KEITH Hill has called for his struggling Barnsley side to be “brave” as they try and weather the character test of trying to retain their Championship status.
The Reds slipped to an agonising seventh successive away defeat following Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Tractor Boys at Portman Road.
It was also the sixth game in a row the South Yorkshire club have failed to score on the road as they continue to see their healthy gap on the bottom three being chipped away.
Relegation-threatened Bristol City came from behind to pick up a point against Derby County at the weekend with a battling 1-1 draw, while fellow strugglers Coventry City moved out of the relegation zone with a spirited 2-0 win at Hull.
And having seen their gap of 11 points between themselves and the bottom three cut to nine, Hill was honest enough - as he always is - to admit he would be lying if he said he wasn’t looking over his shoulder.
He said: “It’s quite precarious, but we’ve got to be brave. You can’t hide from fact. You can’t hide from things that might scare you. We can’t let it surprise us.
“We don’t want to be going down to Bristol City [for the penultimate game of the season] and all of a sudden there’s a surprise element to that game. We’ve got to prepare the players for all the possibilities.
“It’s time for bravery and for everybody to stand firm. That’s what I expect.
“We probably are involved in a relegation fight, but it could have been worse because we could have lost last week [at home to Peterborough].”
Hill made one forced change to his starting line-up for the Reds’ trip to Suffolk with Norwich City loan midfielder Korey Smith in for the suspended Nathan Doyle.
And winger Jim O’Brien, who has impressed this season for the club, started on the bench having made a welcome return from a prolonged groin injury.
But it was poor defending which ultimately cost the Reds who, in truth, could have been quite a few goals behind at the break if the hosts had taken their chances.
As early as the third minute former Doncaster Rovers loan winger Jay Emmanuel-Thomas tested David Button, with Jimmy McNulty forced to clear the keeper’s parried save in his own six-yard box.
Former Reds striker Michael Chopra had a penalty appeal turned down soon after, but referee Phil Gibbs waved away the home side’s protests.
Emmanuel-Thomas rifled into the side netting as Ipswich forced the pace and then Andy Drury drilled a crisp shot over the bar.
Grant Leadbitter shot straight at Button before skipper Carlos Edwards crossed from the right, Drury directed a cushioned header into the path of Murphy, but the winger’s acrobatic overhead kick flew over the bar.
At the other end David Cotterill hit the side netting with the Reds’ first chance of the half, only for Emmanuel-Thomas to soon see a left-foot shot cleared inside his own six-yard box by Scott Wiseman.
“We’re just lacking any real penetration in the final third,” admitted Hill. “We’re just snatching, whatever you want to call it. It’s just not good enough.”
Smith nearly scored five minutes before the break after Ipswich keeper Arran Lee-Barratt fumbled the midfielder’s long-range drive but recovered as the ball looked to limp over the line.
But Paul Jewell’s team were ahead three minutes after the break when Chopra played in Murphy and he out-muscled McNulty and curled a left-foot shot into the left corner.
“The players are a little bit disappointed because the manner in which we conceded the goal was avoidable,” added Hill.
Captain Stephen Foster made a superb block on Lee Martin’s goalbound shot four minutes after the goal, then Emmanuel-Thomas shot over from distance.
Hill introduced substitute Frank Nouble late in the action and the West Ham loan striker nearly bagged an equaliser having moments earlier nearly gifting Ipswich a second.
Nouble’s weak pass left Foster back-tracking when he would have probably been better served to go for a 50-50 challenge with Martin who, having picked up the ball and burst through the heart of the Reds defence, dragged a left-foot shot wide when he should have done better.
Craig Davies had a rasping left-foot shot well-saved by Lee-Barrett, before the keeper made an even better block to deny Nouble from close range, the striker coming close to making amends for his earlier error.