Leadbitter eases Keane pressure
Ipswich Town 1
West Brom 0
Roy Keane may have a cupboard-full of winners' medals, but he booked his first senior semi-final as a manager last night when his under-performing Championship team reached the last four of the Carling Cup for the first time in 10 years.
Grant Leadbitter's well-struck penalty separated the sides, though there was an element of fortune about the decision with Graham Dorrans' challenge on Carlos Edwards appearing to start outside the Albion area.
The referee was Michael Jones, the man who famously awarded a goal to Sunderland against Liverpool last season after Darren Bent's shot went in off a beach ball. Last night he was more likely to be bamboozled by snow balls as temperatures plummeted.
Those familiar with his past would not have been surprised if Ipswich boss Roy Keane had thrown one from the heaps of snow around the pitch behind blue-painted lines. He was certainly in a combative mood beforehand, claiming that managers who leave clubs are making a 'brave decision.'
Opposing manager Roberto di Matteo made nine changes and fielded a young side that included 18-year-old debutant James Hurst in defence.
Making so many changes just three games from Wembley suggested a confidence that his second string was good enough to cope with a struggling Championship side. And given the fact that Keane went into this game on the back of four straight losses and eight defeats from the last 12 games, that theory is understandable.
To be fair to the Cork man, he has managed recently with one hand tied behind his back. Last night he was without the injured Luke Hyam, Gareth McAuley, Mark Kennedy and Connor Wickham while Damien Delaney was suspended. In addition, Rory Fallon, Jake Livermore, Gianni Zuiverloon and Jack Colback were ineligible, all having played in the tournament for their parent clubs.
Ipswich started the stronger and only poor finishing prevented them from creating an early lead. When Tamas Priskin crossed from the right in the opening minutes, captain David Norris could have done better than direct an effort off his shin over the target.
Soon afterwards, Priskin drove into the Albion area before losing his footing and then the Hungarian tested Boaz Myhill, Albion's goalkeeper, before Jason Scotland struck the rebound straight at the Welsh international.
The attacks came in flurries; Albion survived again mid-way through the first half when Leadbitter was denied by Myhill and the rebound just eluded the attendant Scotland. And there was two reasonable calls for penalties, firstly when Steven Reid, Albion's captain for the night, appeared to handle in the area, then when Jaime Peters fed Priskin, who lost control just before Myhill caught his ankles.
Keane added some experience at half time in the shape of Edwards and still Ipswich looked more likely to score. The frustrations began to show; in the 60th minute Simon Cox and Norris squared up to each other, with the Albion player pushing his forehead towards Norris, who responded with a hand to the face. Like the earlier penalty appeals, the incident went unpunished.
Still the pressure from Ipswich continued, with a long-range shot from Andros Townsend, on loan from Spurs, just off target, before Priskin headed over when he could have converted.
However, Ipswich got the goal they deserved when Dorrans floored Edwards and Leadbitter converted his third penalty of the season.
Albion were denied a dramatic equaliser when Brian Murphy parried Pablo Ibanez's header over the bar. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Ipswich v Arsenal; West Ham v Birmingham. 1st leg week beginning Jan 10. 2nd leg week beginning Jan 24.