Match Report: Ipswich Town 0, Sheffield United 0
A game that simply cried out for either side to grab it by the scruff of the neck ended in stalemate as neither Sheffield United nor Ipswich Town could engineer the breakthrough goal.
The visitors came closest when substitute James Wilson, making his return from an ankle injury, struck the woodwork during the closing stages. But Mick McCarthy's side, despite their evident lack of craft, proved too stubborn and too well-drilled to break down.
The final result, which sees both lose ground in the race for play-off qualification, was greeted with moans from a section of the home crowd. But it was United, despite an improved second-half display, who had more reason to be disappointed.
There was plenty of organisation but precious little invention on display at Portman Road. United attempted to drive the fixture forward but let themselves down with the quality of their passing. On one of the rare occasions they did break Ipswich's lines, the officials failed to give them the helping hand they perhaps deserved.
Certainly Chris Wilder thought United should have been awarded a 51st minute penalty when Ched Evans appeared to be impeded in the box. But a forgettable contest ended, despite Wilson's best efforts, in stalemate.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, who spent the first half of the season on loan in South Yorkshire, was greeted warmly by his former team mates during the pre-match presentation. But, together with the rest of Ipswich's rearguard, the Tottenham Hotspur defender found himself under immediate pressure when the fixture got underway. An early statement of intent from George Baldock, whose driving run created the space for a shot which Bartosz Bialkowski saved, was followed by another attempt from Lee Evans. However, just like the wing-back, he found the Polish goalkeeper impossible to beat.
Suspicions that Martyn Waghorn, the former Rangers centre-forward, would pose the biggest threat to United were confirmed when McCarthy's men cleared their heads. Moments after nearly connecting with a looping cross into Jamal Blackman's penalty area, he then forced Richard Stearman to collect a booking after beating the offside trap. From the set-piece which followed, Dominic Iorfa forced Blackman into action at the near post.
Despite those promising signs, the rest of the half became a battle of wills rather than wit. Billy Sharp clipped the ball over Bialkowski's head during a rare moment of excitement but it did not return to earth quick enough for him to evade a defender's clutches.
It was not until the opening period of the second-half that United had another clear cut sight of goal.
John Lundstram, one of two changes to their starting eleven, burst through but opted to pass rather than shoot. Ched Evans, the other player called-up by manager Wilder, appeared to be hauled down as he turned to shoot but the referee decided against penalising Luke Chambers.
Wilson thought he had broken the deadlock with 11 minutes remaining but, with Bialkowski beaten, the ball bounced, back off a post and Sharp could not turn the rebound home.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa (Spence 46, Garner 80)), Chambers, Webster, Skuse, Waghorn, Celina, Connolly (Hyam 60), Gleeson, Carter-Vickers, Kenlock. Not used: Crowe, Ward, Sears, Nydam.
Sheffield United: Blackman, O'Connell, Stearman, Basham, Stevens, Baldock, L Evans, Lundstram (Donaldson 88), Fleck, Sharp (Brooks 79), C Evans (Wilson 69). Not used: Moore, Leonard, Lafferty, Holmes, .
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire). Attendance: 15,152.