Lacklustre Town escape with draw

INCONSISTENT Ipswich produced another one of their lacklustre displays on Saturday in total contrast to the brilliant performance against Birmingham five days earlier.

By Derek Davis

INCONSISTENT Ipswich produced another one of their lacklustre displays on Saturday in total contrast to the brilliant performance against Birmingham five days earlier.

That they are in today's fourth round draw owes as much to Chester's poor finishing as to Town's good fortune.

Jim Magilton's poorly-performing side could so easily be among the list of giant-killing victims, although, as one long-suffering Town fan wryly observed, it is no longer much of a shock when they go out in the early stages of cup competitions to lower league opposition.

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Quite why Ipswich can be so insipid one week, and so promising the next, is hard to fathom.

If we accept the argument that the players try their best each game because they are fundamentally competitive, then being outplayed for long periods by League Two Chester is nothing to do with lack of attitude.

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What was clear to any of the short-changed 1,160 travelling Town fans, was that the desire, hunger passion and effort, did not match that on New Year's Day when they saw off a disinterested Birmingham side that lead the Championship and indeed themselves looked a different beast against Newcastle.

Perhaps Ipswich found Chester's tactics hard to deal with as they started off with three centre halves and the two wing-backs, Simon Marples and Laurence Wilson, bombing on. Or the terrier-like midfielders Jamie Hand and Sean Hessey, who closed down quickly, put in smart tackles and generally worked their socks off.

But Town will have been aware that Chester would raise their game for them and should have been ready to match them in desire and effort before using their supposed better quality to get on top.

The Blues struggled to contain 33-year-old Spaniard Roberto Martinez, whose claim to fame is to be the first Spanish player to have scored in the FA Cup. That was when he was with a lowly Wigan side in 1995 against Runcorn in the first round of the competition.

With Stephen Vaughan, son and namesake of the Chester chairman, going on loan to Rochdale during the week, after getting fed up with taunts from the club's own fans, Martinez took the skipper's armband.

Martinez is probably better known for being the pundit of the Spanish Football show on Sky and will hope a couple of clips from this game will be shown.

Like the one when he cut inside Richard Naylor rather too easily and was only denied another cup goal by the feet of Shane Supple.

The young Irish keeper was in for Lewis Price, who has a slight knock and made a couple of other good saves, not least from Gregg Blundell, but also looked unusually fragile at times.

He was almost embarrassed by Blundell - Darlington had made a £25,000 bid for him earlier in the week, but Chester rejected it - when a low shot squirmed under his body and almost crept in.

Blundell thought he had given Chester a shock lead after just 16 minutes after a neat one-two with Walters but was flagged offside as he beat Supple.

The City No. 9 has the dubious honour of holding the League Two record for most offsides but he might have made a more honourable name for himself midway through the first half when a ball off defender Richard Naylor put him clean through but with only the keeper to beat, the striker hit wide.

City were fortunate to have been in the third round after being reinstated following Bury's expulsion for fielding an ineligible player.

Bury had won a replay 3-1 but fielded Stephen Turnbull, who was on loan from Hartlepool, and did not have the correct documentation in place.

City were determined not to fall into the same trap and left out Lee Steele, who had been signed from Leyton Orient but they did not get confirmation that he was registered safely to play in the cup so decided not to chance it.

There were lucky let-offs for the Championship side, whose best early chances came when Sylvain Legwinski shot from 25-yards and defender Ashley Westwood almost turned a low Matt Richards cross into his own net but it was saved by keeper John Danby

Westwood denied Naylor a chance and Danby saved at the feet of Billy Clarke, while Alan Lee hit the crossbar from a Gavin Williams corner and Town substitute Danny Haynes hit a late shot at Danby after good work from Dan Harding but in the main it was Ipswich who were hanging on at the death.

If Lee's late effort had gone in it would have been a grave injustice for Chester who not only deserved the replay at Portman Road on Tuesday week but can consider themselves unlucky not to have gone through.

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