IPSWICH Town and Queens Park Rangers battled it out in a goalless draw at a mysteriously quiet Portman Road, with the hosts being left to rue missing arguably the best chances of the game, short of a lot of encouragement from the Ipswich crowd.
Both teams had their chances to win the encounter with Ipswich going close with Danny Haynes hitting the post, and Jason De Vos bringing the best out of Lee Camp from a corner.
Rangers went close with efforts from Hogan Ephraim and Patrick Agyemang going close, but nothing entirely clear-cut as the R`s battled for a point in the stalemate.
The R`s made a couple of changes to the side that drew away at Town`s playoff rivals, Wolves. Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands made way, with the latter dropping to the bench, Hogan Ephraim and Gavin Mahon came into the starting line-up.
Damien Delaney was suspended for receiving his tenth yellow card of the season, and was replaced by Damion Stewart, with Matthew Connolly slotting in at left back.
Town handed a full debut to Manchester United loanee Danny Simpson at right back, at the expense of David Wright. Pablo Counago was also missing for Town owing to a three-match suspension for his sending off against Scunthorpe, Gavin Williams replaced the striker, with pacey forward Danny Haynes filling the void upfront alongside Alan Lee.
KICK OFF: IPSWICH TOWN v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Both teams started in an attacking vain, and it made for an interesting opening to the game with chances being created at either end. Rangers opting to keep the ball on the floor and use both flanks, and this led to an early opportunity for full back Michael Mancienne. The on loan Chelsea full back worked himself into a shooting position before dragging his right footed effort wide of Steven Bywater`s right hand post.
Conversely Ipswich seemed intent on playing direct, with Danny Haynes being used as an outlet for the ball over the top. The striker got in behind the Rangers backline on several occasions, and he really gave the R`s something to worry about just inside ten minutes. His excellent run tied Fitz Hall in knots before unleashing a right footed drive which cannoned back off the inside of Lee Camp`s left hand post and away to safety.
Town began to apply some considerable pressure on the R`s goal, and when Owen Garvan`s well-placed corner was met by the head of Canadian Defender Jason De Vos, Camp was equal to the powerful header pushing the ball away to safety.
Rangers then had their best chance of the encounter when Rowan Vine worked himself into a good position down the right flank before sending a tantalising drive into the box, the ball was only half cleared to R`s winger Hogan Ephraim. The ex-West Ham youngster took too much time over the effort and fairly snatched at the chance, putting the ball wide from close range.
The Tractor Boys were soaking up the Rangers pressure, and playing on the break trying to capitalise on their advantage in terms of pace. And it was that man Danny Haynes who was causing havoc once more in the heart of the Rangers rearguard. A couple of chances firstly Damion Stewart getting back just in time to block his shot from the right. Shortly after Lee Camp pulled off another good save to deny Haynes again from close range, following another testing Garvan set piece.
Hogan Ephraim was in the thick of the action was again. With Akos Buzsaky being absent, it was Ephraim who took control of free-kick duty. His 25-yard free kick on the left-hand side of the area, dropped narrowly wide of Stephen Bywater right hand post.
A moment of controversy on the stroke of half time, as a cross from the right was on the verge of finding Alan Lee on the far post. The striker and Michael Mancienne clashed on the far post with Lee appearing to throw himself forward following the challenge by the full back. Mr. Armstrong inspired no confidence in either set of players by staring blankly at his linesman before denying Town the spot kick. In the aftermath of the incident Town`s Gavin Williams couldn`t capitalise blasting over the bar from close range.
The last move of an action packed first period, with the game evenly poised going into the second half.
HALF TIME: IPSWICH TOWN 0-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The second half continued in a similar vain to the first, with both sides looking for the upper hand. It was Ipswich who began to assert themselves on the game with the R`s seemingly unable to keep hold of the ball in the early stages.
De Canio made his first move of the game, withdrawing Mikele Leigertwood in favour of the returning Martin Rowlands. Mikele seemed unable to keep hold of the ball for the R`s as they were getting outfought in the middle of the park.
Rowlands looked to stamp his authority on proceedings early on winning a number of tackles, and distributed outstandingly out to Vine on the left flank with one of his first touches. He then linked up with Vine again for another Rangers opportunity. The Rangers Number 14 dribbled the ball towards the right hand side of the area before laying in Rowan Vine, Vine`s near post cross was met by the head of Patrick Agyemang, who could only send his header into the side netting.
Agyemang linked together with that man once more. Martin Rowlands right footed effort from the edge of the area was tame and straight into the arms of the grateful Stephen Bywater. In comparison to the rest of the pitch the Ipswich goalmouth was a real pudding, and any daisy-cutter was always likely to cause problems for the goalkeeper who dealt admirably.
Alan Lee was at it again up the other end. With Rangers familiar with his exploits from his days at Port Vale, Rotherham and Cardiff, it was hardly surprising that the forward was once again arms and elbows at the ready, before hitting the turf under a supposed shove from Fitz Hall, the striker may have been better served staying on his feet and capitalising on some poor defending.
