Ipswich Town 0-0 Sheffield United: Another home blank as below-par Blues fail to back up away success
PUBLISHED: 16:55 10 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:58 12 March 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town’s home struggles continued as they stuttered and failed to find a way through against Sheffield United at Portman Road.
Expectations had been raised following two away wins, at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday, but the hosts fell flat and never really looked like finding a winner as they looked to further ignite their previously dormant play-off chances.
A bright start quickly faded into a workmanlike display on a tough Portman Road pitch, in which the Blues struggled to get their foot on the ball in midfield and resorted to long, hopeful balls that never truly threatened a Blades side who still have play-off aspirations of their own.
The majority of the home efforts on goal were from distance and never truly troubled Jamal Blackman in the visitors’ goal, while Bartosz Bialkowski had a relatively quiet afternoon a day after being called up to the Poland squad for the first time.
Ipswich have now not found the net in any of their last four home games, scoring just two in their last eight on home soil.
They will have a chance to put that right on Tuesday night when Hull visit Suffolk, for a game which Ipswich surely now must win if play-off talk is to linger any further than it already has.
Four Ipswich changes saw Myles Kenlock replace the injured Jonas Knudsen, Dominic Iorfa come in at right back for Jordan Spence, Bersant Celina replace Mustapha Carayol and Stephen Gleeson come in for Luke Hyam.
From the first whistle there was a little more of a buzz inside Portman Road than in recent weeks, but it was the visitors who had the early openings as George Baldock and Lee Evans testing Bartosz Bialkowski early on.
But the Blues were bright, with Celina having a spring in his step and Waghorn showing some decent touches as the two linked up well in attack.
The first real home chance came after former Blue Richard Stearman dragged Waghorn down in midfield, before the striker clipped in a cross which saw Iorfa stoop and have his header saved by Jamal Blackman.
The home support stayed behind their team as the bright start turned into a scrappy affair, as the home midfield struggled to gain any real time on the ball and, when they did, it invariably led to long, wasteful balls forward.
United appeals for a penalty were waved away as Billy Sharp went down under a soft challenge from Luke Chambers, after the Blades striker had skipped around Bialkowski, before Celina flashed a shot wide to end the first half.
After Chambers again survived penalty appeals, this time following a tangle with Ched Evans which carried more merit than the first-half incident, it was Celina again who found a way to go and saw his low effort pushed away by Blackman.
Town were still lacking any kind of midfield impetus before Cole Skuse got the fans on their feet as he charged forward and won the ball away from Baldock in midfield but, as he charged into opposition territory, he couldn’t quite pick out Waghorn.
The North Stand sung his name, but it was the last meaningful action for a 10-minute spell in which both sides struggled to keep the ball.
That pattern continued for much of the second half, before James Wilson came closest to finding the net as his shot came back off the post before Sharp put the rebound over the top.
McCarthy brought on Joe Garner late on in desperate search of a goal, but nothing materialised before boos at the end.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Carter-Vickers, Chambers, Webster; Iorfa (Spence 46 (Garner 81)), Kenlock; Skuse, Gleeson, Connolly (Hyam 60); Celina, Waghorn
Subs: Crowe, Nydam, Ward, Garner, Sears
Sheffield United: Blackman; O’Connell, Stearman, Basham; Baldock, Stevens; Evans, Fleck, Lundstram (Donaldson 87); Sharp (Brooks 78), Evans (Wilson 68)
Subs: Moore, Lafferty, Leonard, Holmes