No case for the defence

CRESTFALLEN Joe Royle was at a loss to understand how Ipswich managed to throw away a two-goal lead, and very possibly a play-off place, to a lively Nottingham Forest side.

CRESTFALLEN Joe Royle was at a loss to understand how Ipswich managed to throw away a two-goal lead, and very possibly a play-off place, to a lively Nottingham Forest side, writes Derek Davis.

The Blues boss had been announced as Manager of the Month for March earlier in the week but this was no ordinary curse at work in front of 29,503, Town's highest-ever all-seater crowd.

Lapses of concentration and shoddy defending were the real reasons behind Town behind doubled for only the second time this season – Bradford City were the other team to do so.

Tommy Miller had fired Town ahead after good work from Jim Magilton and Marcus Bent had put Pablo Counago in with a chance, but his two shots were blocked by the Forest defence. Miller crashed in from six yards and then had a chance to score from the spot when Counago was brought down by Andy Reid but Ward saved at the base of his left-hand post.

Counago was booked for following up too rigorously as the ball looked close to crossing the line but after that kerfuffle died down, referee Howard Webb from Rotherham ordered the penalty to be taken again after his assistant reported Ward for moving forward before the kick was taken.

Miller struck the kick the same way, Ward dived the other and Town were two-up but furious Forest responded immediately with substitute John Thomspson cracking in from 25 yards, moments after the restart.

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Royle said: "We were playing so well and were so on top but after the double take of the penalty and all the hoo-haa which followed we switched off and found ourselves behind at half-time.

"Credit to our players they came back strong and equalised but really every time the ball went in their box I thought we would score and every time it went in to our box I thought they would score. It was a matter of who got the most on the day but really, leading 2-0 and cruising and playing so well, it should not have happened."

Marlon Harewood equalised for Forest with a soft goal which deceived Marshall and the visitors went ahead before the break when a Thompson drive deflected in off the hapless Richard Naylor.

Marcus Bent raised Town's hopes once more with a second-half equaliser when Magilton delivered a sublime ball over the top of England under-21 defender Michael Dawson. Bent beat Matthieu Louis-Jean to the pass and beat Wade with an accurate and powerful finish.

But Forest are always dangerous in attack and when Naylor fouled former Town favourite David Johnson and Reid delivered a telling free kick which Harewood nodded down past Marshall.

Royle said: "We picked the wrong day to have a nervous day defensively. If you score three at home you should not lose. We didn't defend properly.

"It wasn't super soccer which beat us, we just have not handled their size and flick-ons. We had a chance to clear before their first goal but didn't and the second has spun in somehow – it didn't seem to have much power to get past him.

"The guilty party has held his hand up for the fourth goal but it has happened too often . . . a free kick and a free header. It is just defensive negligence."

With Thomas Gaardsoe joining John McGreal and Mark Venus on the injury list and Hermann Hriedarsson injured and sold, Town were forced to use Naylor, Holland and Chris Makin as a makeshift back three.

But Royle added: "We may be stretched but I'm not going to use injuries as an excuse. The front two did well and I felt we threatened every time we got into the box and if we could have got the ball more to their feet or beyond the defence for them to get on to we would have scored more.

"Pablo could have had a first-half hat-trick but we never recovered from the five-minute break for the penalties."

It could have been worse for Town but with Norwich losing at George Burley's Derby, Wolves failing to beat Rotherham and Reading slipping at home to Brighton on Friday, the situation is still tight with five games left for Town.

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