Rovers in doghouse

Football: Ipswich Town 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 Attendance: 21,236
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The Independent Online
IN MANY ways this was a typical FA Cup third-round tie - First Division underdogs at home to the Premier League champions, a heavy pitch and a full house baying for an upset.

These traditional ingredients combined to produce all or nothing stuff. Ipswich had the better of the first half, but when Blackburn mastered midfield in the second, no one coped with the deteriorating surface and the game stagnated.

"In the first half, we didn't play with much intelligence," Rovers' manager Ray Harford said. "It was a poor pitch and we played in the wrong areas. The players accepted that and we played a bit better in the second half."

That was not difficult. The excuses about the pitch were valid, but Blackburn's failings were similar to those of their European performances. They were overrun at times when their midfield, in the absence of Lars Bohinen and David Batty, failed to compete with an enthusiastic, enterprising Ipswich side.

Kevin Gallacher played for the first time since the opening day of the season, and after his long haul back from leg fractures, he lasted well even if he passed poorly. Tim Sherwood, Rovers' captain and midfield anchor, tossed up, was booked after 15 minutes and walked off at half- time having done little else. In such an inviting environment, Ipswich thrived by passing long, running energetically and tackling hard.

Ian Marshall and Alex Mathie up front gave Colin Hendry and Chris Coleman a difficult time, but clear shooting chances were hard to come by. Their best came after half an hour when Claus Thomsen, up from the back for a corner, drove the ball back into the penalty area, Marshall stopped it and hit a shot on the turn that was just too high.

Shortly after the interval Mick Stockwell flicked the ball over the Blackburn back four, Simon Milton chipped a shot and Tim Flowers turned the ball over the bar. With that chance, however, the excitement died as Blackburn, seemingly incapable of thinking on their feet, showed that they had at least learned on their seats in the dressing-room. They shut the game down and started planning for a replay at Ewood.

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