|Ipswich Town 3 v 1 Birmingham City|
Saturday, 27th April 2013 Kick-off 15:00
Town 3-1 Birmingham
Saturday, 27th Apr 2013 17:06
Carlos Edwards, Luke Chambers and Daryl Murphy were on target as Town finally confirmed their place in the Championship for 2013/14 with a 3-1 home victory over Birmingham. Edwards hammered in a stunning strike in the sixth minute, Chambers headed in the second on 17 and Murphy added the third before Chris Burke pulled one back late on for the visitors.
Elliott Hewitt replaced the injured Richard Stearman at right-back in an otherwise unchanged side, the on-loan Wolves man having suffered a hamstring injury at Sheffield Wednesday last week. Lee Martin was back on the bench after missing out recently due to illness and an ankle injury.
Within a minute of the kick-off the ball all but exploded after a strong challenge between Frank Nouble and Wade Elliott in the centre circle. A surprised and amused Nikola Zigic handed the deflated former globe to referee Graham Salisbury.
The Town players felt Zigic had got his hand on the replacement ball a minute later when the 6ft 8in tall Serbian appeared to divert a Hewitt long throw from the right out of play. Referee Salisbury waved away the protests.
The Blues continued the pressure and went close to going in front in the third minute when Daryl Murphy headed Jay Tabb’s right-wing corner goalwards, however, Birmingham keeper Jack Butland reacted superbly to tip over. A minute later, Murphy sent a low ball across the box just behind Nouble.
The goal Town’s early pressure deserved came in the sixth minute, and what a goal it was. Skipper Carlos Edwards brought the ball forward unchallenged before unleashing a stunning 30-yard strike which flew beyond Butland and into the top corner of the net for his third goal of the campaign.
Birmingham, wearing a somewhat garish pink and blue kit, had been quiet in the opening stages but thought they were on terms in the eighth minute when right-back Paul Caddis crossed, Hayden Mullins flicked on and Zigic nodded home at the far post. However, the linesman’s flag was already raised.
But it was mainly Town and in the 17th minute they went two in front. Aaron Cresswell sent over a freekick from the left and Luke Chambers headed home from six yards. The Blues centre-half, who now has three for the season, will never score an easier header with Zigic having completely lost him as the ball came across.
Frank Nouble thought he’d made it 3-0 in the 21st minute when played through one-on-one by Murphy, but the Irishman had delayed his pass just too long and the linesman’s flag was raised. On 28 Nouble almost profited from a poor Elliott backpass, however, Butland was alert to it and cleared.
The Blues continued to have the better of it, although with Birmingham now having a bit more of the game than earlier and in the 35th minute Cresswell shot over.
Nouble came close again in the 40th minute when he skipped past a couple of defenders 25 yards out having been found by Tabb but sent his well-struck low effort just wide of Butland’s right post.
With the game as open as any at Portman Road this season, Town threatened to increase their lead again in the 42nd minute when Cresswell and Tabb exchanged passes on the left before the full-back cut the ball back to Nouble.
The striker took a touch before hitting a shot goalwards, the ball appearing to strike the grounded Mitch Hancox on the arm with the Town players claiming a penalty before it was bundled back to Butland. The linesman appeared initially to flag for an infringement – perhaps a backpass rather than a penalty - but referee Salisbury overruled him.
Moments before the scheduled end of the first half Nouble had the ball in the net again, but once more with the linesman’s flag having been raised. Butland had done well to save Murphy’s 25-yard strike and the former Wolves man had reacted quickest to stab the loose ball home.
A third goal, or perhaps a further increase in the lead, wouldn’t have flattered the Blues after probably their best first half performance of the season.
Town started strongly, got an early goal via Edwards’s brilliant strike, then carried on from there. Chambers took his chance when it came, while there were other opportunities to add to the lead against a Birmingham side looking every inch one whose season is already done and dusted.
The visitors should have pulled a goal back four minutes into the second half when Nathan Redmond crossed from the right and Mullins diverted the ball over from eight yards when he should have hit the target.
With rain suddenly and briefly falling heavily, former Birmingham man Guirane N’Daw shot wide from an Edwards cross on 51, before Scott Loach saved well from Zigic but once more with the linesman having flagged.
Town made it 3-0 in the 57th minute. Frank Nouble’s shot was blocked by Davies on the edge of the area, the ball falling to Murphy. The Irishman, on loan for the season from Celtic, struck a shot on the turn beyond Butland and into the net for his seventh of the season.
Murphy almost turned provider in the 64th minute, sending across a ball from the left which Hyam was just unable to reach.
Loach saved down to his left from Redmond in the 74th minute but the Midlanders were showing little serious sign of mounting a late comeback. On 76 Smith was booked for foul on Gomis.
On 78 Murphy almost made the most of a Birmingham slip midway inside their half but Edwards strayed offside as his cross came over. At the other end, Loach saved another Redmond effort from distance. With seven minutes remaining Mick McCarthy made a triple substitution, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Michael Chopra and Lee Martin replacing Murphy, Nouble and Tabb. All three departees were given standing ovations as they left the pitch, but Martin’s entry was more muted with the former Manchester United man receiving one or two boos
Soon after, Redmond, who seemed to be on a one-man mission to pull a goal back for his side, hit another low shot which Loach claimed.
Emmanuel-Thomas scraped a shot wide in the 87th minute after good work from Edwards on the right, then a minute later Birmingham pulled a goal back. Hancox crossed from the left and sub Chris Burke took the ball down and stabbed it under Loach.
As the game entered its final moments, Martin was yellow-carded for his complaints after referee Salisbury had penalised him for encroaching at a Birmingham freekick taken by Ravel Morrison 10 yards outside the area, which Loach saved both originally and from the retake.
Not long after, the referee’s whistle confirmed Town’s place in the Championship for a 12th season via a 3-1 win which seemed in little doubt once Edwards’s goal – which might have rivalled Aaron Cresswell’s strike against Palace for the Town Goal of the Season award had it been scored earlier in the season – had put the Blues in front.
Town were on top throughout and the scoreline might have been more comfortable had other chances been taken or if referee Salisbury had been in a more generous mood when it came to awarding penalties.
After a short delay, the Blues squad with their children in tow made their way around the pitch for a lap of appreciation for fans’ support throughout a season in which Town have come from what might have been a hopeless position to a remarkable 11th place ahead of the final game of the season at Burnley next week.
Town: Loach, Hewitt, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Edwards, N'Daw, Hyam, Tabb (Martin 83), Nouble (Chopra 83), Murphy (Emmanuel-Thomas 83). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Kisnorbo, Drury, Wordsworth.
Birmingham City: Butland, Caddis, Davies, Robinson, Hancox, Redmond, Elliott (Burke 59,) Mullins (Gomis 59), Morrison, Ferguson, Zigic. Unused: Doyle, Caldwell, Reilly, Ambrose, Lovenkrands. Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire). Att: 21,921 (Birmingham: 1,977)
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