A RARE goalless draw dinted Leeds United’s promotion ambitions, but manager Simon Grayson was happy enough with his side’s hard working display against Ipswich and their work over the week when they have gained ground on the other top six sides in the Npower Championship.
With promotion rivals Swansea and Burnley losing and Nottingham Forest also being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Doncaster Rovers it was a missed chance to gain big ground, but the clean sheet was welcome and Leeds stayed in fifth spot with nine games to play.
“Overall I was pleased with the performance because Ipswich have some good players,” said Grayson (pictured).
“When you look at Bullard, Dyer, Wickham, Martin and Priskin and we have limited them to very few opportunities.
“On another day we could have quite easily scored a couple of goals. But if you don’t win a game the next best thing is a clean sheet and that’s how it turned out.
“In the second half we looked like the team that was going to win. We played well as a great team and created some good opportunities, but things didn’t quite drop for us in the box.
“We said before the game could turn a good week into a great week by winning all three games, but it was not to be and this was the hardest game of the week because of the players they’ve got.
“Ipswich have a host of internationals and we knew we had to be on our mettle because they can punish us at any time. But I thought the shape of the team was good, we defended properly as a team. I was delighted with the manner of the performance.
“The two centre-halves were well organised, the two full-backs defended one versus one situations very well and added to the attacking side when we needed them to. I’m delighted to have kept a clean sheet because they have worked hard and obviously the way we have played over the course of the season hasn’t allowed too many clean sheets.
“With the other results people will point and see where we could have been if we had won, but a point is a good result against a top team.
“We did pass the ball well at times and dropped it into Billy (Paynter), whose hold up play was good again and the wide players tried to get involved, but they’ve got some good players and we knew what it was going to be all about. We had to dog a result out and we did that, unfortunately it wasn’t the three points we wanted, but it was another point accumulated.
“We’ve obviously got a big game next week now with the points important to both teams.”
Two good saves by visiting keeper Marton Fulop to deny Max Gradel and Billy Paynter and several pieces of last ditch defending ensured the Whites were left goalless at home for the first time since October.
After a somewhat shaky start they dominated large parts of Saturday’s Elland Road contest, but their tally of 12 efforts off target to just two on target told the tale of how they failed to work the goalkeeper enough.
At the other end there was a big improvement, however, as Kasper Schmeichel was only forced into three saves all game and Ipswich failed to create a single clear chance in the last 70 minutes of the game.
The Tractor Boys did make the better start and could have been ahead in the first 20 seconds as Tamas Priskin raced free into the box only to drag his shot wide.
It took Leeds 11 minutes to get their first shot in, although it was a cracker as Gradel’s run and superb shot from outside the box was equally well saved by Fulop at full stretch.
Paynter shot narrowly wide with a close range effort from George McCartney’s low cross and Gradel sent a 25-yarder just over, the strikes coming in an exciting two-minute period that also saw a good save by Schmeichel after Lee Martin had found space in the home box.
Paynter and Gradel got in more efforts before half-time, but there was also huge frustration with referee Darren Deadman at a series of bizarre decisions, including turning down a huge shout for a penalty after Andy O’Brien’s goalbound shot struck an arm and an even bigger shout for a back pass after Fulop picked up Connor Wickham’s 40-yard kick that could not have been meant for anyone else but his keeper. Manager Grayson lost his cool with the official at one point and the inevitable shouts of “you’re not fit to referee” were aimed at the hapless official.
There were fewer controversies after the break and for 25 minutes it was all Leeds, but their finishing was found wanting as Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass, Neil Kilkenny, O’Brien and Bradley Johnson were all off target and Paytner saw a shot well saved by Fulop.
The otherwise decent quality game faded out in the last 15 minutes aside from one chance when impressive right-back Eric Lichaj got round the back of the Ipswich defence only to see his cross-shot blocked close to goal.
Leeds United 0
Ipswich Town 0
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Leeds: Schmeichel, Lichaj, Bromby, O’Brien, McCartney, Snodgrass, Kilkenny, Howson (Bannan 76), Johnson, Gradel, Paynter (Becchio 76).
Ipswich: Fulop, Edwards, Delaney, McAuley, O’Dea, Martin (Civelli 67), Bullard, Leadbitter, Dyer (Drury 74), Wickham, Priskin (Scotland 81).
Referee: D Deadman.