The stylish defender, out for over two months after a nasty hamstring injury at Chelsea in January, looked his calm, assured self in his first run out at Stevenage Borough FC.
A draw was a fair result in an entertaining encounter but the visitors could have grabbed the win with the last kick of the game only for goalscorer Stuart Boardley to sky an injury time penalty.
Gardner stepped into a three-man central defence alongside Chris Perry and Alton Thelwell with Kazuyuki Toda anchoring the midfield and rising stars Mark Yeates and Jamie Slabber up front.
The game started at cup tie pace and after both Nabil Abidallah and Dean Marney flashed shots just wide, Town took the lead with 17 minutes on the clock.
It was a quick break with Ian Westlake's precise pass splitting our central defensive line and Stuart Boardley finishing in style past the advancing Rob Burch.
The pace didn't relent for the rest of the half as we gradually clawed our way back into the game.
We created the best of the few chances on show as the busy David Galbraith's teasing cross was fingertipped away from under the crossbar by James Pullen and the visiting keeper reacted smartly to deny Ben Bowditch at the near post from Yeates' low cross.
The deserved equaliser finally arrived just two minutes before the break as Slabber's pace took him away from Chris Hogg and the defender's only response was to hack him down from behind in the box. Rohan Ricketts made no mistake from the spot.
The second half almost started in style as Ricketts' clever turn and pass found the fast-arriving Toda who didn't quite get hold of his side-foot attempt from 16 yards.
Ipswich responded with a lovely piece of skill from Abidallah with the outside of his right foot to release Alun Armstrong only for the striker to volley inches wide from 16 yards. Armstrong's frustration was compounded when his low strike beyond Burch was ruled out for a debatable offside.
Slabber's fine header from Galbraith's cross was saved at full stretch by Pullen on the hour and Bowditch couldn't divert the same player's header on target a couple of minutes later.
At the other end, Perry superbly blocked powerful runs into the box by both Bowditch and Armstrong with textbook challenges.
Slabber would have been disappointed not to keep another fine Galbraith cross on target after 70 minutes and it was exactly the same story five minutes later, this time a harder chance flicked wide.
Ipswich weren't finished though and Burch did well to deflect Craig Read's effort wide after another pinpoint Westlake pass and the keeper was there again two minutes from time to save low to his right from Bowditch.
Indeed, the visitors should have won it with the last kick of the game. Danny Foster brought down Read in the box in injury time only for Boardley to smash his spot kick into the stand.
Line-ups: Spurs: Burch, Marney, Gardner (Foster, 70), Thelwell, Perry, Galbraith, Toda, Bowditch, Ricketts, Slabber (Malcolm, 80), Yeates. Subs: Eyre, Barnett, Black.
Ipswich Town: Pullen, Mitchell, Chaffey, Bloomfield, Collins, Hogg, Abidallah (Flack, 65), Westlake, Armstrong (Read, 73), Bowditch, Boardley. Subs: Flack, Peat, Nash, Atay.
Anthony Gardner completed 70 minutes on his return as our reserves were held to a 1-1 draw by Ipswich Town in a tale of two penalties on Monday night.