Sending off the turning point

THE dismissal of Ipswich Town's Icelandic star Hermann Hreidarsson in the 50th minute was the turning point in a tepid and thoroughly disappointing Ipswich Town performance against an under-strength Bradford City at Valley Parade on Saturday.

THE dismissal of Ipswich Town's Icelandic star Hermann Hreidarsson in the 50th minute was the turning point in a tepid and thoroughly disappointing Ipswich Town performance against an under-strength Bradford City at Valley Parade on Saturday.

Hreidarsson feels he was harshly treated. Referee Clive Wilkes is prepared to take a look at the video evidence and, according to Town manager Joe Royle, "will do the right thing".

Hreidarsson appeared to hand-off 17-year-old Simon Francis in typical Rugby Union style. It was certainly not a punch, probably unintentional and did not look particularly violent.

A yellow card would probably have been sufficient punishment had not a similar clumsy incident just before the interval not been taken into consideration.

Gus Uhlenbeek was left holding his face after a clash with Hreidarsson. It was resolved by a free-kick and a handshake. Mr Wilkes lectured Hreidarsson who was perhaps fortunate to escape a booking, especially after his undiplomatic reticence to go over to the referee when signalled.

Maybe it would have been better had the yellow card been shown at that stage. In those circumstances the second offence might never have taken place and, if it did, the two yellow cards would have meant a one-match ban while violent conduct means he will miss three games unless the referee has second thoughts.

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While Ipswich had 11 men on the field they never looked in much danger of defeat although their polished football fizzled out in the final third with home goalkeeper Aidan Davison having precious few shots to save.

Once again Ipswich kept their most likely match winners, Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose, under wraps until the second-half. Had the teenage duo been in action from the outset Ipswich might have been able to take an early grip on the game and rattle a defence held together by the veteran Dutchman Robert Molenaar.

Hreidarsson's departure lifted Bradford spirits. Their opening goal came in the 62nd minute after a spell of pressure during which Marcus Bent cleared off the line and 18-year-old Danny Forrest had squandered a couple of good openings.

Lewis Emanuel, who had made an astonishingly quick recovery from a hamstring problem, crossed from the left. Forrest laid the ball back for Claus Jorgensen to rifle home his fifth goal in six games.

Jorgensen, a Dane who arrived on a free transfer from Bournemouth, took Ipswich by surprise, although his current purple patch has been well documented. It was like the Highways Authority not being prepared for a predicted snowfall. Jorgensen might have added a second from an equally clear chance but fired wide.

Bradford added their second goal in the 68th minute when Forrest scored from close range after Mark Bower had nodded the ball down into his path following more impressive work from Emanuel who had become a real danger down the left. It became a memorable league debut for the teenager who later expressed his gratitude to Ashley Ward for talking him through the game.

Now Ipswich, who never abandoned their attacking ideas, faced a massive task but there was enough quality on the field for visiting supporters to expect a positive response.

Darren Bent, put through by Jermaine Wright, looked to have pulled a goal back in the 77th minute but his shot struck the underside of the bar. Had Ipswich scored at that stage they might have saved the day.

Ambrose produced his party tricks to impress watching Newcastle boss Sir Bobby Robson, but he also miskicked when well placed in front of goal. With 13 minutes left Royle introduced Martijn Reuser to add even more flair up front. The Dutchman showed promise and, despite being handed a free transfer, remains a committed Ipswich Town player with plenty to contribute in the weeks ahead. Let's face it, Magilton and Wilnis were offered free transfers in the summer and they are still serving the club with loyalty.

On paper, Saturday's match looked an away banker. Bradford, with their massive problems, should have been there for the taking with such a long list of unavailability.

Youngsters were thrown in at the deep end and proved that hungry homegrown talent can often work wonders, so long as the senior players among them set the right example. Much more will be heard of Francis in particular, while Emanuel was tenacious and effective.

The Ipswich fans, packed into the Symphony Stand, had precious little music to their ears from this worrying display in a ground that was half empty, a fate that befalls struggling Nationwide League clubs whose supporters have experienced better days. It is a chilling thought for next season if Ipswich cannot maintain their push for a play-off place.

Ipswich had matters in hand before the interval without a goal to show for their supremacy. Town went close more than once.

In the 23rd minute a right-wing corner from Magilton was met by Marcus Bent who went up with Francis. The ball floated out of Davison's reach only for Uhlenbeek to clear off the line via the foot of the post.

An ineffective Pablo Counago, who was the victim of some hard challenges, was offside when he headed a cross from Matt Holland into the net. Then in the 39th minute Marcus Bent grazed the outside of the post with a low drive.

Just before the interval there was more controversy when Ipswich had a penalty appeal ignored. While Marcus Bent was denied a clear-cut spot kick in the FA Cup tie at Sheffield United the previous weekend, this one was less obvious although it still looked like a trip in the penalty area by Bower even though there seemed no threat on goal.

It was Bradford's first double of the season which lifts them clear of immediate relegation turmoil. Maybe Ipswich were too complacent against opposition which should have yielded three points. Talk before the start was whether Ipswich would be in a play-off position by five o'clock. Instead they find themselves having lost ground and in 12th spot. The promotion issue is still wide open, but this must rank as the worst result in the Royle regime.

Andy Marshall was blameless and there was some desperate defending in the second-half as Bradford took advantage of their extra man.

Magilton, who is operating further up the field these days, faces a harder task to spot the openings than when able to gain possession deeper and enjoy a wider field of vision that provides more options he can weigh up.

A glance in the Bradford City players' car park suggested that they are hardly a club made up of Flash Harrys. They could develop well in the years ahead now that they are overcoming their present financial crisis.

Ipswich have been dropping points against so-called lesser opposition all season. Sixteen points in all have slipped away in matches against Bradford City (home and away), Preston (away), Stoke City (away), Brighton (away) and Grimsby Town (away). Ipswich seem especially vulnerable against opposition teams that tend to be physical.

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