Gifu missed their chance to make themselves safe, as Ehime claimed a point in difficult conditions at Nagaragawa.

Gifu kept faith with Takagi in goal despite Tokihisa being fit enough to warrant a place on the bench. Tatsuya Arai came back into defence in place of Sekita while Masuyama was played in his favoured defensive midfield role.

It was the visitors who started the better, as their prior record against Gifu suggested they might. They could quite easily have taken the lead before they actually did, having had a few half chances. The goal, when it did come, came from their most likely source: Masaru Kato. Kazuki Someya lost the ball in midfield to Kato and he played a 1-2 with fellow forward Shigamatsu. Kato still had a lot to do when picked the ball up on the edge of the area, but he made no mistake with his shot, almost passing it into the net from around 18 yards out. Yet again, it was dire first half from the home side, something has been a recurring theme all season.

The second half was a much livelier affair as far as the hosts were concerned and it wasn’t long before parity was restored, albeit from the spot. Sugiyama’s deft pass sent Someya scampering through towards and he was “eased” off the ball by Ehime defender Han. It was a soft penalty, there is no getting around that. Contact was made, Han’s arm did stretch out but if it had been given against Gifu I would have been furious. Anyway, you have to take the luck when it comes and Someya certainly did as he got up and thumped in the penalty.

Ehime nearly reclaimed the lead five minutes later, but Shigematsu’s volley, after an excellent piece of control, was parried by Takagi & cleared by Tanaka. What was that I said about Luck earlier? Well, it certainly deserted Macedonian striker Blazhe as he was given his second yellow card for what looked like the most innocuous foul. Never a yellow, never mind a second one. But unfortunately the referee decided it was and he had to go. Still the ten men of Gifu played well and were unlucky not to take all three points, especially when Masuyama’s header smacked the inside of the post and rolled across the goalmouth to safety.

It finished 1-1 and basically leaves Gifu in the same position they were before the game started, only with one less game for Gaianre to make up the points gap. Still, it wasn’t the best performance from Gifu and they will need to step up two or three levels if they want to get anything when play-off chasing Consadole Sapporo roll into town next Sunday.

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