Premier blunders prove costly for Town

ONCE again Ipswich won't be enjoying a decent cup run and, once again, they can point to the referee for the reason they are out.

Derek Davis

ONCE again Ipswich won't be enjoying a decent cup run and, once again, they can point to the referee for the reason they are out.

Not only did the sending off for a stunned Liam Trotter ruin what was shaping up to be a decent contest, it still turned out a good match thanks in large to Town's spirited approach, but the goal that edged Portsmouth through should have been ruled out for offside.

Of course, if you have a go at the referee, in this case Mark Halsey, then you are accused of sour grapes, but it seems even the most impartial of spectator, either at the ground or seeing subsequent television replays, are convinced that Trotter did not deserve a red card.

While many didn't quibble at the time, it also transpires that Halsey's assistant failed to see Nugent curl back from an offside position to race on to Sol Campbell's second attempt at a long punt forward.

Fabian Wilnis had stopped and Nugent was able to get past a struggling Alex Bruce before finishing neatly with a low shot past Neil Alexander.

Most Read

It was Nugent's seventh goal in six games against Ipswich and he also hooked a shot against the crossbar. This came in a week where there was talk of Town asking about the chances of getting him on loan.

Quality finishers are always welcome but, even though Town didn't get a deserved equaliser, it was not for the lack of trying.

England keeper, albeit fourth choice as the crowd reminded him, David James pulled off three top class saves to ensure it is Portsmouth's name in the hat today.

The first and third were from low shots by Danny Haynes, the last, in time added on, was of particularly good quality given he didn't see it until late and Haynes had directed it powerfully towards the bottom corner.

In between, he parried a powerful Alan Lee header and Ipswich manfully pushed to maintain their unbeaten home record.

Billy Clarke also came close to turning in a back-heel from Counago but Glenn Johnson did very well to clear off the line and over the bar.

Town can still lay claim to 17-in-a- row in the Championship and, after the sort of displays they put up against Premier League Pompey and table-topping West Brom, can seriously believe they can remain unbeaten in this division.

Why not?

Even without skipper Jason De Vos, who was recovering from bruised ribs, Town were solid enough at the back, leaving Neil Alexander little to do but what he had to do he did well enough.

The midfield never really looked outnumbered, although Portsmouth seemed more dangerous before the sending off.

The tackle on Pedro Mendes was a little late but was not two-footed or malicious and the referee was probably not helped by the Portuguese midfielder's antics, or the advice coming through his ear-piece.

Mendes recovered sufficiently to pull the strings effectively deep in midfield before being taken off at half-time.

Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, sympathetic to Trotter and Town, insisted he made the change and put Nugent on because Mendes was suffering a sore foot and not because the Ipswich crowd had implored him to take him off.

The change meant Pompey went 4-4-2 in the second half but Kanu was hardly a threat while Nikos Kranjcar, who had looked quality in the first half, went off the boil.

The rest of the Pompey side seemed to stroll through, while Ipswich harried and carried and Campbell certainly knew that Pablo Counago was there.

Any thoughts that the FA Cup doesn't matter to this foreigner were swiftly dispelled as he chased every ball, battled when he could and was so wound up by Halsey and his assistants' incompetence he ended up getting booked for dissent.

His frustration was understandable, especially when he forced James into a mistake when Halsey had waved play on when his assistant had waved for offside, only to change his mind when it looked as if Counago might win the challenge.

That was typical of the day when nothing went Town's way but they will put this disappointment to the back of their minds as they meet the challenge of trying to achieve promotion.

First they have Stoke City to deal with and then they can look at cracking that away conundrum but, if they show the sort of character and desire displayed against a Portsmouth side pushing for Europe and now with nine wins out 10 on the road, then they should be fine.

Reinforcements should arrive this month and, if they can avoid getting Premier League officials at their matches, then Town could remain serious play-off contenders.