Date: 3rd January 2011 at 7:10pm
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Town were their own worst enemies as a Damien Delaney own goal and a red card for Grant Leadbitter condemned them to a 1-0 defeat against Nottingham Forest.

With Town playing two matches in the space of three days, Roy Keane shuffled things around with five changes to the team that drew at Coventry on New Years Day. Surprisingly Gareth McAuley kept his place despite fitness concerns, yet the rest of the defence around him was completely changed; Darren O’Dea, Tommy Smith and Jaime Peters went out as Mark Kennedy, Damien Delaney and Troy Brown came in. Meanwhile Carlos Edwards was replaced by Jake Livermore moving into the centre of midfield and Connor Wickham took the place of Jason Scotland up front. Billy Davies also sprung a surprise with his lineup, David McGoldrick making an unexpected return from a knee injury to start up front with ex-Norwich striker Robbie Earnshaw moved back to the bench.

Much like the game at Coventry on Saturday, both teams took a while to get going, though Town arguably had the better of the play. The first real chance however was not carved out until nearly 20 minutes in. Despite being put under a lot of pressure from Guy Moussi on the edge of the Forest box, Jack Colback managed to find his feet before turning and striking a 20-yard drive straight at goalkeeper Lee Camp. Two minutes later Town might have had another opportunity from the spot when Joel Lynch threw both of his arms around Rory Fallon and bringing him down in the box, but referee Darren Sheldrake turned away the penalty appeals.

Forest had failed to threaten the Town goal until the 24th minute. David McGoldrick narrowly failed to connect with Chris Cohen’s cross from the right, but the ball carried right through and nearly caught Marton Fulop off guard, the Blues keeper just able to boot it away off the line.

By now, both teams were creating their share of opportunities. Fallon nodded a cross from Wickham straight at Camp before Paul Anderson similarly wasted a headed opportunity from Nathan Tyson’s delivery. Norris then struck over the bar before Brown came very close to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark, thumping a header from a corner by Grant Leadbitter only to see Camp make a stunning reaction save to push it over the bar.

Forest began to come into the game more as the half went on and were not too far away from opening the scoring themselves, McGoldrick setting up Moussi to strike on goal only to be denied by Fulop. Five minutes before the end of the half however, they came even closer without even intending it; Town sportingly put the ball out of play after Tyson had received an accidental knock to the face from Brown, but in his attempt to hand possession back, Tyson accidentally struck the ball right against the bar of the Town goal. Cue some grumbling between Keane and Davies on the touchline, though thankfully nothing came of it.

Both teams continued to have chances as the interval drew near. Wickham was unable to force his way through two defenders on the edge of the Forest box before Moussi knocked the ball away, but Leadbitter was on hand to drive a powerful shot from range which flew narrowly over, perhaps with a helping hand from Camp. At the other end, Lynch headed wide from a Forest free kick.

Just as Town might have thought they were going in level however, they found themselves a goal down in unfortunate circumstances. Cohen’s long ball down the left reached McGoldrick who managed to cut it along the 6 yard line with Anderson closing in. Fulop intervened by parrying the ball away at the near post, but unfortunately he pushed it straight into the path of the backtracking Damien Delaney who couldn’t help but tap it straight into his own net. It was an unlucky goal to concede, albeit with a share of defensive mistakes along the way, and it had come at the worst possible moment just before half time.

With his team facing the task of coming back from behind in the second half, Keane made his first change by taking off the rather weary McAuley for Peters to come on with Brown moving into the middle. It was Forest who had the first chance of the second period however, Cohen firing a shot way off target before Fallon struck wide at the other end.

Keane continued to tinker with two more substitutions within the first 10 minutes of the half, Scotland replacing Fallon and Edwards coming on in place of Edwards. Scotland played his part in the buildup to Town’s next chance, exchanging passes with Wickham to set up Norris running into the visitors’ box. Wickham continued his run into the middle but captain Norris elected to shoot instead, striking across Camp and wide of the far post.

Nottingham Forest had their own penalty appeal turned down just shy of the hour mark after Anderson claimed to have been brought down by Peters. Soon after Scotland struck wide before Leadbitter brought Camp into action with a looping ball. At the other end, McGoldrick drew a save from Fulop before the Forest striker was replaced by Marcus Tudgay.

Town kept pressing without really coming that close to an equaliser as the game ran into the final 15 minutes. Camp was forced to tip Edward’s cross over his crossbar before Wickham nodded over from the subsequent set-piece. The Blues were then very fortunate not to go two goals down when Forest wasted a glorious opportunity. Substitute Tudgay crossed from the right to an unmarked Anderson at the far post who nodded back across goal. Tyson looked certain to score but his header was poor, the ball flying wide of the far post.

That was a final warning for the Blues who battled to get themselves back on level terms with five minutes remaining. Chambers headed Edwards’ cross away only for Leadbitter to smack another ferocious shot from long range which Camp was forced to parry wide of his left-hand post. As injury time began, a long ball by Brown was punched away by Camp but fell straight to Norris on the 18 yard line. With the Forest keeper stranded, Norris lofted the ball towards the open goal but it just wouldn’t drop quickly enough and landed on the roof of the net.

Having been frustrated in their search for an equaliser, Town’s afternoon then took a drastic turn for the worse. Leadbitter allowed the ball to get away from him and went sliding in on Anderson in his effort to keep possession. The Blues midfielder won the ball but his foot went over the top of it and sent Anderson flying, prompting Sheldrake to show him a straight red card. Ipswich will not appeal against the decision, ruling Leadbitter out of the upcoming cup ties against Chelsea and Arsenal. That was the last action of the match as the referee then blew his whistle to hand Forest the points.

It’s a return to losing ways then for Town who would have hoped to make something of a fresh start for 2011, but instead they find themselves stuck in 19th place just 3 points off the drop zone, albeit with a game in hand over some teams around them. Forest seem destined to work their way into the playoffs and would have been a tricky proposition for anyone, but Keane would have hoped to see his side capitalise on home advantage against a team struggling on their travels. The first defeat of the calendar year will no doubt dent hopes of a comeback in the league, but it could also have ramifications in other competitions – the FA Cup 3rd Round tie at Chelsea follows on Sunday before Arsenal are the next visitors to Portman Road in next week’s Carling Cup Semi Final first leg. Lose those matches (as arguably expected) and there probably won’t be much left for Town fans to hope for this season.

Ipswich: Fulop, Brown, McAuley (Peters 46), Delaney, Kennedy, Norris, Livermore (Edwards 52), Leadbitter, Colback, Wickham, Fallon (Scotland 52) – Not used: Lee-Barrett, T Smith, O’Dea, Murray

Nottingham Forest: Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Morgan, Cohen, McGoldrick (Tudgay 72), Ramsey, Moussi, Anderson, Lynch (Wilson 81), Tyson (Adebola 87) – Not used: P Smith, McGugan, Majewski, Earnshaw

Did you go to Portman Road on Monday? Is that it then – are we back to losing again, or do you think Forest were always likely to win this one? Have you run out of patience with Roy Keane, or are you tipping him to achieve something special in the cups? Have your say on this game as well as all things Town by joining Vital Ipswich:

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