Three points provide much-needed boost

TONY Mowbray's first match in charge in a caretaker capacity provided the tonic of a much-needed victory for Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday. It was hardly convincing and needed goalkeeper Andy Marshall to come to the rescue with a breathtaking save in injury-time to prevent Paul McLaren from heading a last-gasp equaliser, writes Tony Garnett.

TONY Mowbray's first match in charge in a caretaker capacity provided the tonic of a much-needed victory for Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday. It was hardly convincing and needed goalkeeper Andy Marshall to come to the rescue with a breathtaking save in injury-time to prevent Paul McLaren from heading a last-gasp equaliser, writes Tony Garnett.

Simon Donnelly wasted two early chances for Wednesday. Ipswich then settled into a spell of polished football in the final 20 minutes before the interval. It was in that period of sustained pressure that Pablo Counago scored his two goals to bring his tally for the season to nine.

Mowbray changed things around for the second half with Mark Venus switching to midfield to keep tabs on the deep-lying Donnelly who had been posing problems. Ipswich lost their rhythm and Donnelly headed the best goal of the game in the 58th minute to set up a tense finish.

Had Wednesday fielded Lloyd Owusu from the outset they might well have won. He sharpened up their attack considerably throughout the second half when lanky Dutchman, Gerald Sibon, started to make his deft touch on the ball pay dividends.

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It seemed strange that Wednesday should withdraw the nippy Leon Knight in the 86th minute because he had quite lively. It was only when substitute Matthew Hamshaw started to fire in a succession of dangerous crosses from the right that one wondered why he had been overlooked for so long.

Ipswich started with a back three which was ripped open in the first minute when Donnelly, who had been on the Celtic staff at the same time as Mowbray, burst through to fire against the underside of the bar. He had latched onto a short but penetrating pass from Steve Haslam who had been gifted the ball by Jermaine Wright.

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In the sixth minute Ipswich grazed the bar when Wayne Brown flung himself forward to meet a free-kick from Venus with his head. Two minutes later, with players uneasy on the slippery surface, Donnelly was through again. This time his aim was too high.

That was about the sum total of Sheffield attacks in the first half. Ipswich grew in confidence as Wednesday became more ragged. Ipswich could, and perhaps should, have built up a more commanding interval lead.

On the quarter hour Leigh Bromby had a let-off when his long back-pass flew over Kevin Pressman's head and ended in the side netting. In the 18th minute Darren Ambrose, out on the left, beat the veteran Danny Maddix. He could have cut in to try a shot himself. Instead he tried to pick out Marcus Bent who has been without a league goal since the opening day of the season. Derek Geary intercepted.

Alan Quinn was fortunate not to concede a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Chris Makin in the 25th minute. The Ipswich pressure was building so the opening goal on the half-hour came as no surprise.

Thomas Gaardsoe got his head to a free-kick from Venus. Pressman dived to his left to get one hand to the ball. It was a fine save but the alert Counago was left with a simple chance from close range from the rebound.

Before Ipswich added a second there was a comical moment when Marshall was racing along his goalline as though he was being chased by a wasp. He was trying to line up the wall to deal with a free-kick from Sibon that came to nothing anyway.

In the 35th minute Ipswich were two up. It was a sweet move. Matt Holland sent a sweeping long pass to Jamie Clapham wide on the left. Ian Hendon never took up the right position to make a positive challenge. The ball flew over his head leaving Clapham to set up a simple opening for the hungry Counago to tap in.

Then Counago laid the ball back for Holland whose drive seemed to be touched over the bar by Pressman although a corner was not given.

Darren Ambrose crossed for Bent to leap high above Maddix. His powerful header sailed over the bar. Counago then tried to provide Ambrose with a goal at the far post but the Spaniard's pass was too far in front of the teenager.

It looked like the Ipswich of a couple of years ago for a while, but sadly this purple patch was not to last. Hopes of running up a big score faded and then disappeared like a rainbow.

Ipswich switched to a 4-4-2 system in the second half while Sheffield introduced Lloyd Owusu to provide extra pace up front.

Pressman saved well from Holland but then Wednesday pulled a goal back in the 58th minute and all the alarm bells started to ring. Owusu beat Gaardsoe out on the left. He crossed for Donnelly to escape his marker and score with a smart downwards header.

Owusu had the ball in the net with the flag raised for offside. It was at this stage that Tommy Miller was brought on for Venus and Alun Armstrong replaced crowd favourite Counago.

If Mowbray wanted to please the fans, who gave him a rousing reception before the start, he would have given Counago the chance to complete his hat-trick.

Mowbray, though, knew that Counago was playing his fourth game in the space of 10 days and wanted to keep him as fresh as possible for next Saturday's trip to Reading. There was also the matter of not aggravating a knock that the Spaniard had taken on his ankle.

During the final 20 minutes it became a question of whether Ipswich could hold out. It was touch and go.

In the 72nd minute Owusu was just wide as he chased a defence-splitting pass from Sibon and rolled his shot past the advancing Marshall. Holland rescued Ipswich after Knight had cut in past Clapham. Then Sibon headed over the top from a free-kick.

The appearance of Hamshaw added to the Ipswich problems. Makin headed Hamshaw's first cross for a corner.

The next cross from the Rotherham-born 20-year-old saw Sibon produce a textbook downwards header. It looked a certain goal, but the ground was still firm despite the rain. The ball bounced down and up over the bar. Ipswich fans could hardly believe their luck.

Only Marshall's most spectacular save of the season, perhaps one of the best of his career, kept out a powerful header from Paul McLaren in injury-time. Once again Hamshaw's cross oozed quality. He looks a great prospect.

Marshall flung himself to his left to prevent Ipswich from dropping a couple of points that would have made the dream of a swift return to the Premiership seem even further away.

Marcus Bent was the only Ipswich player to be booked. Dissent so often follows a bad decision by the referee. This was a case in point.

Three more points are in the bag but the decision as to who succeeds George Burley hangs in the balance.

Rotherham boss Ronnie Moore mistakenly thought he had been invited for an interview, Bruce Rioch, Mick Mills and Bryan Hamilton were all in the crowd and many others from pub team managers to some of the top names in the game are said to have put in applications.

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