Date: 28th February 2009 at 5:17pm
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A spirited Ipswich side were let down by individual errors at Deepdale, going down 3-2 to fellow play-off chasing Preston North End. The Blues fell behind in the fifth minute thanks to a Callum Davidson penalty after Alex Bruce was adjudged to have fouled Stephen Elliot, but Tommy Miller continued his fine streak of goals against the Northerners to equalise just after the half hour.

A calamitous mix-up between Richard Wright in goal and Bruce let Jon Parkin head over the stranded Town stopper although the ball trickled agonsingly over the line, before Wrighty failed to claim a corner allowing Stephen Elliot to fire home. Miller hit back almost instantly, but as Town huffed and puffed, they could not find a way past the solid Preston back four, goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, or the woodwork.

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After picking up a knock in the 3-1 win away to QPR last weekend, Ben Thatcher was forced to miss the game, meaning David Wright switching to left-back with Moritz Volz coming into the side on the right after a groin injury. Other than that, the team was unchanged from the win over the Hoops.

As in the previous two away games, Town fell behind with the opening five minutes. The linesman flagged for a foul by Alex Bruce on Stephen Elliot in the box, although Elliot wasn’t appealing for a penalty in a challenge that appeared to be six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Callum Davidson stepped up to take the penalty, and although goalkeeper Richard Wright nearly saved it, the ball crept agonisingly under him to give Preston the lead.

GOAL: Preston North End 1-0 Ipswich Town (Callum Davidson)

Argentine Luciano Civelli had a free-kick cleared by the impressive Sean St Ledger as the Blues looked for a quick response. Jon Stead then got his head on a Mortiz Volz cross, but the ball went wide, while Tommy Miller also had an effort that narrowly the target.

The early goal, as at Loftus Road, has woken Ipswich up and they were looking good value to score an equaliser. Strikers Jon Stead and Pablo Counago saw their efforts saved and be deflected off target respectively, although there was a scare at the other end as Simon Whaley hit his shot from the edge of the Town area way over.

On the half hour, the in=form Tommy Miller scored for the sixth time against his former loan club. Luciano Civelli linked up well with Jon Stead before supplying Miller with a low ball, the Ipswich centre-midfielder then doing the business and hitting his shot past former target Andrew Lonergan in the Preston goal.

GOAL: Preston North End 1-1 Ipswich Town (Tommy Miller)

Alan Quinn gave Ipswich fans a scare as the ball went dangerously close to his arm in the box, but the Lilywhites appeals were waved away by referee Steve Tanner. Billy Jones then forced Wrighty into a save. Eddie Nolan then replaced Sean St Ledger at the back after clashing with Pablo Counago.

Just four minutes from the break, Jon Parkin – highlighted as the dangerman by Vital Ipswich before the game – bagged the Lilywhites’ second goal after a mix-up between Alex Bruce and Richard Wright.

The Blues stopper rushed off his line, leaving Bruce expecting his goalkeeper to clear the ball. However, Wrighty was unable to get there as Parkin nipped in to nod the ball over Town’s number one from the edge of the box. It was a poor goal to concede, undoing all Ipswich’s hard work in the first half.

GOAL: Preston North End 2-1 Ipswich Town (Jon Parkin)

Parkin had another go shortly before the break, but his effort was saved by Wright. The two sides then went in for the half-time break, with Preston very fortunate to go in ahead after the Blues were the dominant side.

HALF-TIME: Preston North End 2-1 Ipswich Town

Moritz Volz was replaced at the break with Alex Bruce going right-back and Pim Balkestein coming into the centre. The Fulham loanee is thought to have suffered a recurrence of the groin injury that has kept him out of the side for the past few weeks.

Goals do wonders for confidence, and Pablo Counago is certainly playing with that at the minute after his sublime strike at QPR last weekend. The Spaniard saw his effort deflected over the bar within just two minutes of the restart, with Civelli involved in the build up. The Argentine has added an extra dimension to the Ipswich side since his arrival, giving them natural width on the left – something that has been missing for a season or two.

Lonergan pulled off a decent stop from Pim Balkestein after a header from captain Gareth McAuley, still searching for that elusive first goal in Ipswich colours. Stephen Elliot was then booked for a late tackle on the Town skipper.

Kevin Lisbie came on with ten minutes gone in the second period before Preston extended their lead on the hour mark. David Wright dealt well with a cross from one of the North End players, but gave away a corner in which he lost his man, Stephen Elliot. The former Sunderland striker then blasted home at the far post, although Richard Wright may have been able to have claimed to ball.

GOAL: Preston North End 3-1 Ipswich Town (Stephen Eliiot)

Still, Ipswich weren’t finished there. Four minutes after the home side extended their lead, Tommy Miller fired in a fine free kick from outside the box to make it 3-2.

GOAL: Preston North End 3-2 Ipswich Town (Tommy Miller)

Jon Walters was brought on as Ipswich pushed for a deserved equaliser. The ex-Chester star played in Kevin Lisbie, but the Jamaican striker failed to beat the on-rushing Lonergan. Just minutes later, Lisbie worked himself an opening, but was this time denied by the post – the signs showed that it wasn’t to be Town’s day.

FULL-TIME: Preston North End 3-2 Ipswich Town

On another day, Ipswich will play ten times worse than that and still win. Still, they only have themselves to blame after a series of individual errors gifted Preston their goals, and these must be eradicated from the Blues game if they want that top six spot at the end of the season.

Ipswich leave Deepdale only three points behind the play-off pack, with everything still to play for. There are plenty of positives to draw from the game, and they must take these into Tuesday night’s game against Southampton at Portman Road.

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