|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Middlesbrough|
Tuesday, 27th March 2012 Kick-off 19:45
Town 1-1 Middlesbrough
Tuesday, 27th Mar 2012 22:03
Grant Leadbitter missed a penalty but then slammed in a stunning goal as Town drew 1-1 at home to Middlesbrough. After a dull first half, the visitors went in front via sub Lukas Jutkiewicz, Boro keeper Jason Steele having saved Leadbitter’s penalty, but the midfielder hammered in an equaliser with 16 minutes remaining.
Leadbitter’s return from his one-game suspension was the only change from the side which lost 2-1 at Watford on Saturday with Andy Drury dropping out.
On six Tommy Smith headed an Aaron Cresswell freekick from the left well wide in a quiet opening spell with neither keeper tested.
Town gradually began to get on top, as they had been during the 37 minutes of the abortive first attempt at playing the game last month.
The match livened up a touch in the 16th minute when Leadbitter played a quick freekick to Lee Martin on the right, the former Manchester United man whipping in a cross, but Lee Bowyer’s header was blocked by Nicky Bailey and both he and Michael Chopra were unable to get to the loose ball before the ex-Southend man cleared
Within a minute Leadbitter had forced Boro keeper Jason Steele to tip over with as well-struck 25-yard shot. From the corner, Tommy Smith headed over.
While Town had been preparing to take the flagkick, the Teesiders had lost skipper and former Blues loanee Matthew Bates to injury after an earlier clash with Michael Chopra. Tony McMahon took over at the centre of the defence.
The visitors’ first threat came from a 23rd minute counter-attack when the Blues might have been fortunate not to concede a penalty when Barry Robson appeared to be tripped by Leadbitter, the Scot falling outside the area and referee Keith Stroud waving play on with Boro still in possession.
But it was mainly Town at this stage, with Emmanuel-Thomas beginning to make some impact with his tricky runs in from the right.
Chopra seized on some loose defending on 27 but his shot from the edge of the box flew high and wide. Four minutes later, Julio Arca hit a low effort through to Alex McCarthy.
A not exactly over-exciting half came to lengthy halt just after the half hour when Boro defender Seb Hines required treatment after colliding with Blues keeper McCarthy. Hines, who eventually returned to the fray, can’t enjoy trips to Portman Road much having broken his jaw in two places in a collision with team-mate Joe Bennett in last year’s 3-3 draw.
Tommy Smith picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on a break Adam Hammill in the final scheduled minute of the first half, although it appeared that the Blues defender had won the ball. McCarthy caught McMahon’s freekick down to his right.
There was little to give what had been a somewhat dull half an undeserved gloss during the five minutes of injury time.
The half-time scoreline was all the match deserved with neither side having impressed in what appeared to be a game between two sides with nothing left to play for, despite the Teessiders’ strong play-off ambitions.
In-the-wars Hines was replaced by Lukas Jutkiewicz at the break with midfielder Bailey moving to an unfamiliar central defensive role.
Two minutes into the new period, the visitors should have gone in front. Emnes cut in from the right and played the ball back to Hammill, whose shot was saved by McCarthy. With the Town keeper grounded, the ball ran loose to Jutkiewicz on the edge of the six-yard box to the right of goal, but somehow the ex-Coventry striker missed the target when he should have scored.
The Blues should have gone ahead in the 58th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Emmanuel-Thomas was tripped by Julio Arca as he skipped past him on the right of the area. Nicky Bailey was booked during lengthy protests before Leadbitter slammed the spotkick to Steele’s right, but not far enough away to prevent the Boro keeper from stopping it.
The penalty incident at least served to wake the ground up and soon afterwards Murphy wasn’t far away from getting his head on a Leadbitter corner.
But it was the visitors who would go in front in the 63rd minute. McCarthy blocked from first Hammill and then Robson inside the area before the ball was cleared and sent back into the path of Justin Hoyte down the Boro right in what looked to be an offside position. The ex-Arsenal man nodded into the box and Jutkiewicz beat McCarthy.
Town replaced Bowyer with Drury and then Murphy with Scotland in what was now a more regular 4-4-2 as they looked to get back on terms.
Boro were probably on top during the spell after the goal but in the 74th minute Leadbitter made amends for his penalty miss with a stunning equaliser. Chopra laid the ball across to the midfielder 25 yards out and the ex-Sunderland man lashed an unstoppable low drive into the corner of Steele’s net for his fifth goal of the season and his fourth in his last four games.
The impetus was now back with Town but with the Teessiders looking a threat on the break. On 79 Emmanuel-Thomas shot over from distance.
After the dismal first half, the game was now more like the end-to-end affair that was last year’s corresponding fixture with the Portman Road crowd finding its voice.
Despite Leadbitter and a number of others having shots blocked, the Blues couldn’t carve their way through the massed ranks of the Boro defence. At the other end, with a minute of normal time left on the clock, Hammill shot low through to McCarthy.
No one was able to particularly threaten in the closing moments and in the end a draw was a fair result with neither side really doing enough to win it.
The more spirited second half was rather better than the dreary first although with neither team overly impressing.
Paul Jewell will be pleased that his team fought back after the double blow of the penalty miss and going behind and stretched their recent home unbeaten run to seven and their overall recent run to two defeats in 12.
Town: McCarthy, Edwards, Smith, Delaney, Cresswell, Leadbitter, Bowyer (Drury 64), Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin, Murphy (Scotland 68), Chopra. Unused: Lee-Barrett, Sonko, Stevenson.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bennett, Hines (Jutkiewicz 46), Bates (McMahon 17), Smallwood, Bailey, Robson, Arca, Hammill, Emnes (Thomson 85). Unused: Ogbeche, Zemmama. Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire). Att: 18,727 (Boro: 493)
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