Gerken repels second half Town onslaught

IPSWICH Town came good after the interval in the Championship at Portman Road this afternoon. But they had to settle for a point - their 17th of the season.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town came good after the interval in the Championship at Portman Road this afternoon. But they had to settle for a point - their 17th of the season.

The draw saw Town move up the table by one place and extend an unbeaten home run to 11 games having lost just three of their last 24 league games.

It was dull opening period, but the second half was much better with Town getting up a full head of steam on a number of occasions.

Chris Iwelumo should have put Bristol City ahead just before the interval but headed against the underside of the bar.

It was all Town after the break with Dean Gerken earning his corn with a succession of good saves. This along with some poor finishing denied Town what would have been a timely win.

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Town made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Scunthorpe at Glanford Park on Tuesday. David Wright, who had a scan on a damaged shoulder on Wednesday and has been suffering from lingering ankle problems, was left out while 19-year-old Shane O'Connor dropped to the bench.

In came Liam Rosenior after missing two games having gone down with a virus last weekend and David Healy, who notched his first Town at Scunthorpe.

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Brian Murphy was making his home Town debut and like Gareth McAuley and Healy (both Northern Ireland) will be off on international duty next week.

Former Town winger Danny Haynes was in the City line-up, and the visitors made one change from the side that beat West Brom on Sunday - Paul Hartley coming in for Marvin Elliott.

Haynes was given a warm reception by Blues fans prior to the kick-off.

On the Bristol bench was another former Town player in Welsh international midfielder Gavin Williams.

Ipswich were playing their first game at home since February 6 having accrued seven welcome points in their following four away matches.

Despite the recent rains and wintry weather the pitch was in excellent condition - a feather in the cap of head groundsman Alan Ferguson and his team.

Colback was at left back, and given the possibly difficult task and marking Haynes. Set up well by Edwards, Healy had a sight of goal in the eighth minute. His angled shot certainly didn't lack power with Gerken beating the ball away.

In the next minute a superb Leadbitter pass released Norris and his low cross was touched by Carey and just evaded D Murphy and Walters as it went across the six-yard box.

Ipswich conceded their first free-kick in the 21st minute when Healy got on the end of one of B Murphy's huge kicks forward, but was judged to have fouled Carey in front of goal.

Four minutes later Healy put D Murphy racing clear from inside his own half. He was caught and lost possession as the ball rolled slowly to Gerken. Soon after Haynes tried a shot in a game that was being played mainly in midfield, and his effort received ironic cheers as the ball went for a throw-in.

Ipswich were carrying no punch and looking disorganised often appearing to run out of ideas in a match that so far had certainly been no classic.

In the 37th minute the game livened somewhat when Gerken came rushing out to deny Healy and was close to handling the ball as his momentum took him out side the area. The keeper was given the benefit of the doubt, which was just about right.

A minute later, Leadbitter's 20 yard effort following a Town free-kick was parried by Gerken with D Murphy's follow-up effort only half hit.

Iwelumo missed a sitter for the visitors in the 43rd minute when the home defence was all at sea and the number 37 was alone in front of goal after a cross by Skuse. Former Ipswich resident Iwelumo, when playing for Colchester, could only head against the underside of the bar from six yards.

It was a bright sunny if chilly day with the home club hoping for a good result in the final match before season ticket application forms are posted. The club has decided to freeze prices across the board for the next campaign.

In the 49th minute Orr made a hash of a clearance presenting the ball to Walters. The Town skipper - six yards out at an angle - had only Gerken to beat but shot against him with D Murphy waiting square for a potential tap-in.

Attacking the Sir Bobby Robson Stand goal, Ipswich got within a whisker of taking the lead in the 55th minute. Leadbitter's astute pass put Colback into the clear. The left back got toe to the ball and it beat Gerken but rolledack across goal after striking the foot of the post.

Rosenior's cross then just escaped Edwards close to goal and from Colback's cross; Norris saw his glanced header saved by a diving Gerken.

In the 59th minute Clarkson had space to try his luck from 20 yards, and B Murphy pulled off a splendid save stretching to his right to beat the ball away.

A minute later with the tempo now much higher D Murphy drove a path through the middle and saw his shot blocked by Gerken. Healy pounced on the rebound but his effort went wide.

Bristol had not won at Portman Road since September 1978, which is their only victory on Suffolk soil. They needed Gerken to keep them in the game in the 70th minute when McAuley's point-blank header from Edwards' accurate cross was somehow pushed aside by the keeper.

Gerken then flung himself full length to keep out 25 yard Walters effort.

Counago almost engineered a goal for Wickham in the 76th minute with Gerken getting a block on a close range shot and the ball spinning towards the line before the keeper dived to collect it.

Try as they might, Town didn't look as though they would ever score - with McAuley heading over when unmarked in front of goal in the 82nd minute.

As the game entered stoppage time, a Wickham long throw went into the net to start goal celebrations. But the 'goal' was disallowed as the ball had not touched anyone before entering the net.

Teams

Ipswich Town: B Murphy; Rosenior , McAuley, Delaney, Colback; C Edwards (sub Garvan 81 mins), Leadbitter, Norris, Walters; D Murphy (Wickham 68), Healy (Counago 68). Walters. Substitutes: Lee-Barrett, Balkestein, Peters, O'Connor.

Bristol City: Gerken; Orr, Carey, Nyatanga, Fontaine; Johnson, (William 61, Hartley (Campbell-Ryce 65), Skuse; Haynes (Sproule 73), Iwelumo, Clarkson. Substitutes: Collis, Maynard, Wilson, J Edwards.

Referee: Mr N Miller (County Durham)

Attendance: 20,302.