McGreal stretchered off in comeback game

I DON'T know how many ladders he has walked under, or mirrors John McGreal has broken but the Devil's own bad luck has struck him a cruel blow yet again.

I DON'T know how many ladders he has walked under, or mirrors John McGreal has broken but the Devil's own bad luck has struck him a cruel blow yet again, writes Derek Davis.

Just 35 minutes in, his comeback game for Ipswich reserves against West Ham, ended in agony as he was stretchered off with a seriously damaged right knee.

The same knee which needed an operation in December twisted following a challenge by Daryl McMahon and Ayo Akinsete, and left him with a damaged medial ligament and an initial prognosis of a six-week lay-off, meaning he will miss the rest of the season and the play-offs if reached.

McGreal will not be seen by a specialist until next week following an X-ray once the initial swelling has gone down.

The 30-year-old had showed his assuredness of touch and solid defensive work which has made him such a Portman Road favourite and so important to Joe Royle's plans.

The young Town side had a touch more quality and movement for a big strong Hammers side watched by Glenn Roeder and Paul Goddard, but a lapse of concentration five minutes into time added on at the end cost them three points.

Most Read

Dean Bowditch's goal was pure class and worthy to be a winner. He took a pass from the impressive Antonio Murray, glanced up and curled an angled shot over England Under-21 keeper Stephen Bywater from 25 yards.

But the inexperience showed as they conceded a free-kick and Elliot Ward got in front of James Pullen to head in a late, late equaliser.

Town had looked good for a win but a string of injuries to players and a referee's assistant disrupted their flow and concentration, while wily West Ham kept theirs.

Pullen had kept the Hammers out with a string of good saves. He tipped a Gary Breen header onto the crossbar, and made a brave and confident low save among a mass of legs and despite hurting his shoulder early on.

The No. 2 stopper recovered well when a fierce McMahon shot almost squirmed through his legs but will be disappointed an otherwise good performance was marred at the death.

His kicking looked better too, with one long clearance giving Bowditch an opportunity to try his luck, only to be denied by Bywater. The Hammers keeper also made good stops to deny Armstrong and the lively Bowditch again.

Matt Bloomfield put in the sort of midfield performance which yesterday earned him a call-up to the England under-19 squad, which travels to Germany for an international friendly later this month, and a low cross from him near the end should have been converted by Alun Armstrong but the ball got caught under his feet.

Young reserve team skipper Ian Westlake and former England under-16s captain Chris Hogg continue to press for first-team action, while young defenders Scott Mitchell, Stuart Boardley and Aiden Collins continue to progress well.

Ipswich Town Res: Pullen, Mitchell, Boardley (Flack, 80) Collins, McGreal (Chaffey, 35), Hogg, Bloomfield, Westlake, Armstrong, Bowditch and Murray (Barron, 90). Subs not used: Peat and Reid.

West Ham Res: Bywater, Ferdinand, Ward, Byrne, Delaney, Breen (Blewitt, 70) McClenahan, Noble, Akinsete, Pearson (M Cole, 73) and McMahon. Subs not used: Forde, Tattam and Laws.

Referee: F Graham.

Attendance: 746

* Ipswich Town academy youngsters are in Durham this week for the U14 Nike tournament thanks, in part to the sponsorship of former stars Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble, writes David Vincent.

The tournament got under way yesterday and after training in the morning Town had their first group games, against Coventry and Sunderland, in the afternoon.

Academy director Bryan Klug said: "It is a tough group but they are all strong in this tournament. It will be great experience for the lads."

Town went down 1-0 to Coventry in their first game and, a couple of hours later, lost 2-1 to Sunderland.

The Ipswich goal came from 14-year-old Daryll Knight, but although Town fought back well after conceding two early goals they could not find an equaliser.

Former Ipswich striker Marcus Stewart had already been over to see the lads train and, along with Dyer and Bramble, is hoping to be on the touchline at some of their games, reported Klug.

The Ipswich squad includes Knight, the Chantry schoolboy who has already appeared and scored for Town U17s this season.

Ipswich squad: S Ainsley, L Barrett, D Blackmore, A Bolt, T Boto, S Chaplin, G Collins, D Cooper, P Giambone, J Kawaguchi, D Knights, K Leabon, C Matthews, S Nunn, O Rachel and L Webster.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter