Town's play-off hopes dented

DEFIANT Joe Royle refuses to give up the play-off dream but admits his side are running on empty, writes Derek Davis.Marcus Bent returned to old club Crystal Palace to snatch a valuable point for Ipswich Town but the Blues' promotion hopes are looking increasingly distant.

DEFIANT Joe Royle refuses to give up the play-off dream but admits his side are running on empty, writes Derek Davis.

Marcus Bent returned to old club Crystal Palace to snatch a valuable point for Ipswich Town but the Blues' promotion hopes are looking increasingly distant.

Andy Johnson gave Trevor Francis' side a first-half lead before Bent headed level but Wolverhampton Wanderers were probably the only winners, with seventh-placed Ipswich still five points off the Midlanders who occupy the sixth spot.

Royle said: "It is hard but it has been hard since day one. We have risen from fourth bottom to seventh place so you can be sure we won't give up.


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"We still have a chance, we may be five points behind but there are still 10 games to go."

Darren Ambrose was forced off with a recurrence of his knee injury with Matt Richards going on and Town switching from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2. They then lost Chris Makin to a hamstring strain and Royle admits he is struggling to find a team for Saturday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday.

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With Hermann Hreidarsson, Tommy Miller, John McGreal, Mark Venus and Finidi George all out and no opportunity to bring in any players due to administration, things are looking bare.

Royle said: "We were a bit flat first half and with we are running on empty.

"The two kids (Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent) need a rest. They have played too many games in a row but we can't change them as we are down to Academy boys. We have five or six senior players out."

Bent thundered a header from a Jim Magilton corner in from 12 yards to equalise to send the 2,112 travelling Town support into raptures.

Skipper Matt Holland, making his 250th consecutive league appearance for Ipswich, had won the flag-kick with an overhead effort, which was cleared over the bar

Royle paid tribute to the magnificent Town support and added: "The crowd were outstanding and got behind us superbly and we had chances to win it for them.

"Pablo Counago put one over the bar and Richard Naylor, who was our best player, missed from a couple of metres and we might have nicked it."

While Palace boss Trevor Francis paid tribute to Ipswich's passing game, Royle was unhappy that it did not have a good end product.

He said: "We weren't really hurting them first half. We were passing here there and everywhere but not getting in the box. We need to be more singular in our thoughts about getting forward. But we don't have the players to change it, we just don't have the bodies."

Palace went ahead in the 19th minute when Andy Johnson looped a header from Tommy Black over Andy Marshall. He also beat the Town keeper with a second-half header which hit the crossbar.

Francis said: "Although they had more of the ball in the first half we always looked more likely to score and could have had a second.

"Ipswich have a lot of talented players and showed what a good side they are and in the second half had a lot of better chances.

"They looked the most dangerous when Counago came on and caused us a lot of problems.

"They gave us a lesson in passing but sometimes counter-attacking football can be effective."

Palace are even further away from a play-off spot but Francis is another who has not given up hope. He said: "Both teams needed to win and that was evident in the way we both played. They had good chances and we hit the crossbar as both teams looked to win what was a good game of football.

"It would have been better to take three points but with 11 games to go we are not giving up."

Ipswich were wearing a one-off strip of all-white, after match official Eddie Wolstenholme deemed the usual away kit of wine shirts would clash with the Palace kit. Original referee Dermot Gallagher, who would have taken charge if the game had not been postponed, had said there would not be a problem.

Ipswich looked like Real Madrid, and at times in the second half, they even played like them but didn't have the required cutting edge.

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