Date: 1st January 2011 at 7:39pm
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Number One was the theme as a goal for each side at the Ricoh Arena earned a point for both Ipswich Town and Coventry City on the first day of January ’11.

Four changes were made to the team that beat Leicester two weeks ago, with one notable inclusion in particular. Defender Gareth McAuley, who had not been expected to return until later in the month, made a surprise comeback in the Blues backline alongside Jaime Peters and Darren O’Dea. Damien Delaney, Shane O’Connor and Gianni Zuiverloon were the players to make way, O’Connor having suffered a shoulder injury and Zuiverloon returning to West Bromwich Albion last week. Further upfield, Carlos Edwards was included in place of Mark Kennedy. Coventry City lined up with former Norwich striker Freddy Eastwood up front, while ex-Colchester frontman Clive Platt was on the bench.

Both teams got off to a slow start, with Coventry coming into the game on the back of three straight losses while Town had not played for a fortnight. Little of note happened for the first 10 minutes; Kieren Westwood was gathering up the danger from Town’s efforts to get forward, while Marton Fulop was fortunate to get away with a missed punch from a Coventry corner.

It was the hosts however who got moving more quickly as the first half progressed. Fulop was called into action to parry from Marlon King and deny Lukas Jutkiewicz getting onto the rebound, then four minutes later Eastwood struck wide after O’Dea had given the ball away cheaply in his own half.

Ipswich didn’t have their first real attempt until 20 minutes in, Rory Fallon heading straight at Westwood. At the other end, Coventry were getting closer and closer to breaking the deadlock, David Bell taking a corner from the left which King headed onto the far post.

That was a lucky escape for the Blues, but it seemed to spur them into action. Tommy Smith headed wide from a corner on 24 minutes, then it was Edwards’ turn to be denied by the woodwork five minutes later, thumping a 25-yard drive which crashed down and away off the underside of the bar. As the game passed the half hour mark, the Blues were very much on top, David Norris firing way over from a lay-back by Fallon before trying his luck again from range, sending a wicked curling shot whizzing just past Westwood’s left-hand post.

Coventry responded with some attempts of their own as the match drew towards half time, Eastwood seing a shot deflected narrowly wide before Richard Wood headed over from the subsequent corner. The defender then found himself on the end of a rebound outside the area but struck wildly off target.

Having sustained the Coventry pressure, Town were then rewarded with the lead just before the break. James McPake closed down Norris coming in from the left but could only divert the ball to Jack Colback who reacted with a fierce shot across goal. Westwood was able to make the save but parried straight into the path of the onrushing Rory Fallon. The on-loan Plymouth striker – nominated as the Vital Ipswich ‘Man to Watch’ in this game – struck confidently into the Coventry net for his first goal for the Blues; a goal which could go a long way to sealing him a permanent deal.

The goal was the last action of significance before referee Russell Booth blew the whistle for half time. It had been a fairly even contest up to that point with both teams unlucky not to have opened the scoring prior to Fallon’s strike, but Keane would have been pleased to see his side ahead at the break – especially with a goal from his controversial signing.

Frustratingly however, that lead lasted all of three minutes after the restart. A huge goal kick from Westwood soared right up to the edge of the Town box where King used one sublime touch to bring it down and lay it back for Freddy Eastwood. With the Blues defence still backtracking, the ex-Norwich striker was free to strike a first-time shot from the D which Fulop could only parry into the Town goal to make it 1-1. The goal seemed to come out of nowhere and would have been a major disappointment for Ipswich to find themselves back on level terms so soon.

Having levelled the contest, Eastwood then went looking for his second two minutes later, but thankfully for the Blues, his effort soared miles off target. Town attempted to respond quickly at the other end through Fallon, the New Zealand international heading wide of the far post from Edwards’ cross before nodding another cross from the right towards the bottom corner, only for Westwood to pounce on it just in time ahead of Norris sliding in.

Ipswich were then handed a boost just before the hour mark. King failed to control a knock-down and then slid in recklessly as O’Dea beat him to the loose ball. Booth quickly blew his whistle and showed a straight red to the former Watford striker, sparking something of an angry exchange between the two sets of players and a furious reaction from the home crowd.

With Coventry down to 10 men, the game then started to get rather bad-tempered. Less than two minutes later, Wood attempted to head a clearance back into the Town box but was barged over by Jason Scotland leaping in. Still reeling from King’s dismissal, the home fans were outraged that Booth only saw fit to show Scotland a yellow card, sparking more handbags between some of the players.

Despite the commotion, Town were soon putting the focus back on football and really should have taken the lead soon after. Fallon headed a long ball straight to Westwood before McPake slid in to deny Scotland getting a shot on goal. The best chance however fell to Colback a minute later, the on-loan Sunderland midfielder collecting the ball from Norris to go clean through one-on-one with Westwood, but he slipped the ball agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.

At the other end, Coventry were seeking the lead themselves. Bell, who had posed plenty of problems for Town on the right for the Sky Blues, was replaced by former Colchester striker Platt with 20 minutes to go. Jutkiewicz struck a tame shot which Fulop got down to his left to save, but the Town keeper found himself beaten two minutes later when a Coventry free kick was nodded across goal for McPake to head home. However, the linesman had already flagged for offside shortly after the free kick had been taken.

Genuine chances started to get rather thin on the ground as the game entered the last 15 minutes. O’Dea – whose every touch was now being roundly booed by the home fans as if he had been to blame for King’s dismissal – dragged a long shot across goal before Keane sent Connor Wickham on in place of Scotland. The 17-year-old looked far from his best though and struggled to make any kind of impact, prompting Keane to take off Colback for another forward, Ronan Murray. Westwood pushed a Fallon nod-on away for a corner before Town made their final change, the industrious Peters being replaced by Troy Brown.

Jutkiewicz had a penalty appeal turned down for the Sky Blues as the match ran into five minutes of injury time. That might have been the opportunity for the hosts to push on for a much-needed three points but they seemed to have other ideas. Defender Martin Cranie replaced goalscorer Eastwood before Westwood appeared to take the smallest of knocks during a failed Town attack and then spent ages on the ground receiving treatment. Once back on his feet, he then wasted more time delaying the goal kick. Unsurprisingly, there was not enough time for either side to threaten a late winner as Booth sounded the final whistle to hand a point to both teams.

This game was always going to be difficult for Ipswich after not having any competitive action for two weeks. Having hoped that his team could push on after the win against Leicester however, Keane will look on this match as two points dropped for the Blues after taking the lead in the first half. It is now over 4 years since Town last won at the Ricoh Arena, though they will at least be satisfied to have avoided defeat against a Coventry team that have looked more dangerous this season, even if they were not at their best on Saturday. Ipswich will not have long to wait for another go however, with Nottingham Forest the visitors to Portman Road on Monday afternoon.

Coventry: Westwood, Keogh, McPake, Wood, Cameron, Carsley, Bell (Platt 70), Doyle, King (s/o 59), Eastwood (Cranie 89), Jutkiewicz – Not used: Ireland, O’Halloran, Baker, Thomas, O’Donovan

Ipswich: Fulop, Peters (Brown 87), McAuley, Smith, O’Dea, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Colback (Murray 85), Scotland (Wickham 77), Fallon – Not used: Lee-Barrett, Delaney, Livermore, Kennedy

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