Ipswich Town’s draw with Middlesbrough ensures Tractor Boys maintain control in promotion race


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Ipswich Town still have control of their promotion destiny with three games of the Championship to be played. The Blues are winless in three matches and have scored just once in their past three outings but maintain a stronghold over how their first season back in England’s second tier could end.

Kieran McKenna’s side took a point from their 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough at Portman Road after Australian international Massimo Luongo cancelled-out Emmanuel Latte Lath’s strike for the visitors.

This clash had greater significance for Middlesbrough as a victory would have been key to maintaining their late push for a play-off spot. But after shock 1-0 defeats for Leicester City and Leeds United against Plymouth Argyle and Blackburn Rovers respectively it was also an opportunity for Town to potentially move three points clear of the City and four ahead of the Yorkshire outfit.

Town dominated the early stages despite Lath’s header breaking the deadlock. Conor Chaplin twice came close whilst Jeremy Sarmiento also looked lively.

Lath rose highest to convert a swinging cross from ex-Leeds defender Luke Ayling on 20 minutes; but the scores were level ten minutes later when Luongo kung-fu-kicked a deep corner to notch his third goal of the season.

Sarmiento’s cheeky touch past Seny Dieng was millimeters away from putting Town ahead but instead struck the upright. Ali Al-Hamadi’s rebounded effort, an instinctive back-heel, was also blocked.

It’s often the goalscorers who are given the credit for promotion-winning campaigns, but should Town manage to reach the Premier League, some will certainly be due in the direction of shot-stopper Vaclav Hladky.

The Czech goalkeeper, who has only represented his national team at youth level, prevented two almost-certain goals late on against Boro. First, he showed impressive reactions to stop Isiah Jones’ point-blank effort then he got a firm hand to turn Matt Clarke’s header from the resulting corner over the crossbar.

Ipswich Town find themselves among a strong promotion race including all three of the Premier League’s relegated sides. But does being an underdog give the Tractor Boys some sort of advantage?

“We’re coming from such a different place,” says McKenna. “If you asked me who’s under more pressure, I’m pretty sure everyone would agree it’s not us; where we’re coming from, how this group’s performed.

“Eighty-nine points at this stage of the season, the highest ever of a Championship team [following promotion], I’m not sure anyone in the history of the EFL has ever got 90 points two seasons in a row. We’re one point away from doing it.

“I don’t feel any pressure, I don’t think the boys do. I don’t think that has anything to do with why we’ve drawn today. I think it was a really good game in isolation.

“I can’t speak for them [Leeds, Leicester & Southampton]. I can imagine their mindset and environment is possibly a little bit different than ours.”

Ipswich Town are back in action on April 27 when they head to Hull City.


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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