Match report: Ipswich Town 0 Charlton Athletic 0 – Another bore draw for Blues

Tommy Smith and Jordan Cousins battle for a high ball during the first half of the Ipswich Town v Ch

Tommy Smith and Jordan Cousins battle for a high ball during the first half of the Ipswich Town v Charlton Athletic (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 05 April 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s hopes of securing a Championship play-off place for a second successive season look all but over following a goalless bore draw with Charlton Athletic at Portman Road tonight.

The Blues huffed and puffed in attack throughout and even the introduction of second half substitutes David McGoldrick and Teddy Bishop failed to add spark on an evening full of nerves and edginess on and off the field.

Relegation-threatened Charlton were a threat throughout with their pace on the counter-attack and always looked the more likely to score. Former Bury Town keeper Nick Pope, who was once on Town’s books and grew up a Blues fan, had a very assured evening but Ipswich didn’t test him anywhere near enough.

The entertainment value in Suffolk has been sub-standard for most of the season and Mick McCarthy’s men have now produced three dire home displays in a row to leave many fans questioning whether to renew their season tickets for next season.

Town have failed to score in four of their last five matches, have played out back-to-back nil-nil draws and are now seven points adrift of sixth-placed Derby heading into their final six matches.

McCarthy named an unchanged side following his team’s goalless draw at Wolves. After a scrappy start to the match, Town enjoyed a positive spell.

Freddie Sears sent an angled shot just wide of the post, Cole Skuse provided a couple of rare driving runs and forward passes, while Liam Feeney twice produced dangerous whipped crosses into the area from the right. The home fans, clearly desperate to get behind their team, responded.

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It was, however, a false dawn and the Blues soon regressed into their shell.

The moment when the atmosphere turned edgy was in the 12th minute. Callum Harriott’s hopeful hook over the top shouldn’t have caused as many problems as is did, but keeper Bartosz Bialkowski was hesitant in racing off his line and almost collided with Christophe Berra just outside the area.

For a split second it looked as though the loose ball would be rolled into an empty net by Yaya Sanogo, but Berra just about got his keeper out of jail and then turned to give him a piece of his mind.

Charlton soon realised that they could cause problems on the counter-attack with their pace. Ipswich’s players began to play with more and more fear.

In the 21st minute a simple diagonal ball into the Town box wasn’t dealt with, Harriott’s angled shot was unconvincingly saved by the kegs of Bialkowski at the near post then Jonathan Douglas made the bizarre decision to try and dribble his way out of trouble. The Blues midfielder was duly robbed of possession and it required two superb last-ditch blocks, first by Luke Chambers and then by Cole Skuse, to spare his blushes. Town fans voiced their displeasure.

While the groans were still emanating from all four stands, Town almost went in front themselves with a chance out of nowhere. Ben Pringle worked himself half a yard of room on the edge of the box and hit a curling effort that was clawed out of the top corner by Pope.

Pitman and Pringle combined well not long afterwards, but Sears chose to cut inside and shoot, the effort comfortably saved, when he might have pulled the ball back.

There was yet more nervy defending from the hosts in the 35th minute after some more crisp play Charlton in the final third. Harriott’s through ball was inch-perfect, Jordan Cousins almost found Sanogo and, after Chambers’ powderpuff clearing header, Lookman lashed a shot just wide.

Ipswich continued to lack fluidity or purpose in attack as Sears was crowded out at the end of patient passing build-up, while Pitman dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Charlton looked like they had far more of an attacking edge and it required a fine Bialkowski save to prevent Jorge Teixeira’s near post header, from a corner, finding the top corner in first half stoppage-time.

Luke Varney replaced Pringle at the break and there was a bizarre moment not long after the restart. Town won a free-kick in a golden position 25-yards out and, of all people, it was right-back Chambers who attempted to curl the dead ball into the top corner in the style of David Beckham. The Blues skipper slipped as he struck the ball straight into the wall. It rather summed up the increasingly desperate nature of their play.

Sanogo headed a Lookman corner just wide of the near post for Charlton, while at the other end Douglas nodded a chipped Skuse cross over from six-yards out when Pitman was perhaps better placed just behind him.

There were a couple more Town half-chances just before the hour mark. Sears burst inside the box from the left with an explosive turn of pace, but his shot was well-blocked by Teixeira. When the ball was half-cleared from the resultant corner, Douglas lifted a tame shot well over the bar.

Douglas was certainly on the receiving end of the fans’ ire, but it was his cushioned pass which set up Pitman when a low, long-range shot tested Pope.

Charlton provided a reminder of their counter-attacking threat in the 60th minute when Harriott twisted his way past Christophe Berra and lashed a shot just over the angle of the near post and crossbar.

Town fans needed something to get behind and they were given it when David McGoldrick replaced Feeney in the 64th minute. The change failed to spark McCarthy’s men going forwards though and it was Charlton next to threaten when Harriott fired an angled shot just wide of the near post.

The game began to drift before it required a fine double save from Bialkowksi to keep the Blues level in the 80th minute. First the Polish custodian got down well to beat away Lookman’s snap-shot, then he got up quickly to push away Sanogo’s follow-up effort.

The introduction of teenage midfielder Teddy Bishop for his long-awaited first appearance of the season briefly lifted the mood, but Charlton continued to look the marginally more likely to score as the minutes slowly ticked.

There was a heart in mouth moment in the 88th minute when Lookman’s superb corner caused havoc. Varney couldn’t quite adjust his feet in the box, for a split second it looked like he may score an own goal, but the ball was scrambled behind.

Even the boos at the end were half-hearted.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse, Douglas; Feeney (McGoldrick 64), Pringle (Varney 46), Sears; Pitman (Bishop 82).

Unused subs: Gerken, Foley, Hyam, Bru.

Booked: Knudsen (16)

CHARLTON ATH (4-4-1-1): Pope; Solly (cpt), Fanni, Teixeira, Fox; Diarra, Cousins, Gudmundsson (Motta 19, Makienok 86); Lookman, Harriott (Vetokele 74), Sanogo.

Unused subs: Henderson, Suk-Young, Lennon, Jackson.

Booked: Teixeira (46), Cousins (84)

Attendance: 17,787 (552 away)

Referee: Oliver Langford

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