Town hit back to earn valuable point

Plymouth Argyle 1 Ipswich Town 1IPSWICH Town could not make their late superiority count and had to settle for a point in this Championship game between the two basement sides.

Elvin King

Plymouth Argyle 1 Ipswich Town 1

IPSWICH Town could not make their late superiority count and had to settle for a point in this Championship game between the two basement sides.

Defeat would have been a disaster

Home skipper Carl Fletcher opened the scoring in the 21st minute in this early season 'relegation' battle at sunny Home Park. In a lively second period, Town came to life after substitute Jon Stead equalised with an assured goal in the 68th minute.

Town had chances late on after looking ordinary for the first hour, and they were well in charge for the final minutes after Plymouth substitute Darcy Blake was sent off.

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It was former Town legend Paul Mariner's first game since he officially took as head coach to manager Paul Sturrock for the Pilgrims with the ex-striker out early on the pitch helping to warm up his team prior to a game that neither side dare lose.

Dressed in a tracksuit, Mariner was given a great reception by home fans when introduced five minutes before kick-off.

There were several 100 Town fans behind the goal that Begovic protected in the opening half on a mild and at time sunny west country afternoon.

McAuley was booked in the second minute as Mackie threatened to break clear after Smith slipped. From the free-kick Mackie bundled his way through the heart of the Town defence with Smith putting in a goal-saving last-ditch tackle on the edge of the six-yard box.

Two minutes later Rosenior crossed well from the right and Walters' close range header was deflected over by a defender.

Counago was playing up front on his own with Edwards on the right flank and Walters on the left.

Begovic had had more to do in the first five minutes than in his two previous Town game - at home to Swansea and Watford.

In the 14th minute, with Ipswich in the ascendancy Leadbitter drove in a low 20-yard shot that Larrieu dived to his right to make an uncomfortable save.

Town made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Watford at Portman Road on Tuesday. Peters and Colback came back into the side with Martin and Trotter dropping out.

The big surprise was skipper Walters' keeping his place up front after manager Keane had said yesterday that his sprained ankle would rule him out and that he would not be travelling down to Devon.

The resolute Walters impressed in training yesterday and was declared fit to take his place on the mid-afternoon flight to Plymouth.

Keeper Richard Wright was on the bench after missing the last two games completely, while there was a return to favour for Healy and Delaney who were named substitutes where notable omissions were Priskin and Martin.

Plymouth made three changes with Arnason, Paterson and Fallon coming in and Timar, Clark and Barnes dropping out.

The home side took the lead in the 21st minute when Sawyer's ball into the box was nodded down by Fallon to Mackie, who rolled the ball back to Fletcher coming in 22-yards out. The number four struck an accurate left-foot shot that entered the net off a diving Begovic's left-hand post.

Four minutes later McAuley limped off holding his right thigh to be replaced by Bruce with Walters retaining the skipper's armband.

The 27th minute saw Counago place the ball neatly into the net, but the striker was a yard offside, and two minutes later Edwards set up Leadbitter for a 20-yard shot that Larrieu turned away diving full length to his left.

Ipswich were looking far from convincing and Begovic matched Larrieu's two earlier saves from Leadbitter with a great 38th minute diving stop from a Fletcher 20-yard low drive.

Quinn came on at the interval for Rosenior with Wright going to right back and Peters switching to left back. Begovic, who was looking an assured keeper, came out took the ball off Mackie as the home front man burst through.

Town fans were still calling Keane's name despite Town looking unlikely at this stage to gain any reward from this game.

There was still little sign of an Ipswich goal although Stead had livened things up after coming on for Counago. Mariner was a highly motivated figure in front of the home bench, kicking every ball and urging his men on.

In the 68th minute, Town gained a huge lifeline with a Stead equaliser - his first goal of the season. Sawyer under-hit his back pass and Stead was able to run on and round the keeper before rolling the ball into the net from 15-yards.

Begovic made himself big to put off Judge when the midfielder looked set to net from a cross, and in the 72nd minute Stead and Walters set up Quinn with a free shot in front of goal. Quinn beat Larrieu, but Blake stretched to clear off the line.

It was all action now with Stead having a snap shot saved and the referee turning down strong Argyle appeals for a penalty.

Substitute Blake was sent off after 84 minutes for what the referee deemed a two-footed lunge at Quinn.

Begovic made a brilliant save in the five minutes of stoppage time to dent Lowry after hesitant late Town defending.

Teams

Plymouth Argyle: Larrieu; Gray (sub Blake 61 mins), Lowry, Arnason, Sawyer; Judge, Duguid, Fletcher, Paterson (Gray 52); Mackie, Fallon (Sheridan 35). Substitutes: Letheren, Timar, Barnes, Gow.

Ipswich Town: Begovic; Rosenior (Quinn 46), McAuley (Bruce 23), Smith, D Wright; Edwards, Leadbitter, Colback, Peters; Walters, Counago (Stead 57). Substitutes: R Wright, Delaney, Healy, Trotter.

Referee: Mr S Hooper (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 10,875 (784, Ipswich)

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