Keane still thinking positively

PUBLISHED: 09:35 31 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:47 06 July 2010

IS your glass half-full, or half-empty?

Positive-thinking Roy Keane is naturally of the former opinion, and there were certainly signs of promise during Saturday's 1-1 home draw against unbeaten Preston North End.

IS your glass half-full, or half-empty?

Positive-thinking Roy Keane is naturally of the former opinion, and there were certainly signs of promise during Saturday's 1-1 home draw against unbeaten Preston North End.

But even Ipswich Town's high-profile manager admits that he needs new players - ideally four of them - to bolster his squad. He also confessed that his side did not deserve to beat the 10-man Lilywhites, a painfully-honest appraisal.

Town's prospects for this season could well hinge, therefore, on what accrues in the transfer market over the next couple of days - the transfer deadline is tomorrow at 5pm.

There were positives, although they tended to be outweighed by the negatives.

Looking on the bright side, Keane's troops did recover from a goal-down to secure a point, courtesy of Jon Walters' face-saving finish on the rebound on the stroke of half-time, after his initial penalty had been well saved by Andy Lonergan.

Gareth McAuley served up a man-of-the-match performance in the heart of defence, and Pablo Counago is looking sharper with every appearance following his early-season injury.

Looking longer term, there is a lot of youthful talent crammed into this team, but it's asking a lot for the young and inexperienced duo of Liam Trotter and Jack Colback to completely boss central midfield, especially against street-wise Preston.

The Lancashire club, beaten in the play-offs last term, have yet to taste defeat this season, with two wins and three draws from five league games, and also a couple of victories in the Carling Cup. Despite possessing one of the smallest squads in the Championship, they remain genuine candidates for another top-six finish.

And that's of course where Town want to be, in the thick of the promotion race. Unfortunately, on Saturday's evidence, they are well short of that target - for the moment at least.

Which brings us to the negatives. Ipswich are clearly lacking in confidence, and consistency. Their play lacks cohesion, and pattern. It was itty-bitty, full of energy but with little in the way of conviction.

They started slowly, and should have been a goal down after just three minutes when Richard Wright saved well from Jon Parkin, who had powered through on goal following a misjudgement by Pim Balkestein.

Preston did take the lead in the 12th minute, thanks to a solo effort from winger Ross Wallace, who had ironically been sent off at Portman Road just three seasons earlier, when in the colours of Sunderland. Keane was the manager of the Wearsiders that day when Town won 3-1.

Wallace exploited space on the left edge of the penalty area, cutting both inside and outside Alex Bruce before beating Wright with a crisp low shot that ricocheted in off the far post.

The home crowd could sense an afternoon of struggle, but gradually their side began to break the shackles and take the initiative.

After an innocuous first quarter of the game, the chances began to come, albeit at a trickle. Ex-Colchester centre-half Liam Chilvers, who rarely put a foot wrong, came to Preston's rescue with a brave defensive header that prevented Tamas Priskin from nodding home a cross from Walters.

A defensive lapse from the visitors nearly resulted in the equaliser in the 37th minute. Lee Martin's cross caused hesitancy in the Lilywhites back-line, allowing Counago to sneak in and smash in a shot that Lonergan superbly parried.

However, Lonergan turned villain as Ipswich poached a 44th-minute equaliser, at the same time as Preston were facing up to a long second half with just 10 men.

Lonergan mis-timed his punch from Colback's cross, enabling Trotter to rifle in a shot that struck Callum Davidson on the hand, in front of goal. Referee Paul Taylor waved play on, but then changed his mind when spotting his assistant signalling that there had indeed been a handball.

Davidson was flashed a red card, but only after a few seconds of confusion - Mr Taylor initially gave Sean St Ledger his marching orders, in a case of mistaken identity.

Keeper Lonergan guessed right to palm away Walters' penalty, only for the ex-Chester man to gratefully steer home the rebound with his left foot into a gaping net.

Even though Town were playing against 10 men throughout the second period, they did not have it all their own way. It was largely uninspiring fare.

Priskin did force Lonergan into a smart block on his goal-line, via a downward header from a corner routine, but Keane's men were wobbling when the impressive Richard Chaplow burst clear on a counter-attack.

The back-tracking Colback intercepted Chaplow's final cross, although his hasty clearance only just cleared the cross-bar.

Attacking midfielder Chaplow, who supported lone striker Chris Brown whenever he could in the second period, made a nuisance of himself again soon afterwards. The alert McAuley was able to block-tackle Brown before he could latch onto Chaplow's cross.

Keane responded with a triple substitution on the hour mark. The introduction of strikers Connor Wickham and Jon Stead, and the roving Alan Quinn, did inject some more urgency into Town's play, but the final half-hour was a story of missed half-chances and tales of what-might-have-been,

The stark reality is that Ipswich have gathered just two points from a possible 15 in their first five fixtures, have scored just three goals, and are squatting third-from-bottom in the table.

These are still very early days, and Keane can turn it around, with the aid of some success in the transfer market.

But for the moment, that glass does seem half-empty.

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