Date: 16th October 2010 at 5:23pm
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A lack of penetration and some questionable refereeing decisions left Town frustrated as Coventry held onto a 2-1 lead to walk away from Portman Road with all three points.

Having spoken prior to today’s match about a selection dilemma, Roy Keane decided to bring holding midfielder Luke Hyam back into the starting lineup in place of Tom Eastman, whilst leaving David Norris on the bench. Other than that, the lineup was unchanged from the win over Leeds, with Jack Colback not included in the squad despite completing his loan move from Sunderland yesterday. Coventry were without Marlon King who was not passed fit, but Keiren Westwood did return in goal.

In a match which had its fair share of controversial decisions, referee Rob Shoebridge was already making himself unpopular with the home crowd within the first five minutes. The ball appeared to strike Lee Carsley’s hand as he controlled inside his own area, but no penalty was given.

With Town denied an early opportunity from the spot, it was Coventry who made the better start of the two. Possession was lost after a pass from Mark Kennedy with Lukas Jutkiewicz stealing in, but Gareth McAuley did well to force the Coventry striker out wide and restricting him to a long shot which flew over. It was the first effort of what was a very slow opening ten minutes for Town, with most of their forward play resulting in long throws which simply landed straight in the hands of Westwood.

Ipswich’s first chance to threaten the Coventry goal came from a free kick. Grant Leadbitter was brought down just outside the D as he received a pass from Andros Townsend, but the midfielder thumped the free kick straight into the Coventry wall when he really could have made more of the position. It was as much as the Blues managed for the first 15 minutes, with Coventry probably edging more of the possession without ever being that effective with it.

Town were made to pay for their sluggish start soon after. By comparison to their own throws, Keane’s side had shown signs of struggling with long throw-ins from the visitors, and they didn’t deal any better with a corner after 19 minutes. Sammy Clingan sent in the ball from the left which flew across the area before being nodded back across goal by Aron Gunnarsson. Marton Fulop seemed helpless as Clive Platt headed into the Town goal to hand Coventry a 1-0 lead which, in all honesty, one could’ve seen coming before the corner was even taken.

Three minutes later referee Shoebridge drew further frustration from Town fans when defender Richard Wood seemed to be all over Jason Scotland as the Town striker headed into the box before going down. With no penalty given, Coventry were soon up the other end causing problems for Town again, Fulop continuing to look uncharacteristically shaky as he missed another ball into the Town box.

With 28 minutes gone, the Blues finally managed an effort of note. With Town pushing forward, a defensive clearance fell into the path of Jake Livermore, who took the ball down outside the area before firing a curling shot just wide of the right-hand post. The attempt prompted further pressure from Town, who looked to be getting into it slowly with half an hour played.

From that point the match became a little more evenly contested. McAuley timed a challenge to perfection to deny Jutkiewicz running clean through on goal before Westwood was able to pluck a deep cross from Carlos Edwards away from the head of Jaime Peters racing in. The Sky Blues keeper was on hand again soon after to deny Scotland, diving in and snatching the ball at the striker’s feet. One minute later a good move by Town broke down as Edwards completely failed to react to a ball that had been played perfectly into the box for him, then Coventry took the ball up the other end and Jutkiewicz got the better of McAuley before striking an effort which crashed down off the underside of the bar, bouncing down perilously close to the wrong side of the line. It was an incredibly lucky escape for Ipswich who, despite getting into the game more, were still lacking penetration and could so easily have gone 2-0 down.

Things continued in much the same vein up to half time, with Clingan striking a 25-yard free kick straight into Fulop’s arms while at the other end, Peters crossed from the right deep into the six yard area where Scotland got in ahead of Westwood, but he couldn’t get enough on the ball to prevent it simply bouncing off his foot and over the bar. In time added on, Townsend set up Scotland for a shot which was deflected wide of the right hand post before McAuley headed wide at the near post from Leadbitter’s subsequent corner. With that being pretty much the last action of the half, the Town players left the field to reflect on what was truthfully a pretty dreadful first 45 minutes in which a seemingly average Coventry side had been made to look the better team throughout.

Clearly the lack of any real threat going forward was Keane’s main concern at half time, and he quickly looked to change things for the next 45 minutes with Connor Wickham coming on in place of Hyam. What followed was a much brighter start to the second half for Ipswich. Townsend had a shot blocked three minutes into the half, then five minutes later Scotland received the ball on the right of the box and, finding no real options available to him, decided to take the ball inside and strike a powerful shot which Westwood could only tip wide of the far post for a corner. Livermore also had an opportunity but his shot from the edge of the area was easily saved by the Sky Blues keeper.

Sadly for Town, the promise of the opening 10 minutes of the half soon evaporated following another controversial refereeing decision at the other end. McAuley worked hard to pressure Jutkiewicz as he brought the ball onto the left of the Town box before wrestling his way inside along the goal-line. The Town defender continued to challenge for possession but as soon as Jutkiewicz found himself inside the area, the pressure from McAuley simply invited the Coventry striker to go to ground – and indeed, he got what he wanted. Referee Shoebridge pointed to the spot for what seemed a very soft penalty, and Lukas Jutkiewicz stepped up himself to send Fulop the wrong way and put the visitors 2-0 up. It was a real blow for the Blues to concede the goal which, as far as the second half was concerned, had come very much against the run of play.

