06/03/2012: Saints 1-1 Ipswich

Saints suffered a slight setback in their promotion bid, following a frustrating 1-1 draw with Ipswich. The game bore little resemblance to the corresponding fixture at Portman Road at the start of the season, which ended 5-2 in the visitors favour. There was little in the way of chances for either side in the first 20 minutes or so. Saints had the ball in the Ipswich half for large periods, but initially struggled to break them down. The home side eventually found some joy when Morgan Schneiderlin sprayed some beautifully flighted balls towards the left hand side. Adam Lallana started to cause problems cutting in from the wing. He had a number of chances to break the deadlock, but all his efforts were either blocked or went wide of the post. Guly Do Prado then headed narrowly wide from a corner when he really should have scored. Ipswich were occasionally threatening at the other end too. Michael Chopra failed to get on the end of a decent cross from Lee Martin.

Ipswich pressed well in the second half, allowing Saints little time on the ball. The home side's most creative threats were crowded out by the Tractor Boys. Nevertheless, the hosts still managed to create some chances. Tadanari Lee's hardwork lead to a brilliant bit of play between Guly and Rickie Lambert, with the Brazilian firing just past the post at the end of the sequence. Saints were often left frustrated in the final third, with the Ipswich comfortably seeing out any danger. In fact the visitors could have easily taken the lead themselves. Man of the moment Kelvin Davis made another superb reflex stop from Chopra. It was Saints who opened the scoring on 76 minutes however, thanks to the contribution of substitute Steve De Ridder, who ran at the Ipswich defence, before crossing for Rickie Lambert, who slotted home from inside the penalty area. It looked as though Nigel Adkins's men had the match wrapped up at that point, only for Ipswich to grab an 84th minute equaliser. Jason Scotland cut inside Jos Hooiveld, before firing a deflected shot past Davis. Schneiderlin would have almost certainly blocked the ball had he not fallen over. Saints threw men forward in a desperate attempt to regain their lead, but despite a succession of corners, a winner wasn't forthcoming. Indeed Paul Jewell's men could have nicked it themselves. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had a fizzing free kick which bent just wide of the post.

A disappointing result, but you can't say it wasn't underserved. Saints were not at their best and lacked any real spark in front of goal. Credit must go to Ipswich, who worked incredibly hard to stop the rhythm of our play. On the face of it maybe it was a mistake to rest so many players, although I'll give Nigel Adkins the benefit of the doubt on this one. He would have seen how fit everyone is in training, and after such a draining game at Leeds on Saturday, maybe those who dropped out were too tired. With Reading and Middlesbrough winning it now means Saints have less of a gap between the chasing teams. West Ham could potentially go four points clear at the top if they win their games in hand too. Saints have been slightly below par in the past three games, and need to improve soon, in order to fend off the challenge of their rivals.

Attendance: 23,315 (901 Ipswich fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 8. On form again, made one particularly brilliant two-handed save in the second half.

Richardson: 6. Passing was lethargic all evening. Did make a few decent runs forward, but overall disappointing.

Fonte: 8. Decision making and positioning spot on for the most part. By far the best performer on the back line.

Hooiveld: 6. Long balls were sometimes wayward, and partially at fault for the goal.

Harding: 5. Made one crucial interception, but otherwise fairly poor. Gave the ball away too often.

Guly: 7. Tactically spot on, defended well and won the ball back from Ipswich countless times. Having said that, should have done better in front of goal.

Hammond: 6. Gave the ball away too many times.

Schneiderlin: 8. Passing was a joy to behold. Long balls to the left lead to plenty of first half chances. Unlucky with the slip up that led to the goal.

Lallana: 7. Very sharp early on. Go plenty of efforts on goal, cutting inside from the left. Was less effective in the second half.

Lambert: 7. Quieter than usual in spells, but still there were it mattered for the goal.

Lee: 6. Closed down every ball. Not everything he tried came off, but credit due for working hard

Substitutes:

De Ridder: 7. Offered the team something completely different. Direct running caused Ipswich problems and created the goal.

Sharp: 5. Didn't really get the service

Cork: Not on long enough to create much of an impact.