Ipswich Town 2-2 Middlesbrough - Match Report
Sunday, 6th May 2018 14:58
Boro sub Patrick Bamford’s goal deep in injury time saw Middlesbrough grab a 2-2 draw against the Blues at Portman Road. Freddie Sears had put Town ahead with his second goal in two games but Stewart Downing equalised for the Teessiders on 71. Martyn Waghorn thought he’d scored the winner with his 16th of the season from the spot after Championship debutant sub Shane McLoughlin had won the penalty, but Bamford headed the leveller six minutes into time added-on.
Cole Skuse, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Sears returned to the Blues’ line-up with the injured Mustapha Carayol and Ben Folami dropping out, while Luke Woolfenden moved to the bench.
Town again started with three at the back with Jordan Spence at right wing-back having overcome the knee injury which had made him a doubt going into the match.
Middlesbrough, who went into the game confirmed in the play-offs but looking to seal fifth spot, were unchanged from the team which beat Millwall 2-0 at home last week. Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter was on the bench.
Town started brightly and struck the first shot in the third minute, Martyn Waghorn screwing wide after exchanging passes with stand-in skipper Skuse, playing ahead of fellow midfielders Tristan Nydam and Callum Connolly, on the right of the box.
The Blues almost went in front via a freakish goal in the fifth minute when Waghorn scuffed a corner from the right and the ball hit the outside of Darren Randolph’s post.
Confident-looking Town continued to dominate and on seven Knudsen shot wide from distance.
And a minute later the Blues took the lead. Sears outmuscled Teessiders’ skipper Ben Gibson on the right, then brought the ball into the area before smashing a low shot beyond the diving Randolph’s right hand.
The striker gleefully celebrated his second goal in two matches, following on from a 38-game goal drought, in front of the tunnel with kit man James Pullen before the rest of the team joined in.
On 12 Skuse picked up the first yellow card for a game for a foul on Adama Traore, then - after Muhamed Besic had curled over for the visitors on the quarter hour - the midfielder scuffed a shot wide from distance.
Boro had got more into the game after Town’s goal and in the 22nd minute Ryan Shotton’s low cross from the right was deflected into the side-netting.
The Teessiders continued to dominate possession and were increasingly threatening to get on terms. On 34 Webster diverted Stewart Downing’s low cross only an inch or so wide of Bialkowski’s right post.
Tony Pulis’s side went close again from the resultant corner, Daniel Ayala stabbing a low effort from beyond the far post which Connolly cleared off the line.
The players briefly came off for a drinks break on 35 on what was a very warm Portman Road afternoon, then soon after they returned to the field Waghorn shot wide.
Boro seemed to lose their momentum following the delay, then just before the half-time break Nydam was yellow-carded for a foul on Traore and Sears joined him in the book for kicking the ball away.
Neither team threatened again before referee David Coote’s whistle signalled the end of the half, prompting applause from the Blues support.
Town had started strongly and grabbed their goal through a rejuvenated Sears. Boro came more into it after the goal and will feel they deserved to level but the Blues defended resolutely and on a couple of occasions desperately to maintain their lead.
Chances were rare in the opening minutes of the second half. On 54 Ayala headed well over from Traore’s corner on the right.
The Blues’ first real scare of the half came on 56 when a corner when Carter-Vickers half-cleared a corner to the edge of the box and Besic hit a low shot which Adama turned into Bialowski’s arms from close range. Either side of the Blues keeper and the scores would have been level.
But almost immediately Town twice went close to increasing their lead. First, Sears ended a flowing Blues move by crossing from the right for Waghorn, whose shot at the far post was brilliantly diverted over by Randolph.
From the resultant Waghorn corner, Skuse met the ball perfectly on the volley at the back of the box and only an even better save from the Irish international prevented the midfielder from netting a stunning second goal of the season.
Boro failed to make anything of a break which saw them two on one in the Town half following a Blues corner, then Waghorn sent Sears away. The earlier scorer outmuscled Ayala but was crowded out by Gibson.
Bamford was introduced for Jonny Howson on 61, then seven minutes later the sub tried to punch in a cross from the right but referee Coote spotted it, although surprisingly didn’t show a yellow card.
Town had continued to defend resolutely but in the 71st minute the visitors got back on terms. A corner from the left was cleared to Downing, who struck a low shot through a crowd of players and into the net to the unsighted Bialkowski’s right.
The Teessiders weren’t too far away from a second three minutes later, Assombalonga forcing Bialkowski into a sharp save to his left with a shot from the right of the box.
Town swapped Nydam for McLoughlin, who was making his Championship debut, and then Connolly, who was applauded off after a fine season on loan from Everton, for Luke Hyam.
The Blues continued to have to man the pumps at the back but were increasingly threatening on the break, Spence doing well to cut in from the right on 78 but hitting his shot into Randolph’s arms.
But a second Town goal wasn’t too much longer in coming. Sub McLoughlin chased what looked to be a lost cause on the left and beat Gibson to the ball, the defender upending the former Republic of Ireland U18 international somewhat agriculturally as he broke into the area. Referee Coote had no hesitation in awarding the penalty.
Waghorn took the kick and slammed Town’s first goal from the spot this season to Randolph’s left to grab his 16th of a memorable first season for the Blues. The goal ended a 25-game run of Town having failed to score in both halves of a league match.
The South Shields-born frontman might have claimed his 12th assist of the campaign on 85 having sent Sears away, although he underhit his pass, but the opening goalscorer shot too close to Randolph having done well to work himself the space to shoot.
Besic shot straight at Bialkowski before Woolfenden replaced Spence for the final three minutes plus injury time.
As the game entered five minutes of injury time Sears chipped well over at one end before the visitors put the Blues under significant pressure.
Bialkowski and a number of his defenders desperately kept the ball out during a scramble, then the Poland keeper pawed a shot from Traore out and the ball was cleared.
Boro thought they’d levelled when Ayala turned home from close range after Besic’s shot had hit the bar, but the former Norwich defender had strayed offside. Soon after, Gibson was booked for a foul on Waghorn.
Town appeared to have seen off the worst of the onslaught in what had stretched to six minutes of injury time, but with the final action of the game the Teessiders levelled for the second time, sub Bamford rising to nod past Bialkowski. The final whistle followed within seconds of the restart.
The late goal was tough on the Blues who had deserved all three points from a very entertaining game having withstood periods of Boro pressure and having regained the lead after good work from league debutant McLoughlin.
They also had opportunities to seal it but the Teessiders kept up the pressure in injury time and had gone close prior to their second goal.
The draw and Norwich’s 5-1 thrashing at Sheffield Wednesday means the Blues finish the season in 12th, two places ahead of the Canaries on goal difference with Leeds United between the two East Anglian rivals.
What’s been a fractious season has ended in a positive note with an 18,829 crowd backing the Blues vocally and the 4-0 win at Reading having been followed by a very positive and promising display against Boro if not in the end another victory.
Town: Bialkowski, Carter-Vickers, Webster, Knudsen, Spence (Woolfenden 88), Skuse (c), Connolly (Hyam 77), Nydam (McLoughlin, Kenlock, Sears, Waghorn. Unused: M Crowe, Gleeson, Morris, Cotter.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Shotton, Gibson (c), Clayton (Harrison 81), Assombalonga, Howson (Bamford 61), Downing, Besic, Traore. Unused: Konstantopoulos, Fabio, Leadbitter, Cranie, Fry. Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire). Att: 18,829 (Boro: 1,874).
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