Bouazza douses Ipswich fire

Watford 2 - Ipswich Town 2
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The Independent Online

Watford may not be winning matches at the moment but no one gets a comfortable victory over them at Vicarage Road. Another draw yesterday was hewn from the danger of a potential lost cause.

Watford may not be winning matches at the moment but no one gets a comfortable victory over them at Vicarage Road. Another draw yesterday was hewn from the danger of a potential lost cause.

Recent form had offered Watford little chance of ending the day storming up the table on this rain-swept afternoon. Their home draw with Sunderland in midweek had extended their sequence without a win to five matches. At the same time, Ipswich had drawn at Leicester, which extended their unbeaten run to six and kept them tight in among the top four.

Admittedly, Watford had only drawn some of the matches they had done enough to win, but missed chances had cost them points. Yesterday they found themselves benefiting in the early stages from Ipswich missing their own. Watford's goalkeeper, Richard Lee, forced it upon them with a couple of important deflections from Shefki Kuqi, both as a result of excellent anticipation.

Some long balls out of defence were reminiscent of the old days at Vicarage Road, except there was no slick end product. Neil Ardley, for instance, screwed a shot wide after a huge clearance from the penalty area. Meanwhile, Ipswich were the more methodical, working the ball through midfield up to their three strikers. For 15 minutes of the first half they showed signs of becoming dominant.

Watford ground out a response, yet after 37 minutes they were mighty fortunate not to go behind when Darren Bent, moving quickly into the penalty area, struck the far post with his low drive. Lee clutched the rebound ahead of the hesitant Pablo Counago.

Their good fortune lasted until the 50th minute when the Ipswich goalkeeper, Lewis Price, launched the ball almost into the home penalty area. It dropped to Ian Westlake, who instantly headed it under control before driving his shot past Lee. Since the pitch was becoming ever more slippery, Westlake's control was commendable.

Encouraged, Ipswich again had the chance to take a firm grip but finding a decent foothold was a problem. Nevertheless, they had to confront several Watford breakaways before, in the 63rd minute, Westlake added to his earlier contribution when playing a bright pass through the penalty area for Bent to accept and hit a fine shot beyond Lee.

The impression the visitors' manager Joe Royle had was that Ipswich were "home and dry". They were far from home and certainly not dry. Ardley's corner allowed Heidar Helguson to head a spirit-raising goal that led to the equaliser. A short free-kick was moved to Ardley, whose shot hit Price and fell to substitute Hameur Bouazza who eagerly sped it past Price.

The closing minutes brought fire to Watford's recovery and sparked a real effort from Ipswich to take more than a point. Too late, and Royle called it a "typical Ipswich performance - giving goals away again."

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