Clarets plough on against Tractor Boys

Last updated : 12 January 2003 By David Clark

Star Geezer - Driss Diallo
On a bitterly cold day, at least the sides tried to warm the 15,000+ crowd with open displays of attack minded football, both sides having late chances to take the extra two points. For the Clarets this was a moral victory. Able to field only half a side through injuries and suspensions, against the division's form side, Ipswich were unbeaten in their previous seven games, Stan was able to muster as much as he could from a once again reshuffled pack in which Drissa Diallo made an impressive debut and Nicos Returnedos was a surprise in goal, Marlon having hurt his back in a training ground accident.

The bare bones of the squad was revealed as the subs bench saw a return of Andy Payton straight from rehab into a tracksuit and sitting alongside him were Armstrong, Papa... with youngsters Davis and O'Neill making up the numbers.

Clarets made the early running in the game and were much quicker into the tackle, Grant (heck!) and Branch as keen as any to make their mark and it was Trotter look-alike Grant who, having charged down a loose ball, set up MooreI with the first chance, but his curled shot was just wide of the far upright.

Blake, who had an impressive first half, was next in the action on six minutes, but his placed downward header was well saved on the line by Marshall. The reshuffled Clarets rearguard was sorting itself out well, with Diallo constantly talking to Arthur (though in what language was not clear) as the two recently formed team-mates organised themselves quite effectively against a bright, neat Ipswich attack in which Marcus Bent was constantly reminded of his playing past.

Continuing his efficient form of late, McGregor was able to shield a dangerous ball back to Nicos who has clearly been coached to come off his line whilst darn sarf at Palace and the Clarets stopper was not shy in clearing his lines in early half chances for the visitors.

Clarets themselves saw plenty of early possession, but were clearly missing a cutting edge up front and most of their good approach work was undone by a lack of shooting boots. It was though still something of a surprise when Ipswich took the lead on twenty minutes in what was their first and only real shot of the first half. A half-hit low corner from Ambrose, seemed to carry no threat and as Magilton back-heeled the ball onwards to ensure it made it into the area, no one picked up the unmarked Counago, who from six yards out, just had to hit home to score with ease for his first away goal of the season. The embarrassed looks on the surrounding defenders said it all, as Ipswich and their travelling 1,000 began their celebrations.

Referee Andy Hall started to show for all the wrong reasons, harshly booking Diallo for a foul on twenty five minutes and here was another ref seemingly ignorant of distinguishing between a foul and a good tackle, ably supported by linesmen unable to see a ball cross the field of play lines, unable to flag until a sub/ball boy or manager kicked the ball back towards the field of play, 20/20 vision I think not, a trip to Specsavers on the cards, I think for sure.

Accidentally caught by Diallo, Counago had to leave the field for treatment to a head injury on the half hour and after Little's twisty run had ended with a shot over the bar, Darren Bent replaced the unfortunate striker. Diallo should have done much better than head into the Ipswich fans, missing the goal when unmarked from Little's corner nine minutes from the break, in what was Clarets best chance of the half.

Blake's over elaboration led to a poor shot with others better placed and the half ended with Ian Moore sprawled across the six yard box, just unable to make contact with Little's low cross after good approach play between Cook and Blake created the opportunity. So that was that and as the teams made their way to the warmth of the dressing rooms, the fans could stamp their feet in an attempt to get some circulation going.

With blood back in the toes, Clarets kicked off towards the Jimmy Mac stand, once again the more determined of the two sides in the early stages of the half, yet it was Branch's determination to win in a double tackle that cleared the danger in the first attack of the half.

Star Gazer - Referee Andy Hall
Alan Moore's skills, for once, showed through and his long run ended with the ball just overrunning into Marshall's grateful arms, after his skilful run had taken him clear of three defenders. Miller wasted a good opening for the visitors but hastily shot over after a crisp passing move had opened up the home defence, then Darren Bent shot across goal, before Grant replied with a deflected shot that landed on the roof of the net with Marshall a grateful spectator.

Richards replaced Ambrose on the hour mark before Clarets got themselves a fortunate penalty. Whilst Alan Moore's threaded pass was a good one, it was taking Ian Moore away from goal, yet Marshall's challenge was clumsy and Ian Moore's theatricals convinced Andy Hall to blow. Robbie Blake made no mistake in penalty number five of the season and Marshall obligingly went the wrong way as Tom Hark sounded around the stadium for the first time in what seemed a long time.

Arthur was caught sleeping as Town went for an immediate reply, allowing Hreidarsson to head down but thankfully the ball bounced over the bar and the good chance was wasted, something Ipswich would manage repeatedly until the final whistle, the Bent duo the main culprits.

A cynical trip on Cook went unpunished, but for a wasted free kick, before Ian Moore's clever pass was just too short for both Cook and Alan Moore at the expense of a short corner. Can anyone explain to me the benefits of short corners please? Marcus Bent saw a shot well saved by the legs of an advancing Nicos Downsmartos before Papa replaced Alan Moore with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Sleepy defending allowed Darren Bent a clear shot at goal, but he had an even better chance only a minute later, when after catching a retreating Nicos in Nomansdlandos, his lob was thankfully cleared from the line by an alert Diallo.

Bent had the best of the visitors final chances but his first time shot sailed over, after a neat three man move had carved open the Clarets rearguard leaving him all alone on the edge of the area. But the best chance of the game for a winning goal in what was an exciting finale, came the way of the Clarets with only five minutes of the game remaining. A characteristic twisty run into the area from Blakey saw his low cross scooped up into the air from only six yards out by a wasteful Ian Moore, yet somehow Papa.. ended up in the net and not the ball, when he contrived to miss from four yards, lunging in at the back post for a quite remarkable blooper.

Ref Hall blew for time as the temperature plunged still further and the players could leave the pitch after an entertaining game drew to its close, Clarets dropping to fourteenth as a result of the point gained.

Att:- 15,051 (91% of which bothered to attend)

Star Gazer

A couple of Clarets candidates for this one, but the award goes to referee Andy Hall for a display of at times disbelieving decision making and a booking of Diallo that was unjust to say the least.

Glass Half Empty

The two wide men of Little and Alan Moore failed to deliver any consistency of crosses or chances from which the lightweight attack could feed from. This frustration then results in Little going for walkies, Alan Moore going cold and the centre midfield being relied upon to create the chances for Clarets going forwards. What point is there in Glen Little picking the ball up on the halfway line, some thirty yards behind his attackers? When was the last time he was flagged offside, if ever?

Star Geezer

The stadium vote went to Paul Cook, my vote went to the new boy, Drissa Diallo for an all round display of quick reading of the game, sure-footed tackling and an ability to bring the ball out of defence then passing the ball to a player in a similar shirt. Not bad to say he's only been with the remnants of the squad for two days.

Glass Half Full

This was a bare bones squad but a gritty and at times determined performance against one of the better sides in the division. The Clarets remain unbeaten against last seasons relegated premiership sides and whilst the available number of players is undoubtedly low, the spirit within the squad appears to remain high. Whilst the Clarets remain unbeaten in five, they have only won once in six, hopefully the unbeaten sequence can continue until the physio's room clears the backlog.