|Ipswich Town 0 v 3 Brighton and Hove Albion|
Tuesday, 1st January 2013 Kick-off 15:00
Town 0-3 Brighton
Tuesday, 1st Jan 2013 16:58
Town fell to a home defeat for the first time under Mick McCarthy’s management as Brighton left Portman Road with a 3-0 victory. The visitors were 2-0 up at the break via Dean Hammond and Craig Mackail-Smith, then with the Blues failing to seriously threaten throughout, Wayne Bridge added the third midway through the second half.
McCarthy was forced into one change with Andy Drury missing out due to illness. Nigel Reo-Coker took the former Luton man’s place in the centre of midfield.
Left-back Tyrone Mings was on the bench for the first time since joining the Blues from Chippenham last month. Danny Higginbotham, who has joined Sheffield United, and Bilel Mohsni have left the club at the end of their loan spells.
The first action of the game saw Lee Martin booked for catching Seagulls right-back David Lopez with a high boot, although the Spaniard appeared to make a lot of very little.
Chances were rare at either end in the opening 10 minutes with referee Kevin Friend irking the home crowd with a number of his early decisions. On 12 Reo-Coker shot high and wide after a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the box.
After a scrappy first quarter hour not helped by overfussy refereeing, the visitors went in front from from the game’s first serious opportunity. Andrea Orlandi sent in a corner from the right and Dean Hammond headed in at the near post, his marker Guirane N’Daw having been blocked off by Adam El-Abd as he tracked his run.
Town threatened for the first time on 26 when Daryl Murphy did well inside the area and forced keeper Tomasz Kuszczak to save with a goal-bound shot from a tight angle. Carlos Edwards’s follow-up was blocked by Kazenga LuaLua and, with Brighton struggling to clear the danger, N’Daw looped the ball back into the box where it appeared to be handled by Seagulls’ skipper Gordon Greer. However, referee Friend waved away the protests.
As the game reached the half hour mark, the Blues were having most of the ball but without creating anything. However, Albion were always looking dangerous on the break and on 34 they went two goals in front when Ashley Barnes’s header sent Craig Mackail-Smith away and the former Peterborough man hit an angled shot from the right across Stephen Henderson and into the net off both posts.
The Seagulls hadn’t had to do much for their two-goal lead and in the 38th minute it might have been 3-0 when Barnes cut the ball across the six-yard box with Henderson beaten but Smith diverted it behind.
On 42, after a long spell of Town possession, Martin shot over from the edge of the box, but the Blues were having a frustrating afternoon having been unable to find a way through the massed ranks of the Seagulls’ backline.
The Blues got no nearer to a goal before referee Friend blew his half-time whistle, the official on the receiving end of boos from the home fans as he left the field.
Town had gone behind before the game had settled into a pattern, then as they started to find their feet had been caught on the break for the second.
Mick McCarthy’s men had had a fair bit of the ball but had been unable to create anything of note in front of goal. Brighton boss Gus Poyet will have been delighted with the way his game plan had worked out.
Aaron Cresswell curled a freekick wide off Orlandi in the third minute of the second half and the Blues just about had the better of the early stages, N’Daw hammering a very powerful half-volley wide in the 54th minute.
Town were if anything having even more of the ball but still without being able to carve out any clear-cut chances.
Just after the hour mark, Liam Bridcutt was booked for a foul on Martin not far outside the Blues’ area. El-Abd joined him in the book for pushing while Martin prepared to take the freekick, the midfielder eventually looping it on to the roof of the net.
With Town making little headway, McCarthy swapped strikers Murphy and Campbell for Michael Chopra and Jason Scotland. Campbell, who is due to rejoin QPR tomorrow, received a warm ovation as he left the field for the final time after one of Portman Road’s most successful loan spells.
But it was Brighton who would score the next goal. Wayne Bridge picked up a pass from sub Gary Dicker midway inside the Blues’ half and hit a low shot which somehow crept between the diving Henderson and his right post. The Town keeper should probably have got across to it.
Luke Hyam replaced N’Daw for the final 19 minutes with the game looking all but over, Town having made little impression on the visitors’ defence all afternoon.
Michael Chopra thought he ought to have been awarded a penalty in the 77th minute when Kuszczak fumbled an Orr header and felled the Blues striker as he looked to get to the loose ball. However, referee Friend felt Chopra had fouled the keeper first and awarded a debatable freekick to the visitors.
Greer diverted a Cresswell cross over the bar in front of Chopra in the 79th minute with Town continuing to push but without too much conviction. On 83 Martin curled high and wide from 25 yards.
Brighton might have made it 4-0 with three minutes remaining when Barnes and Will Hoskins left the ball for one another when they were through on goal and Henderson claimed with ease.
The sides played out five minutes of injury time with Town continuing to have a lot of the ball but without being able to do much with it, while Hoskins lobbed over moments before the whistle when he again might have netted his team’s fourth.
Brighton put in the type of professional away performance which saw the Blues to their victories at Charlton and Wolves. Town - who are still 19th but only five from the drop zone - were frustrated in attack, rarely seriously threatening to score, while the Seagulls took opportunities from a set piece and on the break.
A home defeat is a disappointing way to end what had otherwise been a positive festive period and even so, seven points can probably be considered a decent Christmas haul.
Town: Henderson, Orr, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Edwards, Reo-Coker, N'Daw (Hyam 71), Martin, Campbell (Scotland 65), Murphy (Chopra 65). Unused: Loach, Hewitt, Mings, Hyam, Emmanuel-Thomas.
Brighton: Kuszczak, David, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Bridcutt, Hammond, Orlandi (Hoskins 80), LuaLua (Dicker 55), Mackail-Smith (Dobbie 86), Barnes. Unused: Brezovan, Dunk, Crofts, March. Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire). Att: 19,018 (Brighton: 909).
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