Ipswich Town 0-0 Sheffield United - Match Report
Saturday, 10th Mar 2018 17:08
Town’s hopes of reviving their play-off challenge were dealt a significant blow as they drew 0-0 at home with Sheffield United. The Blades came closest to breaking the deadlock in the second half when sub James Wilson struck a post and skipper Billy Sharp failed to turn in the rebound, while Town have now gone four home games without scoring a goal.
Myles Kenlock, Bersant Celina, Stephen Gleeson and Dominic Iorfa all returned to the Blues’ starting XI, while Jonas Knudsen missed out due to a tight hamstring and Mustapha Carayol with the groin problem he suffered at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. Jordan Spence and Luke Hyam dropped to the bench.
Kenlock replaced Knudsen at left wing-back, Iorfa was in for Spence on the right, while Gleeson started in the midfield trio with Cole Skuse and Callum Connolly. Celina played off main striker Martyn Waghorn.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, who spent the first half of the season with the Blades, was again part of a back three with skipper Luke Chambers and Adam Webster.
For the visitors, Ched Evans and John Lundstram came into the team replacing Clayton Donaldson, who was on the bench, and Mark Duffy, absent due to a tight calf. Ex-Blues loanee Richard Stearman started in the Blades defence.
George Baldock struck the game’s first shot for the South Yorkshiremen in the second minute but Blues keeper Bartosz Bialkowski, fresh from receiving his first Poland call-up yesterday, got down to his right to save comfortably.
Bialkowski was in action again two minutes later when Lee Evans curled a not overly testing 25-yard freekick into his arms.
The Blues threatened for the first time in the sixth minute, Kenlock breaking and then sending Waghorn away down the left with a perfectly weighted pass. Town’s top scorer crossed and Jack O’Connell turned the ball behind.
A minute later, Waghorn, scorer of both the Blues’ goals at Hillsborough, hit his first shot of the afternoon, cleverly turning away from his man before shooting across the face and wide.
Ex-Blues loanee Stearman got his name in the book in the ninth minute after he had been caught in possession midway inside the Blades’ half by Waghorn, who he hauled back as he broke towards goal. Another defender was covering so the yellow card looked the right decision.
Waghorn took the freekick himself and floated the ball towards the far post from where Iorfa stooped to head goalwards from a tight angle, Jamal Blackman in the Blades goal diverting it behind.
Bialkowski snaffled John Fleck’s well-struck shot for the visitors on 12, then four minutes later Celina scraped an effort wide at the other end.
After an entertaining first quarter of an hour of plenty of chances, opportunities dried up at both ends.
The Blades began to get on top and there was a major scare for the Blues on 33 when Fleck played his Sharp in behind the Town defence.
The former Doncaster man hooked the bouncing ball over the advancing Bialkowski but was unable to get in an effort at goal before he was outmuscled by Chambers. The Blades striker’s hopeful penalty appeal was ignored by referee John Brooks.
Soon after, Gleeson shot high and wide for Town, then on 40 Skuse was booked for catching Lee Evans late.
Town threatened as the break approached, Celina cutting in and shooting wide following a corner shortly before the half was brought to a close with the scores still level.
After an end to end first quarter of an hour or so in which both sides had chances, the Blades had the better of it but with Sharp’s chance where he got in behind the Town defence their only significant opportunity.
The Blues began to look more dangerous towards the end of the half but Blackman hadn’t been forced to make a serious save.
Ahead of the second half Spence replaced Iorfa at right wing-back for the Blues. The visitors hit the first shot of the second period, Bialkowski getting down to his right to save at his post.
Sheffield United should have taken the lead in the 49th minute when Lundstram got a fortunate bounce as he was challenged breaking into the Town box and found himself in the clear.
The former Everton youngster had a clear sight of goal but instead cut back to Ched Evans, who claimed a penalty as he was crowded out by Chambers while trying to get in a shot on the turn. Town sought to clear and the ball cannoned off Fleck and wide.
Celina forced Blackman to saved down to his right at his post on 52 with a low shot from distance, then three minutes later Skuse failed to find the in-space Waghorn with a ball in from the left having won possession on the left.
But the Blades were looking the more threatening side with Town defending desperately in their box at times.
On 59 Connolly blocked from Sharp from a Baldock cross from the right, not the first to have caused problems in the Town area.
A minute later, Hyam took over from Connolly for the Blues, the on 69 Ched Evans made way for the visitors, Wilson taking over.
Town were starting to see most of the ball but without threatening but in the 78th minute the visitors came within a whisker of taking the lead.
Sub Wilson struck a 25-yard effort which beat Bialkowski but hit the inside of the post. The loose ball fell to Sharp, who hit his rebound into the ground and over when he should have scored. While Bialkowski prepared to take the goalkick, the Blades swapped Sharp for David Brooks.
Blues boss McCarthy switched his system in the 79th minute swapping half-time sub Spence for Joe Garner as the Blues moved to 4-4-2. Four minutes later, Gleeson was booked for a foul.
From the freekick, the ball reached O’Connell beyond the far post but the defender was only able to direct it across the face and wide. With three minutes of scheduled time remaining Clayton Donaldson replaced Lundstram for the visitors.
Neither side created a serious chance in three minutes of injury time and the game petered out to a 0-0 draw.
The scoreline was a fair reflection of what was, after a promising first 15 minutes, a dull and scruffy game played on what’s an increasingly difficult Portman Road pitch.
The Blades, still ninth, five points off the play-offs with a game in hand, had the better of the chances in the second half with the Blues never really looking like claiming the three points.
Failing to win another home game - they have won only once in their last eight matches in all competitions at Portman Road - is a big blow to Town’s hopes of getting back into the play-off hunt.
They remain 12th but now nine points off the top six although with a game in hand, Tuesday’s home match against Hull City, a fixture they must win if the season isn't going to come to an early end from a competitive perspective.
Town: Bialkowski, Carter-Vickers, Chambers (c), Webster, Iorfa (Spence 46 (Garner 79)), Skuse, Connolly (Hyam 60), Gleeson, Kenlock, Celina, Waghorn. Unused: M Crowe, Garner, Ward, Sears, Nydam.
Sheffield United: Blackman, Basham, Stearman, O’Connell, Stevens, Fleck, L Evans, Lundstram (Donaldson 87), Baldock, Sharp (c) (Brooks 78), C Evans (Wilson 69). Unused: Moore, Leonard, Lafferty, Holmes. Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire). Att: 15,152 (Blades: 1,034).
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