IT was grim to watch, but some survival essentials returned to Huddersfield Town’s game and the point gained may prove incredibly valuable in the long run.
The low quality of football was typical of two sides dogged by their League positions and desperate not to make mistakes.
But boss Mark Robins – who resisted the temptation to start with loan signing Theo Robinson – got a businesslike response to the horrors of 10 goals conceded in his first two matches at the helm and it felt like a step in the right direction.
There was nothing fluent or attractive about Town’s performance overall, but there were moments of inspiration and encouragement and they certainly created the better chances to win the game.
Indeed, Lee Novak and Robinson would, on another day, have had at least a goal apiece and Ipswich keeper Stephen Henderson acquitted himself well under pressure as Town probed to try and force what would have been only a second win in 17 Championship outings.
Town can’t, of course, continue to miss good opportunities in the final 13 games of the season, but at least they are creating them through hard graft and persistence.
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Despite the result at Nottingham Forest, Town had four crystal clear openings they failed to take advantage of at the City Ground, so they are making chances, it’s just the sharpness of finishing that has to improve.
Two things, particularly, were pleasing to see against an Ipswich side who set up with two very solid banks of four in defence.
Firstly, Town tracked back far more efficiently than they have done in some recent matches and it meant for a much less active afternoon for goalkeeper Alex Smithies, who was very vocal in his direction of the back four.
Secondly, Robins’ selection didn’t lose their shape despite him trying to force the win with the introduction of three pacy substitutes in the second half – Robinson, Sean Scannell and Jack Hunt, the latter operating on the right wing and producing a venomous late shot which Henderson did well to hold.
There seemed to be a genuine resolve, too, that enough was enough and the team were going to stop shipping goals.
It was illustrated in exemplary fashion by skipper Peter Clarke, a professional who has been a credit to the blue and white striped shirt since he first pulled it over his head three years ago.
Right from the start, when he booted one clearance onto the main stand roof as if to make a point, he was going to ensure Ipswich maintained their record of scoring the fewest goals in the Championship, 12, on their travels this season.
Then, when Town failed to clear a corner with 38 minutes on the clock and the ball fell invitingly for Luke Hyam to shoot, Clarke threw himself into the sort of brave block which was bound to inspire his colleagues.
By that time, Anthony Gerrard was also showing the kind of heading and tackling credentials which made him so popular at his previous clubs, while the returning left-back Paul Dixon was another to catch the eye with clever bits of defending and his readiness to attack.
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Dixon linked well with the midfield at times and was always willing to take on Ipswich right-back Richard Stearman, putting in some of the best crosses Town produced all match.
There was graft and willingness in the centre of the pitch from Neil Danns and the recalled Oscar Gobern, making his first Championship start of the campaign, while Adam Clayton did good things in both defence and attack and was suffering the effects of a whack to the foot when he was taken off – much to the dislike of many in the home contingent.
Clayton was tenacious in his work and always looking to keep Town on the front foot, although the pitch didn’t help either team as it cut up and made passing a very inaccurate science.
It meant Town looked ponderous at times when a little more urgency might have born fruit, but at least they kept trying to do the right things and produced enough to blunt Ipswich as an attacking threat.
What a shame Novak couldn’t convert when he was twice released by passes over the top – Danns was also denied by Henderson when following up on the second occasion in the 50th minute – while Robinson would have brought the house down on 72 had he not missed his kick with only the keeper to beat.
Tommy Smith then made an excellent clearance to prevent him making amends and it seemed at that point it wasn’t going to be Town’s day for a win.