7th? May 7 is the key, says Mac

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Dave Good­er­ham

IP­SWICH Town stut­tered to a dour draw with im­prov­ing Pre­ston, fail­ing to take ad­van­tage of some shock score­lines and slip­ping out of the top six in the process.

Yet Mick McCarthy has been around the block enough times to know his side are well placed to fea­ture in the play-offs for a se­cond con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

They were forced to once again come back from a hor­ren­dous start be­fore slug­ging out a se­cond half against a gritty Pre­ston side who de­served their point.

But McCarthy was sat­is­fied af­ter his side’s bat­tling qual­i­ties again came to the fore in a hard-fought match which saw both teams de­nied golden chances to win the game by ref­eree Si­mon Hooper.

Af­ter see­ing his side slip to a place out­side the play-offs, McCarthy said:“We are sev­enth but it is all about May 7th.

“We might be out of the top six but there are 19 games left to play. I’m not wor­ried about that.We have been on a fab­u­lous run and the lads have been dif­fer­ent class.

“We have just been stopped in our tracks a lit­tle by a very good team. It was a real tough Cham­pi­onship match. They were hard to break down but you can’t win them all. If we can’t win matches, then the most im­por­tant thing is we don’t lose them.We had to eke out a point – so we will take that.”

Af­ter con­ced­ing the Cham­pi­onship’s quick­est goal of the sea­son in mid­week, Ip­swich’s rear­guard held firm for just seven min­utes when both Jonas Knud­sen and Christophe Berra failed to get dis- tance on their headed clear­ances and Daniel John­son con­tin­ued his fine scor­ing sea­son at the se­cond at­tempt.

It was no more than Pre­ston’s en­ter­pris­ing start de­served and they al­most added to their tally against shell-shocked op­po­nents, with Paul Gal­lagher and Joe Garner go­ing close in the first half.

Out of noth­ing, Ip­swich lev­elled seven min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val when a neat pe­riod of pa­tient pass­ing ended with Daryl Mur­phy find­ing the cor­ner of the net with a pre­cise and pow­er­ful low drive.

It should have been game on in the se­cond half but it was noth­ing of the sort with nei­ther side get­ting the ball down.That said, both could have won it, in terms of chances and con­tentious mo­ments.

Mur­phy brought out a de­cent save from Sam John­stone while Bai­ley Wright headed just wide at the other end.

Ref­eree Hooper and his as­sis­tants came to the fore, con­tro­ver­sially flag­ging Eoin Doyle off­side when he played in Ben Pear­son to score, and then deny­ing Ip­swich a late penalty when Luke Hyam’s shot ap­peared to be blocked by the arm of Paul Hunt­ing­don.

But Pre­ston boss Paul Grayson was im­pressed with his side’s show­ing.

“I thought we per­formed re­ally well and there were a lot of pos­i­tives to take,”he said. “You have to stand up against Mick McCarthy’s teams but we started the game re­ally well and could have had more than the one goal.

“The off­side was re­ally tight and we don’t have the tech­nol­ogy to draw a line across the pitch. They were ei­ther level or maybe half-ayard off­side.

“They asked ques­tions of us in the se­cond half but I thought we de­served the point and I am pleased with it.

“I cer­tainly can’t ask any more of the play­ers than what they are do­ing.”

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