Hornets hold out to deny Town victory

Ipswich Town 0 Watford 0AT last Ipswich Town ended their losing run against Watford in warm sunshine in the Coca-Cola Championship at Portman Road this afternoon.

Elvin King

Ipswich Town 0 Watford 0

AT last Ipswich Town ended their losing run against Watford in warm sunshine in the Coca-Cola Championship at Portman Road this afternoon.

But breaking the hoodoo with a draw was surely not enough to keep alive the Blues slim play-off hopes.

It is now just one home league win in the last nine although Town peppered the Watford goal in the second half.

They should have scored with Loach making a couple of good saves and Town missing good chances. Richard Wright was called upon to make two excellent saves in another clean sheet for the Blues.

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Three Town players went off with injuries, Dos Santos early on then Miller and D Wright.

Town made two changes with Alan Quinn and Pablo Counago coming in for the injured Luciano Civelli and the dropped Kevin Lisbie.

Watford had won the previous seven meetings between these two clubs, and they were unchanged from the side that lost 2-1 at Cardiff on Wednesday.

Bartosz Bialkowski, who was signed on loan from Southampton in midweek took the place of Shane Supple on the Town bench, the latter having been loaned to Joe Royle's Oldham for the rest of the season.

Dos Santos was on the right of the Town midfield with Norris on the left. Stead and Counago were up front with McAuley going up field to hammer a 25-yard well wide in the eighth minute.

Watford looked dangerous going forward and D Wright stuck out a timely boot to deny Cowie when the midfielder was free in front of goal in the 14th minute.

With 75 ex-players attending last night's reunion dinner in the Sir Bobby Robson suite, many stayed on to watch this game with Ray Crawford leading the ceremony when Jimmy Leadbetter's ashes were spread on the pitch after the game.

Ipswich have just one Saturday home game left after today - the visit of Doncaster Rovers in three week.. The Norwich game at Portman Road and the final game of the league season against Coventry will both be played on a Sunday.

There is no game for a fortnight because of the international break - with Town at Sheffield United on April 4.

Haynes comes on the replace Dos Santos after 26 minutes, the Mexican jogging off after having a quiet time and walking straight to the dressing room.

Town appeal for handball in the 32nd minute when Haynes drove the ball in from the right, but the referee is well placed and not interested as Doyley puts up his arm but may not have made contact.

Quinn makes a good break down the left in the 35th minute, and finds Counago with his low cross, but the Spaniard is unable to control the ball and a good shooting chance is lost.

Norris then tries his luck with Town showing plenty of effort. He strikes the ball well, but it goes a foot wide of the far post.

R Wright keeps Town in the game with a magnificent save low to his right in the 40th minute. Campo fiddled and lost the ball leaving Smith with a free run on goal. The Town keeper came rushing out of goal to save with his right hand. Counago then almost put Norris clear as the game hotted up.

Norris ended the first half in the middle of midfield with Quinn on the left.

Dos Santos is reported to have a groin strain, and by coming off early he should have a chance of being fit for Town's next game.

Stead puts Norris into space in front of goal in the 48th minute. Loach makes a block from the shot with Williamson hooking the loose ball clear.

The hobbling DeMerit is then replaced by Hoyte, who goes right back with Mariappa taking over in the middle of the Watford defence.

Smith pulls the ball back as Watford threaten in the 57th minute, but the ball goes to a grateful Garvan. Campo then makes a hash of a pass and Town fans show their dismay.

Balkestein comes on for D Wright with McAuley going to right back.

In the 63rd minute R Wright stretched his fingertips to push away a goal-bound shot from Smith. It was a great save, and Town go up the other end with Haynes ending a great run with a low shot that missed the far post by a whisker.

Within a minute, Norris found more space in the box and his powerful drive hit the keeper.

Cowie shot two inches over the top corner in the 71st minute with Watford working hard and striving for a goal.

Counago and Haynes link in the 74th minute, with the former doing well to pull the ball from the by-line, but Stead mis-kicks. Then Stead sets up Counago for a chance in front of goal, but again the shot is weak with Town unable to test Loach from good positions.

Counago sets up Quinn and the Town midfielder thinks he has scored. Loach dives to his right to make a superb 77th minute save and from the corner McAuley's header is comfortably held by Loach.

Counago then sets up Stead, and the shot hits the keeper and rebounds to Stead who is on the floor and unable to convert.

Loach then holds on to a low 20-yard screamer from Stead with Town doing everything but score. Stead had a late effort in the four minutes of stoppage time roll to the keeper with home players hanging their heads at the end with the play-offs now surely out of reach once and for all.


Ipswich Town: R Wright; D Wright (sub Balkestein 58 mins), McAuley, Campo, Thatcher; Dos Santos (Haynes 26), Miller (Garvan 54), Quinn, Norris; Counago, Stead. Substitutes: Bialkowski, Lisbie..

Watford: Loach; Miriappa, DeMerit (Hoyte 49), Williamson, Doyley; Cowie (Hoskins 83), Cork, Jenkins, McAnuff; Smith, Priskin. Substitutes: Lee, Cauna, Young.

Referee: Mr C Webster (Tyne and Wear)

Attendance: 21,434.