|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Birmingham City|
Saturday, 1st April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich Town 1-1 Birmingham City - Match Report
Saturday, 1st Apr 2017 17:23
Grant Ward’s 72nd minute cross-shot saw the Blues to a 1-1 draw with Birmingham at a fractious Portman Road. Jonathan Grounds gave the visitors the lead three minutes after the break but Ward equalised with a cross which fortuitously flew over Birmingham keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Brett Pitman, Freddie Sears and Jonathan Douglas all returned to the Blues starting line-up with top scorer Tom Lawrence and midfielder Emyr Huws both missing out.
Toumani Diagouraga dropped to the bench, while Tommy Smith, who only arrived back from New Zealand duty yesterday afternoon, was also left out of the 18.
Town switched to a 4-4-2 diamond with Bartosz Bialkowski in goal, Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen the full-backs and skipper Luke Chambers and Christophe Berra the central defenders
In midfield Cole Skuse sat deep with Douglas and Ward ahead of him in narrow roles to the left and right respectively, with David McGoldrick behind strikers Sears and Pitman.
Birmingham were the first to threaten in the seventh minute, Lukas Jutkiewicz playing a ball through to the breaking David Davis but Bialkowski came off his line quickly to claim.
The Blues were unable to create an opening in a scruffy early spell with the visitors having most of the ball. In the 14th minute Craig Gardner sent over a freekick from the left which grazed Berra’s head before Bialkowski caught on his line.
Town threatened for the first time in the 16th minute when, after good work from Douglas, Sears and Knudsen, a bouncing ball dropped to McGoldrick in the area but his shot was too close to Kuszczak.
The Blues were starting to get on top and two minutes later Sears found space at a tight angle on the left but his shot was blocked by Ryan Shotton.
Town briefly began to put the Midlanders under pressure and on 22 Spence cut in from the right but scuffed his shot wide.
There was a scare for the visitors in the 32nd minute when McGoldrick caught Krystian Bielik in possession on the Town left but his low cross was too close to Kuszczak, who claimed at a stretch.
A minute later Jutkiewicz sent a dangerous ball across the Blues box from the right but Davis arrived too late to add a final touch.
The Blues went closer to opening the scoring moments later, a loose ball falling to Sears on the right of the box after McGoldrick had fed Knudsen on the right. The former Colchester man’s shot rippled the net having struck a defender but having gone the wrong side of the post.
Town continued to take the game to the visitors and on 38 Sears crossed from the right and Knudsen’s flicked header very obviously caught Maikel Kieftenbeld’s hand, however from so close a penalty award would have been harsh.
On 41 Jutkiewicz looped a header over at the far post, then just before half-time Skuse was forced off having undergone treatment on the field after Davis had arrived late and caught him in the face after the Bristolian had nodded the ball to a team-mate. Kevin Bru took over with Douglas dropping into the holding role.
The rest of a not hugely enthralling half passed without further incident. Birmingham had started the stronger but the Blues had gradually got themselves on top but without being able to create too many opportunities, although McGoldrick and Sears had both gone close to scoring what could prove to be a vital goal in Town’s season.
But four minutes after the restart it was the visitors who went in front. Bialkowski saved Jutkiewicz’s shot from the edge of the area but Grounds reached the rebound first to slam in, however looking to have strayed offside.
However, no flag was raised and the goal led to the first boos of the afternoon from the home support.
The Blues immediately looked to hit back. Sears cut the ball back from the byline on the right but a defender cleared, then soon after Pitman headed wide before McGoldrick nodded straight at Kuszczak.
Birmingham went close to making it 2-0 in the 54th minute when Gardner played in Jutkiewicz but Bialkowski blocked superbly.
Just before the hour, Emilio Nsue took the ball across the area before hitting a shot well over. The Birmingham chances led to terrace abuse aimed in the direction of manager McCarthy, owner Marcus Evans and MD Ian Milne as well as a chant of “We want our Ipswich back”.
With the Blues making little headway in an increasingly poisonous atmosphere, loanee Dominic Samuel was handed his Town debut for Pitman in the 71st minute.
Match Gallery: 8 photos
And a minute later the Reading man was involved as the Blues got level in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Samuel laid the ball wide to Ward, who burst down the right and whipped over a powerfully hit cross which flew over Kuszczak and into the net.
The former Spurs man’s sixth goal for Town may have been his luckiest but it was also his most important.
Having levelled, the momentum was suddenly but all too briefly with the Blues, McGoldrick cutting the ball back from the left however without being able to find a team-mate.
On 79 the Irish international scuffed wide after battling to win a Bru clearance with Town on top but not able to put the visitors under sustained pressure.
As the match moved into its final minutes Birmingham began to look the more threatening side, Donaldson just failing to reach Gardner’s ball in from the right and Bialkowski pawing it out for a corner.
The Pole made his second superb save of the game from Gardner’s flag-kick which was arcing goalwards having been inadvertently flicked goalwards by McGoldrick until he clawed it over.
Town came closest to winning it in injury time after a corner was cleared to Bru, but the Mauritius international screwed his shot well wide.
The final whistle triggered more boos and further chants of “Marcus Evans, you’re killing our club”.
Overall the 1-1 draw was probably a fair reflection of the match. Having been the better side before the break, as so often this season the Blues allowed the opposition to gain the upper hand by going in front soon after the restart, although there looked to be a hint of offside.
From there the Portman Road crowd, which had been rather sullen during the first half, made their feelings known once the Blues went behind, only really getting behind their side again in a spell following Ward’s goal.
Town have now won just one of their last 14 in all competitions but have lost only one in their last 10.
The result sees Town remain 17th but now six points from the bottom three with seven left to play starting with Tuesday’s game against Wigan, who lost 2-1 at Newcastle.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), Berra, Knudsen, Skuse (Bru 45), Douglas, Ward, Sears, McGoldrick, Pitman (Samuel 71). Unused: Gerken, Taylor, Rowe, Diagouraga.
Birmingham: Kuszczak, Nsue, Grounds, Robinson (c), Shotton, Kieftenbeld (Gleeson 86), Tesche, Gardner, Jutkiewicz, Davis (Donaldson 83), Bielik. Unused: Legzdins, Adams, Frei, Dacres-Cogley, Keita. Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire). Att: 16,667 (Birmingham: 952).
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