Thankfully for Ipswich, the old “you’re at your most vulnerable” adage did come to haunt Coventry within two minutes of them scoring. A clever bit of interplay between Livermore in the middle and Peters on the right saw the Canadian take a couple of neat touches to control on the far right of Coventry’s six yard area before teeing up Jason Scotland in the centre. The former Wigan striker demonstrated excellent technique to power a volley into the back of the net to make it 2-1 after 58 minutes with his fourth goal in five home matches. The Portman Road crowd was on their feet and making noise at last as the quality goal finally gave some encouragement that the Blues might just get back into the game.

From that point on, Town certainly started to have more of the possession, Coventry rarely able to keep hold of the ball long enough to pose a serious threat. However, the hosts still seemed short on ideas once the ball was in the final third, and few opportunities materialised. Instead, in the 15 minutes that followed, the game started to get a little bad tempered, Edwards squaring up to Gary McSheffrey after being brought down as he made a run forward, then Livermore reacted rather angrily after the linesman judged him to have fouled Gunnarsson. From the resulting free kick, McSheffrey went straight for goal from outside the Town box only to see his effort sail over the bar.

Having made little since their goal, Town started to create a few more chances with 20 minutes remaining. Leadbitter smashed a shot from the edge of the box which flew some way over the top-right corner of Westwood’s goal, then five minutes later he set up Scotland with a ball across the box from the right. Sadly though, the Trinidad striker just couldn’t quite get his head onto the ball properly and could only nudge it wide of the far post for a goal kick. With Town adopting a more attacking approach as Norris and Tamas Priskin replaced Peters and Townsend, the chances would have given Keane cause for optimism, but once again the Blues were quickly found wanting at the back. Within a minute, Platt nodded a free kick from the right wing by Clingan, and the ball was simply allowed to bounce in the six yard area before hitting the far post. Ben Turner tried to thump it back across goal but McAuley did well to block at the expense of a corner. Denied by the woodwork for a second time, the visitors should have counted themselves very unlucky not to be further ahead, even if a goal on this occasion would again have come against the run of play.

As the game rolled into the last ten minutes, Town fought in vain for an equaliser. Priskin held the ball up well before rolling it into the path of Scotland on the edge of the box. Looking for his second of the afternoon, the striker smashed a firm drive across goal but Westwood did very well to get his hands behind it and push wide for a corner. With three minutes added on, Coventry tried to put the result beyond doubt as substitute Carl Baker brought the ball inside but dragged his shot wide. It was the last real attempt on goal despite a late Town corner, Fulop again demonstrating his readiness to help the attacking cause by coming forward and nearly getting onto the delivery. With the danger cleared however, Shoebridge blew his whistle for the final time to hand Town their third defeat of the campaign and reward Coventry’s resistance with three points at Portman Road for the first time since 1994.

Despite an improvement in the second half, Keane will need his players to put this performance behind them quickly. Ipswich started the first half very badly and the warning signs were there within five minutes that they were likely to have a struggle on their hands. Whilst never really hitting any heights throughout the match, Coventry, to their credit, kept men behind the ball and made themselves difficult to break down. Some dodgy refereeing also didn’t help – aside from the penalty awarded to Coventry and indeed those not awarded to Town, there were handballs missed, fouls not given, goal kicks awarded as corners and vice-versa. Nevertheless, beyond all excuses, the visitors were aided by a real lack of creativity on Town’s part. Peters and Edwards had their moments but blew rather hot and cold during the course of the afternoon, the latter in particular rarely hitting the mark with his deliveries. Wickham sadly was never really able to get into the game, while McAuley and Fulop have certainly had better displays. The Blues’ long throws and corners never really posed a threat to Westwood, and the lack of quality or decisiveness in the final third proved very costly. Keane made clear after the match that the team needs more goals, and with an important match against surprise fellow playoff chasers Watford to come on Tuesday, they do not have much time to find the formula.

Ipswich: Fulop, Peters (Norris 73), McAuley, Smith, Leadbitter, Edwards, Livermore, Townsend (Priskin 73), Hyam (Wickham 46), Kennedy, Scotland – Not used: Murphy, Delaney, Brown, Eastman

Coventry: Westwood, Keogh, Cranie, Turner, Wood, Clingan, Carsley, Gunnarsson (Baker 81), Jutkiewicz, McSheffrey (Doyle 85), Platt – Not used: Ireland, Clarke, Cameron, McIndoe, O’Donovan.

Were you at Portman Road for the visit of Coventry? Were the Sky Blues any good, or were we just that bad?! What do you make of Town’s lack of goals so far this season? Do you think this team really has what it takes to challenge for promotion? Vote in our latest poll on Town’s chances for this campaign and have your say by registering with Vital Ipswich:

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