Report: Ipswich Town battle to 0-0 draw at promotion-chasing Middlesbrough
Ipswich Town defied the odds as they battled and scrapped to a 0-0 draw at second-placed Middlesbrough, denting the Teesiders’ promotion hopes in the process.
Town were indebted to four good saves from Bartosz Bialkowski two in each half, while Jordan Rhodes hit the post, as the hosts did everything but score.
The Blues defended doggedly though, Jonas Knudsen and league debutant Paul Digby impressing, but failed to provide any real threat in the final third, they have now scored three goals in their last seven games.
The Blues, without a win in their previous four away games, made four changes from the starting line-up that drew 1-1 at home to Fulham in midweek.
On-loan Barnsley youngster Digby, made his first league start for Town, and just the 11th of his professional career, replacing centre-back Christophe Berra, who had picked up a knock to his knee.
Kevin Bru, Luke Hyam and David McGoldrick also started with Jonathan Douglas, Andre Dozzell and Brett Pitman dropping to the bench.
As for Boro, who had won their last six at The Riverside and were unbeaten in seven, they made just one change, with Ritchie de Laet replacing hamstring victim George Friend at left-back.
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That meant former Town youngster Jordan Rhodes started against his boyhood club, while David Nugent, with 15 goals in 14 games against Town, was on the bench.
The visitors started brightly, keeping the ball well in the hosts’ half, but failed to test home goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous.
Boro took a while to get going in the contest, but once they did, Town had to withstand a barrage of attacks with Stewart Downing and Albert Adomah getting at full-backs, Luke Chambers and Knudsen, and Gaston Ramirez linking up well with them just behind lone striker Rhodes.
The visitors, with little to play for were defending well, but were indebted to Player-of-the-Year Bialkowski for keeping the scoresheet blank on two occasions.
First the Pole got down to beat out Downing’s powerful strike from 12 yards, following a Rhodes knock-down, before getting the better of Rhodes in a one-on-one duel, the keeper touching the striker’s delicately-placed effort around the post for a corner.
Digby was doing the basics well, although he did struggle when the ball was played in behind him or down the channels, and put in a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Emilio Nsue a certain goal at the back post, the Boro full-back hesitating before shooting at goal, six yards out.
Knudsen was involved in the final action of the half, diverting Adam Clayton’s centre out for a corner and denying Adomah a certain goal.
The second half proved to be more even, with Town enjoyng more possession and atacking threat, but again they failed to test Konstantopolous, Liam Feeney going the closest with a wild back post effort that went high and wide over the bar.
At the other end, Daniel Ayala headed a corner into the ground and over the bar, while Bialkowski thwarted Downing at the near post, to further frustrate the home faithful.
Rhodes, so often Ipswich’s nemesis, then hit the post with a low shot after turning well in the box.
Nugent was introduced as a late sub and nearly won it in stoppage time, but his close-range header was saved by Bialkowski on the line, as Town held out.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, De Laet, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Ramirez (Nugent 82), Downing (Stuani 70), Rhodes.
Subs not used: Agazzi, Forshaw, Kalas, Husband, De Sart.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Chambers, Digby, Smith, Knudsen (Foley 76), Skuse, Hyam (Bishop 71), Feeney, Bru (Douglas 85), Sears, McGoldrick
Subs: Gerken, Pringle, Pitman, Dozzell.
Referee: Darren Bond
Att: 30, 505