Town hold a side with real punch

FULHAM 1 IPSWICH TOWN 1IPSWICH were presented with a great opportunity of turning the match in their favour after Fulham were reduced to 10 men just before the interval at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage yesterday.


IPSWICH Town were presented with a great opportunity of turning the match in their favour after Fulham were reduced to 10 men just before the interval at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage yesterday.

The match turned into a nightmare for Fulham striker Luis Boa Morte. In the 29th minute he fired wide from the penalty spot when he had the perfect chance to put Fulham two up.

Six minutes later he was booked for a controversial incident near the touch line that left Fabian Wilnis on the ground holding his jaw.

Then seconds before the interval the pacy Boa Morte sprinted into the penalty area and dived to the ground although there had seemed to be no contact from Hermann Hreidarsson.

Referee Mike Riley considered it to be unsporting conduct and showed Boa Morte his second yellow card which meant an early bath.

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Perhaps it was debatable, certainly Mr Riley made little allowance for the slippery conditions as the names of five other players went into his book. The red card for Boa Morte was the turning point in the game.

Before the interval an out-of-sorts Ipswich had been unable to produce a shot on target and fell behind to a 22nd- minute shot from Barry Hayles.

Wilnis lunged into a sliding tackle that stopped the speedy Rufus Brevett on the overlap.

John Collins, an experienced Scot known to Fulham boss Jean Tigana from their days at Monaco, floated the free-kick in from the left.

Ipswich were unable to clear the ball which fell kindly for Hayles to fire past Matteo Sereni from eight yards. The Ipswich keeper was probably unsighted and certainly left with no chance.

The penalty award in the 29th minute came after a fierce drive into the box by Steve Marlet struck John McGreal on the arm. The Town defender had no chance of avoiding the ball but referee Riley ignored protests. Boa Morte sent his shot wide of Sereni's left-hand post so perhaps justice was done.

After the interval Ipswich faced the 10 men of Fulham with every prospect of forcing victory.

Martijn Reuser was brought off the bench as Ipswich changed their formation with a dazed Wilnis staying in the dressing room. Chris Makin switched to right-back and Jamie Clapham filled in the slot at left-back.

At last Fulham were being pushed back and the equaliser from Jermaine Wright came in the 55th minute. Clapham knocked a corner back for Reuser to cross. Van der Sar punched the ball out when he might easily have held the cross. Sixto Peralta, a breath of fresh air in the Ipswich midfield, touched the loose ball into the path of Wright who cracked a right-foot shot into the net. It was a cool and confident finish.

From this position an Ipswich victory seemed to be there for the taking but as the game wore on it never quite looked like happening.

Van der Sar was never given the work which he must have been expecting.

Before Ipswich scored Matt Holland had fired hopelessly wide when set up by the busy Peralta who had already made a favourable impression.

Fulham were still a threat on the break and Alain Goma headed wide from a Collins free-kick.

In the 62nd minute Fulham made a double substitution with Steve Davis and Steed Malbranque providing fresh legs. Davis, usually a midfield player, was given an attacking role. Ipswich were never allowed much time on the ball and often fell into an offside trap – but they enjoyed far more of the possession and should have been able to cash in.

In the 68th minute Fulham brought on the speedy Louis Saha in place of Hayles. There was always the fear that he might outrun the Ipswich defenders as they pushed forward.

Town fans were disappointed when Jim Magilton took over from new favourite Peralta who may have been tiring. Then in the 78th minute a slip by Makin almost proved costly. Saha gained possession and let fly with a 35-yard thunderbolt which Sereni punched clear.

Many lesser keepers would have been beaten by the sheer ferocity of the shot.

Ipswich created far too little although in the 87th minute Reuser and Clapham combined down the left. The latter crossed only for Holland to head over the top.

It was a day when things went wrong for Ipswich almost from the start. Finidi George took an awful blow in his face while helping out in defence.

The accidental clash with Goma left him with a depressed fracture and the prospect of a long lay-off. George was withdrawn in the 14th minute allowing Marcus Stewart more of the action than he can have anticipated. Town's second away point of the season may prove to be precious in the long run but they still have work to do to reproduce anything like last season's rhythm.

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