Second-half revival is not enough

AFTER slumping to their fourth straight defeat the result was not clever, but Ipswich's second-half performance offers more than a glimmer of hope for next season.

By Derek Davis

AFTER slumping to their fourth straight defeat the result was not clever, but Ipswich's second-half performance offers more than a glimmer of hope for next season.

No doubt some statistician will know the last time the Blues lost four in a row but losing against this Watford side, who could well be gracing the Premiership next season, was no disgrace.

Indeed there was a spell early in the second half when Town more than matched the third-best team in the Championship and there were enough good individual displays to show this is a Town team with plenty to offer.

With a play-off place already assured the Hornets practiced penalties in front of thousands of Hornets fans to give them a taste of what might come.

They had already despatched Ipswich as Darius Henderson put Watford into a first-half lead and then back in front after Nicky Forster grabbed his second in two games to become Town's joint leading scorer with five goals.

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The Blues struggled to contain Watford in the first half as their three-man midfield was swamped, but they changed the game by putting two attacking midfielders on at the interval.

Darren Currie and Danny Haynes injected new life and it was the former Brighton winger who was once again the provider for Town's equaliser.

Royle made six changes to the team that lost to Brighton, who were relegated yesterday, with Norwegian Vemund Brekke-Skard making his first start for the club. Although the dogged Norwegian worked hard, he struggled to get to grips with the pace of the Championship and was replaced at half time.

Darren Currie, Danny Haynes, Fabian Wilnis, Shane Supple, Scott Barron and Owen Garvan all paid for Saturday's defeat with their places.

Supple was rested after suffering a rib injury and Lewis Price reclaimed the No. 1 spot, while Jay McEveley raced down from his Liverpool home to jump into the left-back berth.

Chris Casement missed out all together with a swollen ankle but Richard Naylor was well enough to play after taking a bang on the head against Albion.

Nicky Forster was handed a start after scoring on his return from knee surgery and partnered Alan Lee up front, with Dean Bowditch playing an advanced midfield role.

While Ipswich were playing for pride and places, the Hornets were looking to secure third spot and home advantage in the play-offs.

With an identical win, draw and loss record as fourth-placed Leeds, Watford were looking to extend their two-goal goal difference advantage. Only Reading have scored more than Ady Boothroyd's side in the Championship, but they were without 21-goal leading scorer Marlon King against the Blues.

They didn't need him as they had goal-hungry attackers coming from all directions.

It was Darius Henderson who finally got the goal that had been a long time coming when he got up at the far post to meet Anthony McNamee's cross from Watford's left flank, on the half-hour.

Ashley Young hit the underside of the crossbar with a thumping header from a McNamee corner and Clarke Carlisle followed up with a shot that Price pushed away and Malky Mackay's rebound shot was cleared.

Young curled a free-kick over the bar and McNamee also went close along with Henderson with an audacious overhead effort.

And right on half time Price saved well from Young, who had squirmed clear following more good work from McNamee.

The Blues had their moments in the opening exchanges. Bowditch pounced on a neat flick on by Forster and from the angle of the 18-yard box tried to curl a shot in with the outside of his boot but it curled wide.

Lee hit 25-yard shot on the turn that was turned away by on-loan Manchester United keeper Ben Foster.

Lee slipped the ball in for Forster, who still had plenty to do but beat a defender to get in shot, which Foster parried.

Currie and Haynes were introduced at half time and they livened up the Blues attack.

Town had a shout for a penalty rejected by referee Colin Webster - nothing unusual there - when Mackay tripped Lee in full flow in the area.

Justice was served as Currie delivered the perfect corner and Forster finished with a superb header in the middle of the area to beat Foster.

A minute later Henderson thought he had scored again but the goal was disallowed for offside, a dubious decision given that Price had saved his initial header, which had come from Mackay who played the ball back from near the byline.

The same linesman kept his flag down 12 minutes from time when Young looked suspiciously offside, but was allowed to run on and get in his cross which Henderson met unopposed.

Town's woes continued when Lee went down injured after making a powerful run into the area, which won a corner but clearly did him damage and Jaime Peters was given a rare outing.

It was the 50th meeting between these two clubs and the first time Watford had ever doubled Ipswich, who could be heading for their lowest league finish in nearly 50 years.

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