Football: Ipswich make their point on return to the top flight

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The Independent Online
Ipswich Town. .1

Aston Villa. .1

PORTMAN ROAD is well noted for its hospitality, although the generosity rarely extends to the field of play. Nevertheless both the goals in this entertaining draw were to some extent gifts from the opposition.

Ipswich's excitement at being back in the top flight gave them an edge of enthusiasm over their more sophisticated visitors in the opening minutes. But when Chris Kiwomya just failed to beat Nigel Spink to a return pass from Mick Stockwell, and then Gavin Johnson only managed to strike Neil Thompson's inviting cross against the Villa goalkeeper's legs it seemed that they might have squandered their opportunity.

Tony Daley, partnering Dalian Atkinson up front, had been wandering all over the field in search of space. He finally found some on the left and nearly made it tell. His low cross to the near post was half met by Atkinson, half blocked by Craig Forrest in the Ipswich goal, the ball span on the line and had to be cleared by Phil Whelan.

It was not the only desperate clearance of the match. As the players grappled with the new back-pass rule the ball was hoisted into the stands more than once. John Wark, now at the heart of the Ipswich defence, seemed to be trying to recall his Liverpool days when he rolled one unnecessary pass back to Forrest. The keeper booted the ball inexpertly straight to Daley, who set up Atkinson to shoot tamely.

It wasn't an inept back-pass, however, that presented Ipswich with the first goal just after the half hour. Steve Froggatt, collecting the ball deep in his own half, seemed about to set off up the left wing, but instead played a slack pass in field. The ball fell to Gavin Johnson who, from 25 yards, volleyed it inside Spink's right hand post.

Twice Froggatt nearly repaired this error at the start of the second half when his pace carried him to the byline. But both times his cross eluded the Villa forwards. Although Ipswich increasingly withdrew into defence Kiwomya's presence up field always gave them attacking options on the break. On one occasion he raced clear, and tantalised Paul McGrath before shooting just wide of Spink's near post.

His speed and control had already provoked several rash challenges from Villa defenders before Shaun Teale received an exemplary booking for bringing him down just after the hour. Villa had been obliged to increase their own attacking options in the 53rd minute when Richardson limped off to be replaced by Cyrille Regis. Regis's impact was almost immediate, but he just failed to reach Earl Barrett's powerful ball across the face of goal.

Although Villa managed a succession of dangerous crosses their mounting anxiety began to reveal itself in poor finishing. McGrath and Froggatt both snatched awkwardly at inviting chances. Fortune seemed to have deserted Villa when a disastrous pass across the goalmouth by the Ipswich substitute, Eddie Youds, put Regis clear on the right of the box. With the goalkeeper committed, his cross found Atkinson who was able to mark his return to Suffolk with the simplest of goals.

Ipswich Town: C Forrest; P Whelan, N Thompson, M Stockwell (S Milton, 89 min), J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, P Goddard, G Johnson, J Dozzell (E Youds, 53 min), C Kiwomya. Subs not used: J Winters. Manager: J Lyall.

Aston Villa: N Spink; E Barrett, S Staunton, S Teale, P McGrath, K Richardson (C Regis, 53 min), T Daley, G Parker, R Houghton, D Atkinson, S Froggatt. Subs not used: U Ehiogu, L Sealey. Manager: R Atkinson.

Referee: A M Buksh (London).

Goals: Johnson (1-0, 31 min), Atkinson (1-1, 83 min).

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