Rochdale 0-0 Ipswich Town: Same old struggles for Town as Cook's men draw a blank at basement boys
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Ipswich Town once again lacked attacking threat throughout as they failed to find a way past League One’s bottom club.
In what has become the story of the Blues season, the visitors struggled in possession in the final third as they lacked creativity, ideas and confidence while failing to break down a side who have conceded a league-high 69 goals so far this season.
Town are fighting to make up ground and break back into the race for the third-tier play-offs but failed to back up their Good Friday victory over Bristol Rovers, with Alan Judge’s flashed effort from just outside the box as good as it got for Paul Cook’s men. They didn't register a shot on target and they couldn't find a spark in a game they needed to win.
Though Rochdale did have brief periods of pressure, Town never looked like conceding, but it’s the lack of threat at the other end which continues to trip them up.
Strikers Troy Parrott and Kayden Jackson struggled to link up and didn’t get the service they needed from wide areas and the centre of midfield, while manager Cook’s five substitutes couldn’t find a way through either.
The point leaves Town eighth in the League One table, with the gap to the final play-off place now extended to three with eight games remaining.
Town arrived at Spotland knowing they needed to back up their Good Friday victory over Bristol Rovers against a side sitting rock bottom of League One and with just won home victory in 18 attempts this season.
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Manager Paul Cook stuck with the wing-back system used against the Gas but was forced into one change in attack, as Parrott started in place of James Norwood, who missed out with a thigh problem suffered against Rovers.
The hosts were on the attack early as right winger Conor Shaugnessy flashed a ball across the box which evaded Jake Beesley on the edge of the six-yard area, as goalkeeper Tomas Holy opted to stay at home rather than come and claim.
The wind was Town’s friend as they mounted their early attacks, looking for Jackson in behind, with their first effort on goal seeing Alan Judge lean back and send a volley over the top of the bar, over the stand and into the road behind.
The Blues had started slowly but were soon on top, with much of their play coming down the right flank, exerting pressure on the Rochdale defence.
Cook’s calls for Stephen Ward to ‘get higher’ resulted in the veteran left-back nearly getting on the end of a stabbed Gwion Edwards cross at the back post, before Luke Woolfenden tried to turn an effort on goal as Andre Dozzell’s corner dropped loose in the Rochdale box.
Town were defending well but, as has been the case for much of this season, were struggling to create in the final third.
Jackson and Parrott showed some signs of linking up, but set pieces seemed Town’s best bet, with one breaking down just before half-time as Judge fired back with interest. Sadly, his effort flew inches wide.
Cook switched to a 4-4-2 to end the first half and started the second in the boss’s tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1, with Jackson ahead of Parrott, Edwards on the left and Judge down the right.
Judge won a free-kick, 25 yards from goal as the Blues mounted an attack, which Dozzell curled wide, before a slip from Toto Nsiala allowed Jake Beesley in behind at the other end. Thankfully the striker’s cross trickled harmlessly across the penalty area for Ward to clear.
Town penalty appeals came and went as Parrott bundled his way into the box before hitting the deck under pressure from Eoghan O’Connell, but referee Robert Lewis waved away appeals.
Cook turned to his bench, making a triple change as Oli Hawkins, Armando Dobra and Josh Harrop entered the contest, with the latter two playing a part in Town’s best chance of the afternoon.
Dobra drove 30 yards on the ball to the edge of the Rochdale box before laying it off for Kayden Jackson, whose pull-back so nearly dropped for Harrop before O’Connell stole the ball from his toe.
Aaron Drinan was the next off the bench, followed by Myles Kenlock, but neither pair of fresh legs were able to give Town the impact they craved as the game drifted to a goalless draw.
Rochdale: Daly, Osho, Roberts, O'Connell; Keohane, Shaughnessy, Grant Newby 65) , Rathbone, Baah (Dooley 65), Beesley, Done
Subs: Bazunu, McNulty, McShane, Morley, Vale
Ipswich Town: Holy, Woolfenden, Nsiala; Edwards (Dobra, 72), Ward; Dozzell, Bishop (Kenlock 84), Judge (Harrop, 72); Parrot (Hawkins, 72), Jackson (Drinan, 80)
Subs: Cornell, McGuinness