Ipswich Town 3-2 Blackburn Rovers - Match Report
Saturday, 14th Jan 2017 17:22
Tom Lawrence scored twice - the second a brilliant 30-yard strike - and Christophe Berra once as Town beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Portman Road. Man of the match Lawrence opened the scoring with a low freekick before Hope Akpan pulled a goal back for the visitors just before half-time. Berra restored the lead soon after the restart, Lawrence made it 3-1 with his stunner, prior to Danny Graham pulling one back from the penalty spot for the Lancastrians.
Town made three changes from the team which drew 2-2 with Lincoln in the FA Cup last week with skipper Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse and Bartosz Bialkowski returning.
England U18 international striker Ben Morris and left-back Pat Webber were again included among the subs.
The Blues, watched from the directors’ box by Forest Green striker Kieffer Moore, whose signing is expected to be confirmed later today, lined up in a 3-5-2 system with Adam Webster, Chambers and Berra the three centre-halves, Josh Emmanuel and Jonas Knudsen the wing-backs, Skuse, Kevin Bru and Andre Dozzell in central midfield and Lawrence up front with Freddie Sears.
Following a minute’s applause in tribute to former England manager Graham Taylor, who died this week, the Blues were first to threaten.
A seventh-minute Lawrence freekick on the left was cleared out to Bru, whose hooked pass found Sears in space to the left of goal but the striker scuffed his shot across the face of goal when he will feel he ought to have scored.
Town continued to have the better of the opening stages with ex-Blackburn loanee Lawrence making one of his now familiar mazy runs before over-hitting his pass out to Emmanuel on the right.
On 10, following a spell of passing on the right, the on-loan Leicester man’s cross eventually found its way to Knudsen, who hit a shot on the turn which flew wide.
A minute later Sears went close again after Charlie Mulgrew had misjudged a long ball over the top but Rovers keeper Jason Steele was out quickly to snuff out the chance.
The Blues had been well on top but on 14 ex-Town loanee Liam Feeney broke quickly and fed Sam Gallagher on the left, however, Bialkowski came off his line swiftly to block.
Bialkowski was in action again two minutes later, tipping a Gallagher header over after Ben Marshall had crossed from the right.
On 26 Elliott Bennett, a player Town were keen on in the summer, hit a shot over from distance with the visitors by now more in the game.
But the Blues regained their earlier impetus and on 36 Dozzell, who had got more involved in the game the longer the half progressed, played in Sears on the right of the area with a clever pass but Steele palmed the ball behind.
Town had been the better side but without testing Steele enough but in the 38th minute they took the lead.
Knudsen was fouled just outside the area on the left and after Bru had tapped him the ball Lawrence hit a low strike which the Blackburn wall appeared to jump over and which Steele allowed to squirm under him and into the net, the loanee’s sixth goal of the season.
On 41 Dozzell brought the ball in from the right and found Bru, who looked to turn the ball back into the 17-year-old’s path and failed to find him when he probably should have shot. A minute later Lawrence was booked for a foul on Akpan.
In the 43rd minute Rovers got back on terms and as so often of late the goal stemmed from a Town error.
Berra gave away possession on the Blues left to Feeney, who crossed to Graham. The former Middlesbrough man stabbed it out to Akpan, who smashed a low shot past Bialkowski from the edge of the box.
The Blues only had themselves to blame for losing their lead but quickly went about restoring it, Lawrence hitting a 25-yard effort which Steele did well to push past his right post, then Knudsen slammed a powerful volley which the keeper blocked with his chest but with no Town player able to add a final touch.
Referee James Linington’s whistle ending the half was greeted by muted applause with the Blues having been on top, passing the ball around slickly at times.
Rovers had shown little and having got their noses in front the Blues should have gone on to impose their superiority over the opposition further, but once again were left rueing a preventable goal as they went off at the break.
Soon after the restart Lawrence hit a low shot which Steele saved down to his right with Town beginning the half strongly.
