Town in danger of bottom-five finish

IPSWICH Town find themselves in danger of finishing in the bottom five of the Championship after going eight matches without a win.Yesterday's second half performance in the 2-1 defeat at Watford was an improvement.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town find themselves in danger of finishing in the bottom five of the Championship after going eight matches without a win.

Yesterday's second half performance in the 2-1 defeat at Watford was an improvement.

But it still failed to halt a run that is the worst since February and March 2002 in the season the Blues were relegated from the Premiership.

It is the longest non-winning sequence since Joe Royle took over as manager in the autumn of the same year.

There is no doubt they should have been given a 56th minute penalty when former Norwich City defender Malky Mackay blatantly tripped Alan Lee.

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When you are down your luck is often out and this is the case with Ipswich Town at the moment - and there is genuine justification in Royle's current disgust at the quality of referees.

But there is truth in the adage that you make your own luck and the cold facts are that Ipswich have slipped to 16th in the table.

A point-less Easter has proved particularly galling for their fans, as Norwich City can no longer be caught.

That should be the least of Royle's worries as he looks to find a marked improvement in the next two games to settle nerves going into the long summer break.

Partly out of desperation, perhaps, and partly with a view to next season Royle made six changes to the side that lost 2-1 at home to relegated Brighton on Saturday.

With striker Alan Lee ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a hamstring strain and skipper Jim Magilton's deserved Ipswich swansong on Saturday, the manager will continue to ring the changes against Derby on Saturday.

Jay McEveley was brought back from Merseyside for a surprise recall to the team, while Vemund Skard made his full debut.

Fabian Wilnis, rated by Royle as Town's best player on Saturday, was one of those rested along with Shane Supple, Darren Currie, Danny Haynes, Owen Garvan and Scott Barron - the latter two left to watch from the stand.

Sito Castro was brought in to play at right back, while Dean Bowditch was given another opportunity to shine - as part of a three-man front line and against a team that he once scored a hat-trick against.

To be fair to the 19-year-old he was asked to play wide as Nicky Foster and Lee were given the more central roles. But Bowditch made very little happen and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Haynes at the interval.

Haynes added some much-needed width and pace and although he did not enjoy his best game by any means he helped Ipswich improve into a reasonable fighting unit.

After struggling to find any shape or pattern in the opening half, Ipswich became equals to the Hornets - although overall the home side deserved their victory.

Watford give Ipswich hope for next season as last August they were no-hopers for promotion, with rookie Aidy Boothroyd tipped to be the first managerial casualty of the campaign.

Town will start rank outsiders in four months' time after their struggles over the last few weeks, but Watford have proved upsets can happen. The canny Boothroyd kept the crowd behind to bay at their heroes as they took penalties in an attempt to prepare for any hostility a spot-kick play-off may bring.

Unless they win the lottery that is the play-offs, Watford are welcome to their extra games.

Every Town fan would swap the current inertia for the minefield that awaits those who finish between third and sixth in the table.

With the majority of one stand condemned, a pitch that is a disgrace and was used for a rugby union game on Sunday plus rows of empty seats, the question has to be asked whether Watford deserve the glories of the Premiership.

Certainly with a ground as modern and well-equipped as Portman Road and their attendance figures Ipswich are much better equipped, but full marks to Boothroyd for making the most of what he has got.

He was missing 21-goal leading scorer Marlon King, who was serving a suspension, but Darius Henderson took over the mantle and took advantage of two good crosses and a couple of lapses by Ipswich defenders to win the game.

Forster was not expected to start because of his lack of match fitness, but he was pronounced strong enough to last 90 minutes. For the second time in three days he scored a goal and showed how useful he can be if he keeps clear of knocks.

Lee battled away manfully, particularly after the break, and had to switch shirts as his original was bloodied in the heat of the battle.

It was a plus for Town to have two experienced front men in harness, but with Lee now injured it was a rare luxury. Yet again, it was not a good day for Town's midfield.

Outnumbered, Skard, Juan and Matt Richards worked their socks off but their passing was often awry with Juan in particular not at his most fluent.

Skard showed a healthy work rate and only a few misplaced passes.

Watford collected a double in a mundane Championship campaign that is virtually done and dusted with a fortnight to go. The only place still to decide is who joins Reading and Sheffield United in promotion.

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