THEY said it couldn’t be done, no Ipswich Town defence could keep a clean sheet when faced with nemeses Jordan Rhodes and David Nugent on the same afternoon.

Rhodes had scored six goals in his previous six games against the club which so rues allowing him to move on, while Nugent had amassed a remarkable 15 in 14 in his previous matches against the Blues.

And yet they managed it, claiming a hard-fought 0-0 draw away against Rhodes and Nugent’s Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The performance was very much in line with many of Town’s away displays this season, a back-to-the-wall grind which owed rather more to bodies being put on the line, excellent goalkeeping and the occasional moment of good fortune - Rhodes hit the post - than great football.

As an attacking force Town were largely non-existent after the first five minutes until a series of second-half counter-attacks, however, these came to little, with poor decision-making usually seeing the danger break down with the final pass.

But, as Mick McCarthy has said plenty of times during his time as manager at Town, there’s no such thing as a bad away point and it was a battling, spirited display which showed that players’ minds remain focused despite the play-offs being out of reach.

As a team the afternoon told us little we didn’t already know, they’re a “belligerent bunch”, as McCarthy put it, capable of repelling even the Championship’s sharpest marksmen, but somewhat less effective going forwards, as three goals in their last seven games illustrates.

However, there was a chance to see on-loan Barnsley man Paul Digby make his first league start for the Blues and the 21-year-old will have been pleased with his afternoon’s work.

Given the blustery conditions and the quality of the strikers he was up against - Rhodes began the game with on-loan £12 million Southampton and Uruguay man Gaston Ramirez behind him before Nugent came off the bench late on - it could have been a baptism of fire.

He had a couple of tricky, largely wind-affected moments, but overall the Sheffield-born youngster acquitted himself well and made one particularly crucial block from Emilio Nsue.

There were a few eyebrows raised when Town signed Digby on loan from the League One Tykes in January given that he wasn’t even in the team at Oakwell.

Having broken into their senior side in 2011 at 16 and won England caps at U19 and U20 levels, Digby, who had primarily been viewed as a midfielder at Barnsley, seemed to have rather lost his way.

However, the potential he had shown as a teenager led to him spend time on trial at Manchester United last summer before McCarthy brought him to Town in January and set about turning him into a centre-half.

While he has a long way to go to become a regular, he has certainly shown promise since joining the Blues and both he and McCarthy say they want to make the switch permanent, with a free transfer understood to have been agreed in principle with Barnsley when he joined on loan.

Looking back, too few of the more senior signings brought in last summer and over the course of the campaign have made even as much of an impact as Digby.

While Jonathan Douglas has been a regular - if not a fans’ favourite - Brett Pitman has netted 10 goals while flitting in and out of the side and loan winger Ryan Fraser would have been a Player of the Year candidate but for injuries, plenty of others have rarely been involved.

Signing Australian international winger Tommy Oar was hailed as a bit of a coup in August but the 24-year-old moved on in January having hardly featured, while Giles Coke, Larsen Touré and Piotr Malarczyk have similarly made little impression and season-long loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles has faded after a bright start.

January signing Kevin Foley and recent loanees Liam Feeney and Ben Pringle have made more of a mark, but whether they’ve done enough to earn longer stays is debatable.

Town complete their home campaign with a first ever visit by the already-relegated MK Dons tomorrow.

Having repelled Rhodes and Nugent another clean sheet oughtn’t to be a problem and despite their recent lack of penetration the Blues should end what’s been a disappointing home campaign with what’s been an all too rare Portman Road victory.