And on 53 they got back in front. Knudsen’s deep cross from the left led to a corner on the right, Lawrence sent in a ball to the near post where Skuse flicked it on and Berra stabbed over the line from a couple of feet, the Scotland international’s first goal of the season and his first since March last year.
Four minutes later it was 3-1 as Lawrence netted the latest contender in his own personal goal of the season competition.
The Welshman brought the ball forward before unleashing a superb 30-yard strike which curled inside the motionless Steele’s left post before rippling the net. Town’s now-seven-goal top scorer celebrated in front of the rapturous Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
Feeney curled a shot not too far wide for Rovers on 61 as they looked to get back in the game before Dozzell was booked for a foul on the one-time Blues loanee. On 67 Grant Ward took over from Dozzell, who had had his best game having started for the first team so far.
The Blues, who were enjoying the vocal backing of their supporters, continued to push for goals with Lawrence at the heart of most of their best work. On 71 the Wales international cut the ball across to Skuse on the edge of the box. The Bristolian had a chance to shoot but instead fed Sears in space in the area but the striker’s effort was blocked by Steele.
Town had been well on to and looking in no trouble whatsoever until the 73rd minute when Webster was adjudged to have fouled Akpan as the pair challenged on the left of the area with the Blackburn substitute going nowhere.
It looked a harsh award with the pair battling for a loose ball after Akpan had blocked a clearance but referee Linington was in no doubt. Danny Graham rolled the spotkick to Bialkowski’s left to pull the scoreline somewhat undeservedly back to 3-2.
The goal gave the visitors a boost and on 79 Chambers made an important challenge on Graham on the edge of the box after he had inadvertently diverted Emnes’s header from Feeney’s cross into the striker’s path.
But Town gradually started to reassert their superiority, Ward finding Sears after Lawrence had played him a freekick on the edge of the box and the ex-West Ham man sending in a low cross from the right which Blackburn cleared.
In the final minutes Blackburn sought to put the Blues under pressure but without testing Bialkowski. On 89 Paul Digby replaced Bru.
As the match moved into four minutes of injury time Lawrence was given a chance to claim a hat-trick when he won a freekick 25 yards out towards the left but badly shanked his shot wide.
Late on, Sears also had a chance to make it four when sent away by Ward as Town counter-attacked but blazed well over.
Deep in injury time Blackburn claimed a second penalty when Derrick Williams ran into the area and was outmuscled or manhandled by Emmanuel depending on how you viewed the incident but referee Linington waved away the visitors’ protests much to the relief of the home fans.
Seconds later, the Newport Isle-of-Wight-based official’s final whistle confirming Town's first win of 2017 was greeted with applause from the home fans, who then stayed on to cheer a Chambers fist-pump.
The Blues thoroughly deserved the three points but as so often recently made life difficult for themselves, allowing Rovers back into the game twice, and might even have gifted them a late penalty with the late claim one which might well have given.
Lawrence’s brilliant second goal was the highlight of a much brighter and far less fractious afternoon at Portman Road, a strike even better than his goal at QPR and the Welshman put in another outstanding performance in a central role in which he appears to revel.
The Blues have now gone 22 league games without repeating the same result in successive matches - since they drew with Wolves and Norwich in August - equalling a club record established in 1965/66.
The result moves the Blues up to 14th in the Championship ahead of Tuesday night’s tricky FA Cup replay at Lincoln City.
Town: Bialkowski, Emmanuel, Chambers (c), Webster, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Bru (Digby 90), Dozzell (Ward 67), Sears, Lawrence. Unused: Gerken, Best, Douglas, Morris, Webber.
Blackburn Rovers: Steele, Williams, Lowe (c), Feeney, Marshall, Graham, Mulgrew, Gallagher, Akpan, Lenihan, Bennett (Emnes 61). Unused: Raya, Greer, Emnes, Nyambe, Tomlinson, Mahoney, Brown. Att: 15,009 (Blackburn: 295).
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