Murphy excels as Town lose to PSV

IPSWICH TOWN: Five members on manager Roy Keane’s available list were given a chance to help safeguard their Ipswich Town futures in Saturday night’s pre-season friendly at top Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

And none really caught the eye as the Blues got back into the game after looking for the opening 35 minutes or so as if they were going to be on the receiving end of a thrashing.

By the final whistle it proved to be a worthwhile exercise for the Championship side with youngsters Luke Hyam, Troy Brown and Jack Ainsley doing their prospects no harm after coming on as second-half substitutes.

But for Jon Stead and Owen Garvan, who were substituted at the interval, Alex Bruce, who stuck to his task for 90 minutes, and second-half substitutes Lee Martin and Pablo Counago it was a night when they were unable to stamp any authority on to the game.

Keane’s men will have gained fitness-wise from the game and keeper Brian Murphy excelled in goal while Gareth McAuley was a pivotal figure at the heart of the defence.

Several hundred Town fans made the trip to Holland to be seated high in one quarter of the impressive Philips Stadion.

And for most of the opening half they looked down in dismay as PSV, who finished third in the Dutch top division last season, ran rings round the visitors.

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The difference in class was there for all to see with the assortment of foreigners that made up the home side knowing far too much for the visitors.

It could easily have been 4-0 to PSV by the time Ipswich started to see more of the ball as the half-time whistle approached.

Keane used a 4-4-3 formation to start, but full backs Jaime Peters and Shane O’Connor were often taken to the cleaners and a succession of balls were crossed into the box.

This is surely an area that Keane will look to strengthen while having Stead and Tamas Priskin operating wide either side of Connor Wickham did nothing to provide any goal threat.

When Town did get the ball there was no width and little pace down the flanks, and PSV were able to saunter through the early part of the game.

As both teams made changes the nature of the game altered with PSV less of a threat once they had taken off some of their star men.

Hyam, who was in danger of receiving a red card for one tackle that arrived half a second too late, was impressive sitting in front of the back four while Ainsley did okay at left back. Troy Brown was sound at right back when he arrived to provide the three main plusses on the night for the Blues.

Skipper Jon Walters stayed back in England with a virus with David Norris taking over the captain’s armband.

Town went a goal behind in the seventh minute when Danny Koevermans scored with a simple close-range finish with the visiting side’s marking all over the place following a cross from the right by Nordin Amrabat.

It was a bad goal to concede with the cross coming in too easily and no defender anywhere near the scorer on the edge of the six-yard box.

Three minutes earlier Koevermans was denied with a close-range header that was saved by Murphy – this time after a cross from the left by Balazs Dzsudzsak.

In the 18th minute McAuley nearly conceded an early goal when Dzsudzsak crossed from the right and Amrabat was unable to get a touch from in front of goal. The ball carried on and struck McAuley before rolling a foot wide of the near post.

Ola Toivonen should have made it two in the 22nd minute when he failed to get any purchase on a free header in front of goal after Wilfred Bouma got free down the left.

Murphy needed to be at his best when Toivonen created space for himself and let fly from 20 yards – the keeper tipping over a vicious shot.

It could easily have been four goals to PSV at this stage in a city dominated by the giant Philips Electrical company on a barmy evening. Norris was booked for a foul as the pressure began to show in Town’s play.

In the 42nd minute with Ipswich now seeing a bit more of the ball without getting close to the home goal Norris put Garvan on a run, but he was unable to run clear and Stanislav Manolev came across to clear.

Ipswich improved vastly after the break but failed to seriously trouble the home keeper although Toivonen should have added a second goal in the 68th minute when clean through before being thwarted by a good save by Murphy.