Black edges for Blues
IPSWICH Town saved their pride but not their slide down the Premiership table at Ewood Park.On the evidence of their shabby first-half performance Town are already relegated back to the Nationwide League.
By Elvin King
IPSWICH Town saved their pride but not their slide down the Premiership table at Ewood Park.
On the evidence of their shabby first-half performance Town are already relegated back to the Nationwide League.
But hope was restored during the second period when George Burley's team showed the necessary panache and determination that is now needed to remain in the top flight of English football.
It was a dramatic transformation but at the end of 90 minutes Town fans were left frustrated at the dropping of three more vital points – this time to fellow strugglers – and wondering why the Suffolk side was unable to get started until they were already two goals adrift.
Blackburn Rovers leap-frogged over Ipswich with a victory they just about deserved last night.
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At half time the Worthington Cup winners looked well on course for a goal bonanza against a Town side showing the lack of confidence expected from a team having lost it's three previous games.
There was no menace in the visitors' play and Brad Friedel did not have a save to make in the opening 45 minutes.
Damien Duff was offered little opposition as he waltzed beyond four Town players before beating the recalled Matteo Sereni from the edge of the area in the 20th minute.
It was a similar goal to the bad one Ipswich conceded against Southampton in their last home game when Chris Marsden also made his way from the touchline to score.
Full marks to Duff who took his chance well giving Sereni little opportunity to save but a challenge should certainly have been put in by someone in the Town rearguard.
Andrew Cole, who Blackburn paid Manchester United £8 million for his goals to keep them in the Premiership, added what proved to be a vital second goal in the 43rd minute after Tugay and David Dunn had opened up the Ipswich defence.
It was a forlorn Suffolk side that trooped off the pitch at the interval – and a surprise when manager George Burley made no changes before the restart.
But he must have said plenty to inspire his men as the second 45 minutes were totally different.
Marcus Stewart, who looked much livelier and forceful of late, pulled a goal back with a classical striker's effort – heading home Mark Venus' 56th minute inswinging corner.
It was a goal in same vein as his two in the 3-3 draw at Southampton before he broke his jaw – and it lifted hopes that Ipswich could salvage something to halt this alarming descent down the table.
From being outplayed The Tractor Boys enjoyed the majority of possession for the remainder of the match – without seriously testing Friedel.
Blackburn, in better current form than Leeds who Town lost to last Wednesday, were rattled.
If Ipswich repeat this second period form for the remainder of the campaign they have a good chance of staving off the drop.
But they are now in a precarious position after losing out in this six-pointer and only points difference keeps them above the bottom three.
It remains to be seen how this roller coaster season maps out with Ipswich winning just once in their first 17 league games before putting together a remarkable run that saw them successful in seven out of their next eight.
Everything in the garden looked rosy, but four consecutive defeats have caused the worry lines to return to the faces of the Ipswich board, management and their supporters.
Burley decided to change his line up with Andy Marshall, Fabian Wilnis and Finidi George being left out.
Sereni came in for his first game – he has not been playing in the reserves – since the FA Cup victory at Dagenham and Redbridge on January 5.
He was unable to do what Burley really wanted, keep a clean sheet, but he was not responsible for the two goals and made a number of good saves.
But there does not appear to be the liaison between the Italian and the Town back four that Marshall has established. However, Sereni did more than enough to retain his place when Ipswich play Newcastle on Saturday.
George, removed from the Nigerian squad during the week, sat on the bench with Burley opting for no wide forward players two games after entering the Southampton match with both George and Martin Reuser in the side.
Ipswich looked quite lively in the middle of the park after the break but in the opening period they were bombed out by the home side who had far more options and attacked in numbers towards Sereni's goal.
Jermaine Wright, back after injury, stepped up his game as the match progressed with former Blackburn striker Marcus Bent having little chance to shine when being introduced in place of Alun Armstrong after 57 minutes.
Burley switched from using wingbacks to a 4-4-2 formation immediately after Duff's goal and he made another alteration in the second period with Hermann Hreidarsson moving to play beside John McGreal and Mark Venus taking over on the left side of the back four.
It appeared to work with Rovers, so desperate for these three points that move them out of the relegation positions showing their nerves although they still managed to break forward in confident fashion a number of times.
Burley chose four attacking substitutes to show his plan in this match that Ipswich knew they had to win. They didn't, although there is still time to gain the necessary three victories or so that will see them safe.
But it is getting increasingly fraught at the bottom of the table and even changing to a new black strip did nothing to improve the points tally of the Suffolk side.
Lee Jansen was missing from the Blackburn attack following an overnight stomach bug and Yordi, a Spaniard on loan from Real Zaragoza, was given his full first team debut.
Jansen has been forming a successful partnership with Cole but with Tugay, Duff and Dunn looking particularly inspired as the match began the Rovers carried on their good work of recent weeks and were a handful for Ipswich right from the beginning.
Ipswich certainly were in no mood to surrender without a fight but there was no denying an inept first period was their undoing and Burley will have to ensure that from now on his team are able to give their very best for the whole and not half of the game.