Over run and no threat

OverviewOFTEN stretched at the back, over run in midfield and rarely a threat in attack, Ipswich Town can count themselves fortunate to collect a point.

Elvin King

Overview

OFTEN stretched at the back, over run in midfield and rarely a threat in attack, Ipswich Town can count themselves fortunate to collect a point.

Club owner Marcus Evans is abroad on holiday, but he had members of his staff watching a disjointed and lacklustre display.

In this roly-poly season the dropping of two home points should not be treated with too much despair as the Blues have blown hot and cold throughout. But on the overall evidence of the last two months or so, Mr Evans is not going to be overseeing a Premier League club from August.

Manager Jim Magilton's transfer window buys have made his team harder to beat. But more importantly they have not made them more likely to win.

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And when it is three points for a victory that makes most impact this is not a move forward.

There was not a lot of science against a well-organised, hard-working side that have not won at Portman Road for 33 years.

The Blades had resolute defenders, much more about them in midfield and more of a cutting edge up front, and if it hadn't have been for one piece of Alan Lee magic they would have recorded a double over the Blues.

On a cold, uninviting night, it was not a game that will be remembered with any fondness when it comes to analysing Magilton's second season in management. Mr Evans may be content at the moment, but he will expect more in the future.

Play-off latest

Dropping out of the top six is a blow, but not a disaster, although two teams have games in hand just below Town.

There are still enough games left to make a forward move, but 14 points from the last ten games is not promotion form.

Without any doubt, Ipswich are not currently playing well enough to go up - and this is in a league lacking real quality this term.

Magilton is right to seek a new player or two, while the player who acts as a barometer to his team's fortunes - Jon Walters - is starting to feel the pace of a tiring seven months.

Home run

After winning for fun on their own pitch in the first half of the campaign, Town's present run at Portman Road has seen them win two, draw three and lose two of their last seven home games.

After beating Blackpool in the previous encounter at Portman Road it was important for the Tractor Boys to maintain a new winning habit in front of their own supporters.

This only looked a possibility in the few hectic minutes that followed Lee's headed goal.

Player watch

Jason De Vos is playing as well as he has in an Ipswich Town shirt. He has proved a wonderful signing - much better than many that have followed.

Lee showed a welcome return to something like his best form and Dan Harding did a lot of good covering work. But there was not much else to cheer about.

Velice Sumulikoski started splendidly, but the hectic schedule since he arrived from Turkish football took its toll and for the first time he looked ordinary.

Good and bad

On the plus side the players were given a much better home pitch to perform on with a better covering of grass. And the Blues are still in the midst of the play-offs scene, even though they are now playing catch-up. But there was not a lot else to get excited about with a formation that struggled to work with two wide players but not a lot of width.

Shumi and Tommy Miller combined excellently in the last home game, but they were not given a chance to combine.

After fighting back to level the ingredients were there to stride on to win. But after a brief flurry, it was the Blades who finished the stronger.

Selection

Alan Quinn was fit enough to return to the bench against his former club, as the Blues made just one change from the side that drew 1-1 at Southampton on Saturday.

Danny Haynes came in on the right side of midfield at the expense of Miller, while David Norris moved inside to what looks like his more favoured central role.

Magilton again had the luxury of an experienced selection of substitutes with all the players who were carrying knocks coming through tests successfully.

FA Cup runs

Whereas Ipswich went out of the FA Cup at the earliest opportunity, the Blades had a fifth round replay with Middlesbrough to play last Wednesday.

This went to extra time, and there were going to be question marks about their ability to stay the distance in this game.

But these proved unfounded, as Sheffield's appetite exceeded Ipswich's right to the end.

Turning point

Lee's equaliser came rather out of the blue, and but for that one converted chance Ipswich could well have lost at home for the third time in two months.

Lessons learned

Town's home form has disintegrated since November when they were unstoppable on their own patch.

Many teams would still like Ipswich's home record, but after losing so much ground on their travels in the opening five months of the campaign they cannot afford to falter at Portman Road now.

There is still plenty to play for, but there has to be an improvement on what is currently being produced.

n Do you think Town will bounce back strongly after this dreary display? Write to Sports Desk, Evening Star, 30, Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail starsport@eveningstar.co.uk