Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough share the points at Portman Road
GRANT Leadbitter scored a cracking 74th minute equaliser – a quarter of an hour after missing a penalty – as Ipswich drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough.
The midfielder scored his fourth goal in as many games to rescue a point for the Blues after Lucas Jutkiewicz had slid home the opener on 63 minutes.
Leadbitter had earlier seen his second half spot-kick saved by Jason Steele before his 20-yard low drive found the bottom corner and lifted the home crowd.
But Town could not cap an exciting end with a winner as they were forced to settle for a draw in the rearranged match, following last month’s postponement,
IT was honours even at Portman Road as Ipswich and Middlesbrough played out a cagey, uninspiring goalless first half.
Chances were at a premium with Ipswich shading the best of the openings but neither side doing enough to warrant going in at the interval with the lead.
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With Boro skipper Matthew Bates off injured, eventually being withdrawn after 17 minutes, Grant Leadbitter’s long range shot was tipped over by Jason Steele before Tommy Smith was unable to direct the subsequent corner goalwards.
A moment of individual brilliance from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas saw him drift past three away defenders before eventually being stopped in the area while at the other end, Boro had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty turned away when Leadbitter appeared to catch Barry Robson.
Middlesbrough didn’t have a shot on target until the 31st minute but Alex McCarthy pulled off a diving save from Tony McMahon’s free kick as the clock ticked down on a disappointing half.
Middlesbrough had a golden chance to take an early lead after the restart when Marvin Emnes burst past Carlos Edwards and his low cross was met by Adam Hamill.
McCarthy did well to save the original shot before Jutkiewicz fired the rebound wide from close range.
It was a bit let-off and Ipswich almost made them pay just before the hour mark when Emmanuel-Thomas was tripped by Julio Arca but Leadbitter’s penalty was saved by Steele.
And it proved to be a costly miss just minutes later when Jutkiewicz ended a frantic passage of play with the breakthrough.
McCarthy did well to push Justin Hoyte’s driven cross away before the keeper and Tommy Smith blocked Barry Robson’s drive. But the ball eventually fell back to Hoyte who headed across for Jutkiewicz to slide in and score.
But Ipswich hit back and good work by Michael Chopra ended with Leadbitter finding the bottom corner from 25 yards.
With Portman Road lifted, Ipswich looked for the winner and only some desperate defending from Middlesbrough prevented good work by sub Jason Scotland and then Lee Martin from creating a goalscoring chance.
But Town were unable to find the breakthrough and though the game livened up in the last half an hour, a largely disappointing match ended level.
Andy Drury is the unlucky man to miss out from the Ipswich Town starting line-up while Luke Hyam has been dropped for the bench for the visit of Middlesbrough tonight.
Grant Leadbitter is back in midfield alongside Lee Bowyer with the Blues boss making just one change from the side that lost 2-1 to Watford on Saturday.
Jason Scotland returns on the bench with Drury and Ryan Stevenson the midfield options and Hyam and Josh Carson missing out altogether.
For Middlesbrough, Barry Robson returns while Julio Arca is also recalled with Marvin Emnes the only recognised striker in what is expected to be a 4-5-1 formation.
Forwards Bart Ogbeche and Lukas Jutkiewicz have both been dropped to the five-man bench, which doesn’t include a reserve goalkeeper.
Ipswich: McCarthy, Edwards, Smith, Delaney, Cresswell, Bowyer, Leadbitter, Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin, Murphy, Chopra. Subs - Lee-Barrett, Scotland. Stevenson, Drury, Sonko.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bates, Hines, Bennett, Hammill, Bailey, Robson. Smallwood, Arca, Emnes. Subs - Zemmama, Thomson, Ogbeche, McMahon, Jutkiewicz.