Pluck and luck are with Town

West Ham United 1 Ipswich Town 1TO paraphrase golfer Tony Jacklin, the harder Town work – the luckier they get.Last season there were plenty of games where a little rub of the green would have seen Town walk off with a point or three more, writes Derek Davis.

West Ham United 1 Ipswich Town 1

TO paraphrase golfer Tony Jacklin, the harder Town work – the luckier they get.

Last season there were plenty of games where a little rub of the green would have seen Town walk off with a point or three more, writes Derek Davis.

This season they are picking up points when it seemed they had no right to.


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At Nottingham they were downright fortunate to get a draw and again at West Ham the Blues were smiled upon by Lady Luck.

At half time at Upton Park there only looked to be one winner, but there was also the sneaking suspicion that the chances West Ham blew in those 45 minutes would come back and damage their hopes of going top.

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A missed penalty by Teddy Sheringham of all people followed a brilliant double-save by Kelvin Davis meant the Blues went in trailing by only one goal.

That came from £300,000 signing from Norwich City Malky Mackay – who else?

Town looked to have the initial Matthew Etherington corner cleared but then the whole defence switched off. Chris Powell, on loan from Charlton, returned the ball down the Hammers' left flank, Luke Chadwick swung in a cross and Mackay was unmarked to head in his fourth goal against Ipswich in five games.

He prompted the biggest, if not only cheer at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon and yet another groan from the 2,300 Blues fans behind the goal.

But, just as they did last Christmas when they were a goal down at Upton Park, Town hit back – and it was that man Pablo Counago again.

The Spaniard, making his first start in the league this season, netted 12 minutes after the break to level things and the Blues may well have gone on to win, just as they did last year, when Counago was credited with both goals, although one really belonged to Martijn Reuser.

Like the rest of the team, Counago didn't really get going in the first half; he did tee-up Tommy Miller after a one-two, but Stephen Bywater made a terrific save to tip the 20-yard shot over the bar.

In the second half, he came into his own and snatched the equaliser after brilliant work from Miller to win a corner.

Jim Magilton's flag-kick was met by a swooping Richard Naylor but was blocked.

Counago reacted quicker than a matador to turn swiftly and sweep the ball in from six yards.

The Spaniard was all flicks, touches and turns as Town abandoned the aerial route they usually adopt when Shefki Kuqi starts. They tried to get at the sluggish Mackay and Calum Davenport, who really should be plying his trade at Spurs after they bought him from Championship side Coventry City.

The central duo were not seriously tested in the first half but they did go forward to put pressure on Town's still shaky defence.

The inability to keep the ball up front and in midfield meant Town were constantly on the back foot.

Teddy Sheringham seemed able to roam around at will, and such an astute footballing brain will hurt teams.

The predator was there to have a second stab when Davis pulled off a brilliant one-handed flying save to push away a Mackay header.

Seconds later, an unmarked Sheringham drove in a vicious shot from 10 yards, but again Davis reacted brilliantly to save one-handed.

That earned him a congratulatory handshake from the former England international.

Sheringham was searching for his 250th league goal and blew the chance of hitting the landmark when he took a 34th-minute penalty.

Davis had sprinted off his line but Carl Fletcher tumbled over the keeper to earn the spot-kick. Davis dived the wrong way but Sheringham sent his penalty the wrong side of the post and Town breathed a sigh of relief.

They also breathed deep to get back into the game, and after Counago's equaliser the East End crowd, which never reached the volcanic atmosphere of last May, quietened even further.

Marlon Harewood missed a headed chance from two yards, but equally Darren Bent had a shot tipped onto the crossbar after Counago picked him out with an exquisite 30-yard curling pass.

The commanding Jason De Vos at the back put in a vital block to deny Harewood, and other half-chances came and went as either side could have snatched all three points.

In the end a draw was fair enough, but once again Town had ridden their luck and showed character to claw their way back into the game – and that is not down purely to good fortune.

With Plymouth and Reading to come in the next eight days the Blues have a terrific opportunity to maintain their 100% home record and go back to the top, but they still need to work on defending as a team.

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