Football: Hoddle's grand design betrayed by basic errors

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Chelsea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Ipswich Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

A FAMILIAR, avuncular figure with his trademark white beard was sighted striding down Stamford Bridge's tunnel as the home side began to reveal old flaws. Fears that it was Chelsea's chief heading towards the dug-out to voice his disapproval proved unfounded - it was not Ken Bates, simply Santa, an ironic reminder of the team's involvement in the gift-distribution industry.

Chelsea, without a win for 10 games, lie deep in a rut of their own making. The current shortage of cohesion and precision in attack will probably be overcome when (Glenn Hoddle insists it is definitely not if) Mark Stein settles but the frailty eroding Hoddle's grand design of play and display is the rash of blunders perpetrated by defenders.

Frank Sinclair and Mal Donaghy, both yeoman performers, show an occasionally alarming propensity to dive into tackles when a more mature course would be some old-fashioned jockeying. Gareth Hall, sturdy going forward in the modern full-back mode, found defending, his primary duty, less easy. Ipswich twigged this and, in Mick McGiven's words 'attacked the space behind their right-back'.

The other member of an orthodox back-four, Erland Johnsen, coped competently against an awkward Ipswich side - except for one gaffe early in the second half which led to Town's equaliser.

Chelsea, resembling a respectable attacking proposition following Gavin Peacock's flying header (their first goal in 391 minutes), had built up a decent, if not quite juggernaut, momentum until Johnsen's ill-judged back-pass shortly before the hour mark. Under pressure from the ever nimble Chris Kiwomya, Dimitri Kharin's hurried clearance flew only to Stuart Slater. His instant return looked to be speeding wide until Kiwomya applied the subtlest of flicked headers to destroy Chelsea's good work.

Blues supporters who caught QPR's goal on Match Of The Day will have experienced a touch of deja vu as Southampton's two former Bridge players, Dave Beasant and Ken Monkou, matched the Johnsen-Kharin double act.

Hoddle found 'a lot of good points': certainly Stein, towards the end, hinted briefly at the logic behind his pounds 1.5m fee while Peacock and Dennis Wise, before he limped off, were as industrious as ever. Another gifted technician, Graham Rix, Chelsea's 36-year-old youth- team coach, scored what Hoddle described as a 'cracker' (beat two, lobbed the keeper) for the reserves last week, prompting onlookers to shout 'stick him in the first team'. If the malaise continues, it may not be such a daft idea.

Goals: Peacock (24) 1-0; Kiwomya (56) 1-1.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharin; Hall, Sinclair, Johnsen, Donaghy; Wise (Burley, 68), Peacock, Newton, Hopkin; Cascarino, Stein. Substitutes not used: Spencer, Hitchcock (gk).

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Forrest; Youds, Wark, Linighan, Whelan; Stockwell, Thompson, Williams, Palmer; Kiwomya, Slater (Genchev, 90). Substitutes not used: Whitton, Baker (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).