Writer: Darren C
Date:Saturday March 12 2011
Saturday 12 March 2011
Ipswich Town pulled off a shock at Elland Road as they held the Championship's top scorers Leeds United to a goalless draw to walk away with a share of the points on Saturday.
With David Norris suspended, Town's travelling fans were treated to the sight of Kieron Dyer back in an Ipswich shirt for the first time in 12 years after the midfielder was handed his second Blues debut on loan from West Ham United. Jimmy Bullard was also a surprise inclusion having been a major doubt with a hamstring injury whilst Tamas Priskin returned as a lone striker, Andy Drury and Jason Scotland making way. Ex-Blues Alex Bruce and Richard Naylor were left on the bench for the hosts.
Leeds might have been the division's leading scorers, but it was Town who nearly found the net within 15 seconds of the kickoff. Carlos Edwards thumped a long ball downfield which Priskin collected ahead of Andy O'Brien and George McCartney, but the Blues striker drilled his effort across goal and wide. Soon after, Leeds striker Billy Paynter picked up the first booking of the match after striking Gareth McAuley with his arm in an aerial challenge.
Priskin drew the first save from Leeds keeper Kasper Schmeichel with a volley on 10 minutes before winger Max Gradel got the hosts on the attack, running from his own half before striking a 20 yard shot which Marton Fulop did well to parry wide of his left-hand post for a corner. The Ivorian international had another effort blocked by Edwards soon after.
The two sides were playing out an entertaining affair with chances at both ends as the first half ticked on. Priskin curled an effort wide before Paynter fired off target on 20 minutes. Schmeichel then saved from Lee Martin after a good breakaway before tipping over McAuley's header from the resulting corner. Gradel thumped another strike over at the other end before Priskin went down after the slightest of touches from O'Brien which referee Darren Deadman dubiously adjudged to be worthy of a booking, much to the displeasure of the home fans.
As the interval approached, Leeds started to enjoy more of the possession and the opportunities. Paynter nodded wide, then Gradel - who had so far been the biggest threat to the Blues - cut past Edwards and struck from outside the box, only to see his effort bend narrowly wide of the far post. The winger then turned provider for Paynter who saw his 18-yard effort deflected wide, then the hosts appealed for a penalty in first half stoppage time after O'Brien claimed his shot had struck McAuley's arm. With nothing given, the two sides headed in goalless at half time, with Deadman having made few friends amongst either the Leeds crowd or bench.
Town had put in a strong competitive display during the first half, but having steadily improved, Leeds started to dominate in the second half. Jonathan Howson volleyed wide from Paynter's cross on 51 minutes before Gradel laid the ball off for Robert Snodgrass whose 18 yard outswinger curled just wide of the right-hand post. Two minutes later, Paynter beat Edwards running onto a lofted ball into the Town box and struck low, Fulop getting down and making a good save at his near post.
As the match reached the hour mark, McAuley saw yellow for a foul on Paynter before O'Brien struck well off-target for the hosts. Jewell soon responded with two substitutions, Luciano Civelli coming on for Martin and Drury replacing Dyer, who had faded after a promising performance in the first half. Genuine chances were becoming fewer for both sides however, Leeds boss Simon Grayson deciding to shuffle things around himself with Barry Bannan and Luciano Becchio coming on for Howson and Paynter before Scotland replaced Priskin for the Blues.
Leeds had previously failed to score just once at Elland Road all season, but with just 10 minutes left, they were still struggling to find any way through. Gradel was again denied by Fulop before Civelli lost Eric Lichaj running into the Blues box, but Damien Delaney was on hand to make a last ditch block for a corner. Town were having very little at the other end, but as stoppage time arrived, the Blues looked content to hang on for the point. Connor Wickham ran the clock down in the corner but then picked up a booking after reacting angrily to being pushed. It mattered little however as Deadman blew for full time to make it honours even.
Although they missed several early chances to grab what could ultimately have been the winner, Ipswich should be pleased with a point taken from one of the toughest places to visit in the Championship this year. Only 4 other sides have kept clean sheets against Leeds this season, and indeed Cardiff City were the only team to have previously played at Elland Road without conceding this campaign. Furthermore, a draw away to a side in playoff contention has to be considered a good result. The Blues therefore stay 16th, but the point takes them 12 points clear of the dropzone, and indeed one step closer to the much-talked-about 50 point survival threshold.
Leeds: Schmeichel, Lichaj, Bromby, McCartney, O'Brien, Gradel, Kilkenny, Howson (Bannan 76), Johnson, Paynter (Becchio 76), Snodgrass - Not used: Higgs, Bruce, Naylor, Watt, Somma
Ipswich: Fulop, McAuley, Delaney, O'Dea, Leadbitter, Edwards, Martin (Civelli 67), Bullard, Dyer (Drury 74), Wickham, Priskin (Scotland 80) - Not used: Lee-Barrett, Peters, Smith, Hyam
Did you travel to Elland Road on Saturday? A point gained or two dropped? Were Town lucky to keep a clean sheet, or were you impressed with the performance? Have your say on this game as well as all things Town by joining Vital Ipswich:
Date:Saturday March 12 2011
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