Super Davis makes Town's point
COVENTRY CITY 1 IPSWICH TOWN 1 INSIPID, inconsistent and in for a shock, if Ipswich seriously think they can win automatic promotion.The Blues may have taken their unbeaten away record to 10 games and kept themselves among the play-off places but the performance at Highfield Road was, once again, not good enough.
By Derek Davis
COVENTRY CITY 1 IPSWICH TOWN 1
INSIPID, inconsistent and in for a shock, if Ipswich seriously think they can win automatic promotion.
The Blues may have taken their unbeaten away record to 10 games and kept themselves among the play-off places but the performance at Highfield Road was, once again, not good enough.
Coventry is a city famous for Lady Godiva riding naked on horseback through the streets. On Saturday it was Ipswich Town's shortcomings which were laid bare.
It was not the sort of display which makes you serious promotion candidates and while the players will not need telling, no doubt the manager's words at full-time will have left them in no uncertainty that things need to improve.
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If it were not for keeper Kelvin Davis, the Blues would have gone down to an ordinary side who had pepped up their team by making four changes to the one held by Colchester United in the FA Cup the week before.
Of course it can be argued that if Shefki Kuqi had not missed an open goal from inside six yards, things might have been different. The Kosovan could also have slotted in from a more acute angle on another occasion, but Darren Bent's close proximity put him off. And Martijn Reuser put a diving header wide as he was used as a makeshift striker, while 12-goal top-scorer Pablo Counago festered on the bench.
Town boss Joe Royle has clearly lost patience with the Spanish striker who has managed just four goals away from home this season, and one of those - at West Ham United - is still disputed. Bent also started on the bench after returning from injury and promising striker Dean Bowditch was not among the 16.
Dutchman Reuser went to the right wing in the second half when injuries to Georges Santos and Fabian Wilnis enforced changes at the break and Bent went up front. Jermaine Wright was forced into the right-back slot, with Ian Westlake already on for Tommy Miller.
It must be a headache for Royle who, as we move into February, does not seem settled on a starting XI and often uses players out of position.
To accommodate the fit players on Saturday Town used five defenders and five midfielders, with one recognised striker, although Reuser has played up front before. And as much as it may be true that good players can play anywhere, there was a lack of cohesion and understanding. No-one put the spark into the side and it was only when Chris Bart-Williams came on after the break, that the midfield stabilised and shape appeared.
It was Bart-Williams who engineered the Town equaliser when he played a defence-splitting ball up to Kuqi who chested it down then laid it off for Westlake to rap in left footed-from 15 yards, taking a deflection off Callum Davenport as it went in. Bart-Williams was also involved in the move that might have led to a Town winner, as undeserved as it might have been. The midfielder slipped the ball wide for Reuser who delivered a good low cross, which Gavin Ward could only push to Kuqi who inexplicably blasted it high and wide when a simple tap-in to an empty net would have sufficed.
Town had gone behind moments before half-time when on loan Liverpool midfielder Stephen Warnock struck, injuring Santos in the process. Julian Joachim's initial shot had been blocked by Richard Naylor and fell loose near the penalty spot. It was the only way Davis was going to beaten on a busy afternoon for the former Dons stopper.
City almost caught Town napping right from the off as the three-man central defence failed to prevent first Warnock and then Micky Doyle hitting goal-bound shots.
Davis then proceeded to make outstanding saves from Joachim and Graham Barrett in the dying minutes as the Sky Blues bombarded Town, looking for the winner.
In Warnock they have a midfielder who looks a cut above the rest but City are struggling, like Town, to make the most of their chances.
Davis aside, Coventry still managed to put some decent chances high and wide as they exploited Town's weak left side, with Bjarni Gudjonsson impressing in his first start along with right back Richard Shaw.
With Warnock influencing and Frenchman Eric Deloumeaux steadfast in the holding role, Ipswich could not get a grip on midfield. Town skipper Jim Magilton was unable to get his game going fully and losing Tommy Miller to a thigh strain after 26 minutes was a further disruption for Town, although young Westlake's work could not be faulted.
While Magilton's brother-in-law and Coventry defender, Steve Staunton, had the occasional scare, there was little width from Town to get behind City often enough, and when they did there was no fox in the box to convert the chances.
There were moments when Town put together some slick passing, but it was rare and it is becoming increasingly worrying that there is little or no end-product. Ipswich Town are not a bad side, but they do not show often enough what a good side they are by punishing average teams like Coventry.
To challenge the likes of Norwich, West Brom and Sheffield United, Town need to find a formula the team is comfortable with to reach the sort of standards set against Cardiff, Burnley and The Blades. Then they must maintain this on a consistent level. They will know the showing at Highfield Road was simply not good enough.