Monday verdict: Anti-climactic end to a rollercoaster week at Portman Road

Preston North End celebrate Daniel Johnson's goal to put them 1-0 ahead in the Ipswich Town v Presto

Preston North End celebrate Daniel Johnson's goal to put them 1-0 ahead in the Ipswich Town v Preston North End (Championship) football match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 16 January 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

It was an anti-climactic end to a rollercoaster week at Portman Road – and now fans just have to hope that there are more highs than lows in Suffolk between now and the end of the season.

The Blues were poor against Portsmouth (2-2 draw), potent versus Leeds (2-1 win) and then powderpuff playing Preston (1-1 draw). The result? An unwanted FA Cup replay, four points, unbeaten in six and still very much in the middle of a wide-open promotion punch-up. As always with Ipswich it’s hard to know quite how to feel.

Town had been so good under the lights last Tuesday night. It was an evening which made you feel like everything was just coming together at the right time. It was a performance which left many optimistic fans claiming that ‘someone is going to get a real beating soon’.

Realists knew that it was always unlikely that pragmatic Preston would be turned over though. Simon Grayson is in the Mick McCarthy mould. His teams are always hard to beat. They had just won three league games on the spin. At one stage this season they kept six clean sheets in a row.

And yet it was not unfair to expect a little bit more than what followed. An unchanged team never really got out of second gear on a stuttering afternoon. The opposition was organised and the hosts quickly ran out of ideas.

The goal that was conceded after seven minutes was like so many that have gone against Town this season. Several minor sloppy errors added up to Daniel Johnson putting the ball in the net.

On a more positive note, Daryl Murphy’s 38th minute equaliser was reminiscent of the goals he scored with such regularity in 2014/15 – strength to hold off the defender, confidence to shoot from 25 yards out and the technical ability to find the bottom corner. It did come against the run of play though.

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Did Preston then have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside? Possibly. Should Ipswich have been awarded a late penalty? Without doubt. Was a draw the fair result? You bet.

Play-off rivals Burnley, Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff and Birmingham all won to compound the frustration.

It’s looking like the maths is seven into four when it comes to the Championship play-off places. And with seven of the current top 11 still to travel to, it will be a big ask for Town to keep up their incredible away form.

Ergo, with some favourable home fixtures on the horizon, the Blues will need more good days than bad at Portman Road if they are to make the top-six cut.

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