Football: United run blocked by Ipswich wall: Champions frustrated

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The Independent Online
Manchester United. .0

Ipswich Town. . . . 0

MANCHESTER UNITED'S seemingly irresistible progress towards an unassailable lead in the Premiership met with unaccustomed frustration at wintry Old Trafford last night as an Ipswich side of limited ambition but solid organisation became the first to deny United a goal at home since Arsenal on 24 March.

The result is hardly a catastrophe for United, who have taken maximum reward on all bar three occasions so far and who, ironically, extended their advantage by a point despite their own failure by virtue of Aston Villa's defeat. What it does, however, is put paid to their immediate hopes of equalling the 10-match sequence of League games won by Ron Atkinson's team in 1985-86. Eight successive victories preceded last night's match.

Ipswich, who looked such a promising outfit at times last season but nowadays are scratching for survival, set out with strangling United's creativity as their primary aim. Ian Marshall and Chris Kiwomya took the field ostensibly as strikers but were more often defending than going forward. For long periods the midfield quartet mingled with the back four, offering Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona little room to manoeuvre. It did not make for a flowing spectacle, but drew complimentary acknowledgment from Alex Ferguson.

'They put up a great fight and they probably deserved a point,' the United manager said. 'They set out to defend and achieved their aim.'

Ipswich have won only once in their last 13 League matches and will be in trouble soon if they fail to reverse the trend. Yet they left Old Trafford as pleased with themselves as they have felt after any match during the current campaign.

John Wark and David Linighan were commanding figures in their own penalty area, although they owed a debt to their goalkeeper. Craig Forrest, the Canadian international, is still suffering from a knee injury and would not have played but for Clive Baker succumbing to flu. Despite his handicap, Forrest produced two outstanding saves, keeping out Lee Sharpe's low free-kick and pushing a rising long-range drive from Gary Pallister over the crossbar. These two efforts, during the first half, were as close as United came to rewarding the patience of a 44,000 crowd until Ryan Giggs, who left the bench for the final half-hour, hit the top of the crossbar with a free- kick 15 minutes from the end.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Kanchelskis (Giggs, 58), Robson (Ferguson, 83), Ince, Sharpe; Cantona, Hughes. Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Forrest; Youds, Linighan, Wark, Whelan; Mason (Yallop, 83), Palmer, Stockwell, N Thompson; Kiwomya, Marshall. Substitutes not used: Milton, Morgan (gk).

Referee: T Holbrook (Walsall).

Ten-man Swindon gained their first Premiership win of the season at the 16th attempt when Keith Scott scored the only goal of their home match against Queen's Park Rangers last night. They had to battle hard from the 18th minute when the Dutchman Luc Nijholt was sent off for dissent two minutes after being booked for a foul.