Agyemang was proving quite the formidable opponent, as yet another piercing run from the forward led to another opportunity for the R`s. His mazy run with Town defenders snapping at his heels came to a head on the edge of the area, and his drilled effort was deflected narrowly wide. Rangers attacks were becoming few and far between with the Tractor Boys looking to force the issue with their playoff credentials under threat.
Wave after wave of attack ensued for Town, with no real killer instinct to provide the all important breakthrough. Alan Quinn`s free-kick only a quarter of an hour from the end was well parried by Lee Camp once more, who really did look in the mood, thwarting Town at every opportunity.
Young striker Jordan Rhodes was thrown on for Town, who looked desperate for the winner. The subsequent corner from his introduction nearly yielded the desired outcome. The cross was blocked by Matthew Connolly on the line, with Ipswich players and fans alike appealing for anything you can think of. Players screaming at the referee and the linesman for a potential handball, whilst at the same time claiming that the ball had crossed the line.
The referee seemingly unable to make a decision without the aid of his linesmen, shared fleeting glances with his fellow officials before negotiating an outcome when he seemed better placed on the majority of decisions.
And with that the final whistle was blown, and Rangers moved onto 53 points, virtually safe from relegation, with Town briefly into the top six facing a trip to local rivals Colchester United.
FULL TIME: IPSWICH TOWN 0-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers Team: Camp, Mahon, Stewart, Mancienne, Blackstock, Connolly, Agyemang, Ephraim (Balanta 92) Vine (Lee 65) Hall, Leigertwood (Rowlands 57).
Lee Camp: 8/10
As above, made some excellent stops at point blank range, as well as from distance. Made alot of important catches and enjoyed a good performance in Ipswich.
Michael Mancienne: 6/10
A decent performance from the full back who only lost his man a couple of times and was booked for a rash challenge. Dealt with alot of threats down the left well with some well timed tackling.
Matthew Connolly: 6/10
Evidently out of position but coped well at left-back. Marshalled the wingers well and coped well with the pace of Haynes, covering well at centre back on a number of occassions.
Fitz Hall: 6/10
Not one of his best performances, was given a torrid time by Haynes as Rangers were on the back foot for good portions of the game. Didn’t look extremely mobile and Haynes turned him inside out on several instances.
Damion Stewart: 6/10
Looked slightly lethargic in stages, and could have been more composed in his clearances. A really tricky customer to deal with in Alan Lee, and didn’t win as many aerial duals as he’d have liked.
Hogan Ephraim: 6/10
Never really got into the game during the build up play, but drifted into some important positions, notably missing a good chance early on. Decent free kick that drifted wide, otherwise largely anonymous.
Rowan Vine: 6/10
Always looked lively, without ever really sustaining any sort of final ball or killer instinct. A few decent crosses but nothing that ever really cut the defence, or hurt the Town rearguard.
Mikele Leigertwood: 5/10
Constantly wastful in possession which led to his withdrawal. Didn’t look at his best alongside Mahon in the middle, and really needs to add a bit of consistency to his game.
Gavin Mahon: 7/10
Won quite alot of balls in the air, and distributed better than some of his counterparts. Needs to use that distribution alot more in attacking areas, and use that fierce shot we know that he is capable of.
Dexter Blackstock: 6/10
Again looked a little slow and lethargic. Won a few good headers in the final third without ever really creating anything or linking midfielders into the play. The chemistry plainly isn’t there with Agyemang.
Patrick Agyemang: 7/10
Was the driving force of the Rangers attack, constantly powering forward with pace to cause alot of problems for Bruce and De Vos. His trickery on the ball enabled the midfield players to get forward in support. Another good performance, if only he had a decent strike partner.
Martin Rowlands: 7/10
Replaced Mikele Leigertwood
Much improved on Mikele, really started to create for the R’s in midfield. A real breath of fresh air and will be looking to start next Saturday to continue his good form.
Kieran Lee: 6/10
Replaced Rowan Vine
Never really made an impact on proceedings, brought on for his defensively minded capabilities as Rangers started to look for a point.
Replaced Hogan Ephraim
Luigi De Canio: 6/10: His hands were tied in some instances, with Rowlands returning from injury and Buzsaky seemingly fatigued from international duty. Tactically ok, but would have liked to see Rowan Vine up top with Agyemang.
Jim Magilton: 7/10: Unlucky to see his side come away with only a point, the inclusion of Haynes up top was inspired as he caused alot of problems. Who needs another striker if this lad hits form?
I said a very optimistic 1-0. I assumed the game would be very tight and we may nick it on the break and on occassions it could have come to fruition, but today it wasn’t to be, but nevertheless a good point.
Paul Armstrong 4/10: Another poor refereeing performance, heavily over-reliant on his assistants and scared to make alot of big decisions on his own. Didn’t give the R’s very much, and gave the home side alot of decisions without getting the big decisions. Weak performance.