Ipswich Town 1-1 Sheffield United - Match Report
Saturday, 22nd Dec 2018 17:21
Ellis Harrison netted his first goal for the Blues and Billy Sharp equalised for the Blades as Town and Sheffield United drew 1-1 at Portman Road. Harrison’s deflected shot gave Town the lead in the 38th minute but Blades skipper Sharp levelled two minutes after the break.
Town boss Paul Lambert, with owne Marcus Evans and pop star Ed Sheeran both watching from the stands, made three changes to his team with Harrison, Andre Dozzell and Gwion Edwards all starting.
Dozzell replaced Flynn Downes, who dropped out of the 18, in midfield with Edwards in for Jack Lankester, who was among the subs, wide on the right.
Harrison, who had made two sub appearances since returning from his ankle injury, was making his first start under Lambert with Jordan Roberts also among the subs.
Sheffield United were unchanged from the team which lost 2-1 at home to West Brom eight days ago with ex-Blues striker David McGoldrick starting and former loanee Richard Stearman on the bench.
Blades skipper Billy Sharp hit the game’s first chance in the second minute, the ex-Doncaster man hitting a shot across Dean Gerken from the right of the box, which the Blues keeper just about bundled wide.
From Oliver Norwood’s resultant corner, the ball fell to John Egan in the box but the central defender’s shot was blocked.
The Blades threatened again in the eighth minute, Jack O’Connell crossing from the left and Sharp beating Gerken to the ball but sending it high and wide.
On 11 McGoldrick tried to trick his way into the area but Matthew Pennington forced the ball out of play off the former Blues striker’s toe.
Sheffield United continued to dominate and put the Blues under significant pressure. On 17 Sharp had the ball in the net from a freekick but having strayed offside.
John Fleck struck a low shot through to Gerken in the 20th minute, then on 24 Harrison managed Town’s first effort on goal, a header from a Spence cross which was straight at Blades keeper Dean Henderson.
But the South Yorkshiremen continued to control the game and in the 27th minute Pennington superbly dived to his left to nod behind a dangerous cross from the right. From Fleck’s corner, Egan nodded over when he will feel he ought to have done better.
On the half hour, Mark Duffy cut the ball back past Blues skipper Luke Chambers from the right to Sharp, who turned the ball over when he probably should have hit the target.
Town attacks were rare - as had been spells of Blues possession - but Edwards almost created an opportunity for Sears on the break on 32 but the Welshman’s cross-field pass was too far in front of the ex-West Ham striker and Henderson claimed.
The Blues had the ball in the net in the 35th minute via a Chambers header from a Jon Nolan corner but referee Andy Woolmer had already blown his whistle, presumably for a push.
Although he may have had a case with that decision, referee Woolmer was increasingly irking the ever-more vociferous Town crowd with a number of highly-contentious freekicks having been awarded to the Blades.
Despite the visitors’ dominance, the Blues took the lead in the 39th minute. The Blades gave the ball away on the Town left - a rare occurrence - and Sears fed Harrison, who hit his first Blues goal over Henderson and into the net with the aid of a deflection off Enda Stevens.
The Welshman, making his first Town start since mid-September, looked delighted to have broken his Blues duck having signed from Bristol Rovers in the summer.
Trevoh Chalobah was somewhat harshly booked for a foul on Duffy as the half moved into its final five minutes.
Having got their noses in front, the Blues looked a more confident outfit and saw more of the ball in the period’s closing stages.
Just before the whistle, Edwards dallied when he should have played in Harrison ahead of him on the right and lost the ball with the Blues in a promising position.
There was no doubt Town were flattered by the half-time scoreline on the balance of a period largely dominated by the Blades.
However, the visitors were unable to make their dominance count in terms of goals before the Blues took what was at best a half-chance when it came, Harrison appearing to get the benefit of a deflection.
Following the goal, Town got on the ball more in midfield with Dozzell and Nolan increasingly involved and they ended the half on the front foot.
But the Blues’ lead would last only two minutes of the second half. Norwood whipped over a superb cross from the right which beat Chambers and Sharp nodded home his 13th goal of the season from close range.
Despite the setback of the early equaliser, