Westlake earns Town precious point
THE draw was deserved and it will do.Ian Westlake levelled after Andy Gray had given Sheffield United the lead from the penalty spot.
THE draw was deserved and it will do, writes Derek Davis.
Ian Westlake levelled after Andy Gray had given Sheffield United the lead from the penalty spot.
Ipswich might even have had the chance in the last seconds to snatch a winner from a penalty, but the referee didn't give a handball against Chris Morgan.
It was a game that had just about everything and in the end Town showed the bravery they need to finish in the top six after coming from behind.
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It was a cracking game and perhaps giving the gravity of the situation it was understandably edgy at times, but United opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Fabian Wilnis fouled Michael Tonge and Gray tucked it away.
Both teams hit the woodwork, each keeper made valuable saves and it was tight as the score suggested. Chances were thin on the ground in an even first half although United came closest when Wayne Allison hit the crossbar.
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Town were playing the crisper football while United were more direct, but the Blues defence dealt with most things comfortably. Westlake had the first sight of goal after pressure from Darren Bent and Dean Bowditch forced Robert Page into a mistake, but he blazed his 16-yard shot over the bar.
Jermaine Wright claimed hand-ball when a long range effort from him was deflected for a corner and Page did well to head clear a dangerous Jim Magilton free-kick.
The opening period was littered with niggly free-kicks and Kelvin Davis made a sharp save low to his left from a 30-yard Alan Wright effort. Wright later delivered a deep corner which Allison headed against the crossbar and Wright cleared.
John McGreal put in an excellent block tackle on Jack Lester as he shaped to shoot after dribbling into the area and Wilnis did enough to put Allison off getting a clear header.
Both sides made changes at half time with Richard Naylor brought on for his physical presence, replacing Bowditch.
The Blades kept up their aerial onslaught and when Allison headed down a Gray cross Davis made a superb save to deny Phil Jagielka. He followed that up from the corner when made an excellent stop down by a post to prevent Page from heading in.
Opposite number Paddy Kenny was also called upon to make a great save when Naylor swivelled and shot after a Magilton ball into the box. Westlake followed up but his effort rebounded off a post.
The Blades went up the other end and Tonge twisted and turned his way into the box and was brought down by Wilnis. Gray sent Davis in the opposite direction with his low spot kick. It was the 14th penalty United have been awarded in the league this season, but there was little disputing its validity.
Martijn Reuser went on for Tommy Miller, who had struggled to be fit after missing last week's defeat by Nottingham Forest with a tight hamstring, and he soon helped make a difference. Matt Richards sliced the Blades defence wide open with a terrific ball to find Westlake, who drove his low angled shot from 10 yards between Kenny's legs.
Town survived two close calls, the first when Izale Mcleod made a run to the dead-ball line six yards out but his pull back was cleared.
Then Davis made another terrific save to tip a screamer of a shot by Jagielka on to the crossbar.
Ipswich had a shout for a penalty appeal right at the death when Morgan handled to deny Bent a shot.
Despite the inconvenience of a Friday night switch for the game to be shown on television, more than 1,600 Town fans were gathered in the top tier of the West Stand. The club laid on eight free coaches as a thank you to the Blues supporters, who have shown wonderful away support all season.
Now they will be looking to celebrate at home to Cardiff next week and book two more trips away in the play-offs.