Ipswich Town 1-0 Wigan Athletic - Match Report
Saturday, 15th Dec 2018 17:22
Freddie Sears’s 67th minute goal saw Town to a vital 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic at Portman Road to cut the gap to safety to five points. In atrocious second-half conditions, Sears’s shot deflected past Latics keeper Christian Walton to secure the Blues their first home win since April and only their second victory of the season.
Town boss Paul Lambert named the same team which lost 2-0 at Stoke last weekend. Dean Gerken continued in goal behind centre-halves Matthew Pennington and skipper Luke Chambers with Jonas Knudsen and Jordan Spence the full-backs.
Trevoh Chalobah was the deeper midfielder with Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan ahead of him.
Up front, Jordan Roberts was in the middle with Jack Lankester on the right and Freddie Sears on the left.
For Wigan, ex-Blues loanee Callum Connolly and Will Grigg came into the team for the suspended Kai Naismith and James Vaughan, who dropped to the bench.
Former Blues winger Gary Roberts started with ex-Town striker Joe Garner on the bench and one-time defender Alex Bruce not in the 18.
In freezing and breezy conditions, Town started positively, taking the game to the Latics. An early corner came to nothing but the Blues kept the visitors pinned back in their half in the opening minutes.
On nine, Nolan crossed from the right and the ball reached Knudsen beyond the far post. The Danish international tried a shot but the ball deflected behind off a defender and keeper Walton.
Wigan caused the Blues their first moment of danger on 14 when ex-Blue Roberts chipped a ball behind the Town backline for Will Grigg but too far in front of the Northern Irishman and Gerken claimed.
Roberts, who played for Town during Jim Magilton’s time as boss, sent over a dangerous cross from the left two minutes later but with no one in the box to add the final touch.
But the Blues, with owner Marcus Evans watching, continued to control the game and on 19 Lankester hit a freekick from the right towards goal which was headed away.
A minute later, Josh Windass, subject of a Town enquiry prior to joining the Latics from Rangers in the summer, was sent away into the right of the Town area but sent a low ball beyond Grigg.
There was a big scare for the Blues right on the half-hour mark when Windass and Grigg both somehow failed to get a touch on a cross from the right when they seemed certain to score.
The Latics subsequently had a short spell on top but without seriously threatening again before the Blues regained the ascendency, Lankester just failing to find Sears with a return pass after a swift Town counter-attack in the 36th minute.
A minute later, Sears was sent away on goal towards the right of the box by Roberts’s flick but the ex-West Ham man shot just over Walton’s bar when he might have taken it on a few strides further.
On 42, Town struggled to clear a Wigan corner from the left but the Latics were unable to get a clean sight at goal, Connolly hitting a shot which screwed well wide before Windass took it out of play on the right.
Neither side threatened again before referee Scott Duncan brought a not overly-enthralling half to an end.
The Blues had been on top for most of the period but only rarely creating chances, Sears’s shot over and Knudsen’s effort which was bundled behind the only opportunities of note.
Wigan had looked the more likely scorers when they had the ball in and around the Town are despite having seen less of the ball.
With rain now falling heavily and the wind having grown in strength, Chalobah and Connolly were booked within a minute of each other soon after the restart for catching Cedric Kipre with an arm and pulling back the breaking Lankester respectively.
The start of the second half had been very scruffy with both teams struggling in the conditions but on 59 Wigan went very close to going in front. Reece James picked up a loose ball on the right and smashed a shot which beat Gerken but which struck the bar.
Wigan, who were getting on top, swapped Grigg for Vaughan on 61, then in the aftermath of a corner, Connolly shot over from an angle on the right of the box.
Town made their first change of the afternoon a minute later, Gwion Edwards taking over from Lankester.
The Blues had been second best since the break and the home fans were beginning to become frustrated but in the 67th minute they went ahead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.
Wigan made heavy weather of clearing a Chalobah cross from the right and the ball was eventually stabbed out to Sears on the edge of the box. The ex-Colchester man’s scuffed shot looked too close to Walton but Lee Evans in front of him diverted it to his right and into the net.
Sears and the rest of his team-mates ran away to celebrate his fifth goal of the season in front of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
The Latics switched Windass for ex-Blue Garner on 71, then Andre Dozzell took over from Downes for the Blues.
Wigan felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the 73rd minute when Roberts was fouled by Chambers, who was booked, but referee Duncan gave a freekick just outside the box. James’s freekick hit the wall and looped over.
Wigan were handed another set piece in a dangerous position on 77 after Knudsen inadvertently felled Garner but Roberts smashed his freekick deep into the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand. Three minutes later, Callum McManaman replaced Nathan Byrne for the Latics.
On 84 Jordan Roberts was very harshly booked after clearly winning the ball as he slid in on James, much to the anger of the Town support who booed loudly.
Conditions if anything had deteriorated further as the half had progressed making life particularly tough for both defences.
In the 86th minute the Blues struggled to clear their lines and were fortunate that Connolly headed McManaman’s cross from the right over the bar.
A minute later, Wigan were awarded another freekick not far outside the area - hardly the first which was debatable - when Chalobah was adjudged to have fouled Vaughan. James took the freekick and Gerken saved well down to his left.
There was further danger from the corner, Gerken saving Connolly’s initial header, then following a scramble grabbing on to McManaman’s low shot through a crowd of players.
Kayden Jackson took over from Roberts prior to the fourth official holding up a board announcing seven additional minutes, much to the surprise of everyone in the ground.
Dan Burn was booked for fouling Dozzell as the Blues broke, then seconds before the whistle Vaughan clattered into Gerken Nat Lofthouse-style as the keeper claimed a high ball causing the former Colchester man to collide with the post. The Wigan sub surprisingly avoided a card.
Moments later, the incident was all but forgotten as referee Duncan ended the match and confirmed the first win of the Paul Lambert era, the Blues’ first home victory of the season, their second overall of the campaign and only their third at Portman Road in 2018. It was their first win to nil in 23 matches.
Skipper Chambers’s post-match fist pump has rarely been cheered so loudly and with such relief.
It was as hard fought a win as they come in atrocious conditions in the second half when it was impossible to play football.
Having got their goal at a time when Wigan were on top, the Blues dug in and battled for the remaining half hour - including the overlong injury time - to claim a crucial three points.
The win and results elsewhere - most notably Rotherham’s 1-1 draw at home to Reading claimed in the final minute - sees the Blues cut the gap to safety to only five points plus goal difference with fourth-placed Sheffield United at Portman Road next Saturday.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Chambers (c), Pennington, Knudsen, Chalobah, Downes (Dozzell 72), Nolan, Lankester (Edwards 62), Sears, Roberts. Unused: Bialkowski, Jackson, Bishop, Nsiala, Dozzell, Kenlock. Att: 14,640 (Wigan: 310).
Wigan: Walton, James, Kipre, Burn, Connolly, Morsy (c), Evans, Byrne (McManaman 80), Windass (Garner 71), Roberts, Grigg (Vaughan 60). Unused: Jones, Gibson, Massey, Dunkley. Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland).
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