Ipswich Town 0-0 Gillingham: Stalemate at Portman Road as stuttering Blues’ search for home win goes on

First half action.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

First half action. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s wait for a home win in the league goes on after they failed to find a way past Gillingham in front of a bumper Boxing Day crowd.

Referee Craig Hicks in discussion with James Norwood.,
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwalle

Referee Craig Hicks in discussion with James Norwood., Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Paul Lambert's men last tasted league success on home soil all the way back on September 28, when Tranmere were beaten 4-1, making this draw the fifth-successive game in which the hosts failed to find a way to claim three points at Portman Road.

The hosts started poorly and, though things did improve as the game went on, visiting goalkeeper Jack Bonham was rarely tested as the contest ended in stalemate. Indeed, the men in Blue failed to register a single shot on target over the 90 minutes as another game slipped away.

The point does see Ipswich move back into the automatic promotion places due to Peterborough's heavy home loss to Doncaster, with Lambert's men now six behind leaders Wycombe with a game in hand heading into their meeting on New Year's Day.

Before then, though, the Blues are at Lincoln on Sunday.

Luke Woolfenden rises high to win the ball.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Luke Woolfenden rises high to win the ball. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Lambert made three changes to his side for his first home Boxing Day game as Town boss, with suspended skipper Luke Chambers dropping out of the side and being replaced by Janoi Donacien.

Alan Judge came in for Flynn Downes while Kayden Jackson was back up top alongside James Norwood, with Lambert keeping face with Toto Nsiala after the defender was substituted after just 37 minutes of last weekend's limp defeat at Portsmouth. Freddie Sears was named on the bench for the first time after undergoing surgery on a knee injury back in February.

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In the minutes before kick-off, the Cobbold Stand corner of the lower North Stand was decked out with flags and a banner reading 'we will fight for evermore' but it was the hosts who began the battle strongest on Boxing Day, with Brandan Hanlon forcing a good save from Will Norris inside the opening few minutes.

Ipswich were having joy down the left through the combination of Luke Garbutt and Judge, but it was the visitors who were creating chances with the wind at their backs.

Former Colchester striker Mikael Mandron had Norris worried when he swept a shot just wide from 40 yards, before Nsiala needed to get himself out of trouble with an excellent recovery tackle after his poor attempt at a back past had set Hanlon away.

The hosts were finding the going tough, with misplaced passes greeted by groans from the Portman Road faithful, while Gillingham stuck to their guns and maintained their pressing, physical approach.

The first Ipswich effort on goal saw Judge slip Jackson away, with the striker seeing his first shot blocked before striking the looping rebound into the side netting.

The home performance improved as the half went on and a golden opportunity came and went, with Jackson racing clear down the left and having Norwood in an acre of space in the middle. Sadly the two strikers were on different pages, with Jackson's ball ultimately flying behind his partner as the groans came out once again.

Kayden Jackson heads wide.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Kayden Jackson heads wide. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Jackson was in the thick of things again at the start of the second period, which the hosts began with renewed vigour and drive.

First Jackson headed wide as he met Gwion Edwards' cross, before having his shot deflected out for a corner by Barry Fuller he looked to put the ball into a dangerous area.

Nolan was the next to try his luck with two good efforts, the first being deflected up and just out of the reach of Jackson before his second was blocked by the face of defender Jack Tucker. The midfielder, who started slowly but improved after the break, was required at the other end with 15 minutes remaining as he got back into position superbly to block O'Connor's shot after the Gillingham man had found space on the edge of the area.

As the home fans continued to chant his name, Sears was called back and began to strip off but, before he was introduced the Blues needed Norris to pull off a flying save to deny Olly Lee before, Garbutt was called upon to block Max Ehmer's effort off the line.

Freddie Sears back on the subs bench for the match acknowledges fans ahead of the game.
Picture:

Freddie Sears back on the subs bench for the match acknowledges fans ahead of the game. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Sears received the big cheer of the afternoon as he made his way onto the pitch but he wasn't able to find the spark the Blues had been missing all afternoon as the game drifted towards a conclusion.

Ipswich Town: Norris; Donacien (Sears, 81), Woolfenden, Nsiala, Garbutt; Skuse, Nolan, Edwards, Judge; Norwood, Jackson

Subs: Holy, Wilson, Huws, Downes, Dozzell, Keane

Gillingham: Bonham; Fuller, Ehmer, Tucker, Ogilvie; O'Keefe, Jones, O'Connor, Lee; Hanlan, Mandron (Jakubiak, 85)

Gillingham team manager Steve Evans looking happy ahead of the game.
Picture: Steve Waller www.

Gillingham team manager Steve Evans looking happy ahead of the game. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Subs: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Pringle, Marshall, Jakubiak

Att: 22,082 (575 Gillingham fans)

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during the dame.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during the dame. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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