.
The anticipated changes arrived in the 57th minute. Connor Wickham replaced Priskin, much to the amusement of the home supporters, while teenager Ronan Murray came on for Livermore for his third league appearance.
But it was the introduction of Edwards, as a 68th minute replacement for Brown, which had an immediate effect.
Just seconds later and Edwards’ chip forward caused keeper Loach to flap, and so allow skipper Norris to head into a gaping net to halve the deficit.
Town had their tails up, and substitute Murray tried his luck from long range with a powerful drive that flew over the top.
Watford were content to sit back during the final quarter of the game, inviting pressure from the visitors.
Damien Delaney curled a shot wide from distance, Wickham crashed a shot over the bar from an acute angle, and Murray then had a goal disallowed for offside.
The flag had already been raised before Murray swept home from Scotland’s flick-on at a free-kick.
Town continued to pour forward in numbers during the closing minutes, including three minutes of stoppage time, urged on by their fans behind the Watford goal.
But in the end, it was a case of so near and yet so far for Keane’s men.
They must now pick themselves up for another tricky trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday