Royce offers fair return

Ipswich Town 1 Stockwell 7 Southend United 1 Rammell 60 Attendance: 10,146
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The Independent Online
When you lead from the seventh minute against a team with a record that suggests a fear of stepping outside their own back door, and still have to share the spoils, something is obviously wrong. For all their excuses, many justified, Ipswich yesterday failed to make their home anything like a castle, leaving solid, stern, distant neighbours Southend to counter- attack and deservedly break in.

With money troubles and an injury list that this season has sometimes left them wondering whether the car park attendant could double as a midfield dynamo, Ipswich were not just in need of encouragement but downright, unapologetic elitist thoughts along the lines of: "What are we doing scrambling for points with Southend?" But that's democracy for you.

Southend scored only one goal in eight away games and if their spirits were low they plumbed new depths a mere seven minutes into yesterday's game when they failed to anticipate a centre from Mauricio Taricco that Gerry Creaney could have headed into vacant areas of goal but found Mick Stockwell instead. Although Simon Royce also got to the ball, Stockwell got the better purchase to score.

Stockwell went on to become a permanent irritation to Southend, roaming freely and quickly and instigating a lot of positive football that belied Ipswich's difficulties. Yet it profited them very little and Southend laboriously hauled themselves back into contention.

The question was whether Southend's poor scoring record would again destroy their promising midfield work and allow Ipswich's new on-loan signing from Tottenham, Jason Cundy, to settle himself into the home defence. Cundy has never been lacking in tackling strength and sensible positioning but pace, when asked to turn by a fast striker, is another matter. Southend are not replete in those qualities.

Had Ipswich taken advantage of Steve Sedgley's ability to provide piercing passes that should have caused more damage, they would not have faced the second half still lacking confidence. Losing the injured Stockwell at half time might have made things worse but, briefly, Simon Milton, brought in wide on the right, stretched Southend's defence. That was not enough.

Forlorn appealing for offside cost Ipswich their lead. On the hour a long ball forward by Keith Dublin went beyond the line of defenders 30 yards out but Andy Rammell had already got behind it to drive in the equaliser.

Southend's whole second-half attitude was far more positive then the first, which turned the home crowd against their own team. Added to that, several questionable offside decisions by a linesman brought about more frustration. One in particular saw Creaney flagged when a defender was a full five yards ahead of him.

More than anything this Ipswich side lacks the sense of need. Their football can be attractive and their midfield play industrious but without that extra ounce of commitment the struggle will go on.

Royce successfully defended Southend's new gains by parrying a huge shot from Creaney, and that was as it should be.

Neither side is likely to have a comfortable season but of the two Ipswich, despite all their injuries have the depth to be the safer, which, in historic perspective is surely hardly a compliment.