Town battle for a point at Forest

Ipswich Town lacked the fluency of their weekend success at Cardiff, but they were content to grind out a point at Nottingham Forest last night, writes Carl Marston.

Ipswich Town lacked the fluency of their weekend success at Cardiff, but they were content to grind out a point at Nottingham Forest last night, writes Carl Marston.

Town moved back up to fourth in the table, and they had keeper Kelvin Davis to thank for a number of excellent saves, and Darren Bent to thank for a smart finish.

Davis kept buoyant Forest at bay with key saves in both halves, and it was Joe Royle's men who took advantage by taking the lead in the 61st minute.

Jermaine Wright was unlucky to see his 20-yard firecracker bounce back off the underside of the bar, but Bent was on hand to bury the rebound, cool as you like.

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However, Town's lead lasted just seven minutes. The visitors failed to close down winger Andy Reid and his cross was bundled home by centre-half Wes Morgan from close range.

Forest, who are now without a victory in their last seven matches, looked the more likely winners during the final 20 minutes last night, but they could find no way past a stubborn Davis.

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In fact, Ipswich almost stole a last-gasp victory when 19-year-old Bent sensed his second goal of the game. Town's striker was clean through, but this time he could not beat keeper Darren Ward.

While Ipswich were without the attacking flair of Saturday's pulsating 3-2 win at Cardiff, this was still a precious point in their ultimate quest for promotion.

Since going bottom of the table with a defeat at West Brom on September 13, Royle's men have suffered just two league defeats in their last 15 fixtures. Not surprisingly, Royle stuck with the same team that had beaten Cardiff City 3-2 at Ninian Park on Saturday. The one change was on the bench, with Alan Mahon, back after a hamstring injury, preferred to Martijn Reuser.

Hosts Forest had struggled of late. Former Town striker David Johnson broke his leg in September and has been sorely missed. He was watching the match from the press box, while working for local Nottingham radio.

Yet they at least had the boost of new signing Marlon King, making his first start since signing from Gillingham for £950,000. Front-runner King was introduced as a substitute during the 3-0 defeat at West Brom over the weekend.

It was a bright start from both teams. Jim Magilton, who had passed a late fitness test on a foot injury, delivered a perfectly-weighted ball for Jermaine Wright to chase in the third minute. Wright beat defender Gregor Robertson for pace, only for his cross to be easily gobbled up by keeper Ward at his near post.

A minute later, and Ward's opposite number Davis was forced into an outstanding save. Frenchman Matthieu Louis-Jean pounced on Gareth Taylor's knock-down and let fly with a ferocious drive that Davis palmed away at point-blank range.

Town had the ball in the back of the net in the sixth minute, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Darren Bent latched on to Wright's pass and slid the ball home from a narrow angle, yet the assistant referee had already raised his flag. Bent presumably strayed into an off-side position.

The goalmouth action continued apace. Ward was more than a match for Bent's rising 25-yard drive and the same player then turned provider for Wright, who failed to get much power behind his low shot from the edge of the box. Ward comfortably gathered.

Forest were posing a real threat up front. The City Ground faithful held their breath when home debutant King found space for himself at the far post, following a corner, yet he blasted over the bar with a wild finish.

Midfielder Gareth Williams showed more accuracy with a 30-yard thunderbolt on 21 minutes that stung Davis' hands. Town's keeper did well to clutch on to the hot potato.

Forest gained the upper hand as the first half wore on. Town's defence back-tracked when left- winger Andy Reid ran at them in the 31st minute, and Davis was again required to make a save from long range.

Four minutes later and tricky customer Reid was in the action again. He left Fabian Wilnis trailing in his wake on a surging run, only to blaze well wide of target.

Forest earned five corners to Town's zero in the first period, and from the fifth of these Robertson benefited from a poor clearance. He eyed up the target from 20 yards out but saw his shot balloon well wide of goal.

That was the final chance of the first half, with Town having been content to soak up the pressure after their encouraging start.

The home side were soon on the offensive in the second period. Some pinball in the Town box on 49 minutes ended with defender Richard Naylor blocking Taylor's goal-bound shot.

Magilton engineered a rare Ipswich breakaway with a slick pass through to Shefki Kuqi. The ex-Sheffield Wednesday striker had options to his right, with Wilnis in the clear, but he chose to shoot instead and Ward was not troubled.

Town's first corner arrived in the 54th minute, Ian Westlake, who had been booked a minute earlier for a late tackle on Louis-Jean, whipped over the corner to the near post, where Robertson intercepted with a clearing header.

Six minutes later and Ipswich were ahead, thanks to a smart finish by Bent.

Chris Bart-Williams slid the ball into the path of Wright, who let fly with a terrific shot from the edge of the penalty area. Keeper Ward was beaten all ends up, only for the ball to ricochet back off the underside of the bar.

The rebound fell kindly for Bent, and he maintained his composure to drill home from eight yards out into the far corner of the net. It was his fifth goal of the season.

Davis preserved Town's slender advantage with a brave block in the 66th minute. Williams was set up by Reid's pass, and his goalbound drive was superbly parried by Davis, who was down on his haunches.

However, Forest grabbed the equaliser in the 68th minute. Reid swung over a teasing cross from the left flank and defender Morgan bundled home from inside the six-yard box.

Morgan did not connect cleanly with his outstretched boot, yet the ball still looped into the top corner of the net with Davis exposed.

These two quick-fire goals had livened up proceedings and Kuqi could have done better when heading over the bar from Magilton's cross in the 73rd minute.

The Nottingham club came closer to taking the lead on 77 minutes. Davis was at full stretch to claw away a header from Eugen Bopp which had bounced alarmingly off the turf and would have flown in under the bar.

Former Ipswich midfielder Danny Sonner came on as a late substitute for Eoin Jess but he had little chance to make an impact.

Town tried to take the sting out of the game during the closing minutes and striker Kuqi saw his glancing header drift wide of goal in the final minutes of normal time.

The visitors had a great chance to steal all three points in the first minute of stoppage time.

Bent was away and clear, but he aimed his shot straight at keeper Ward, who clung on to the effort. A foot either side and it would have been a goal.

But in the end, Royle's men had to be content with a battling point.

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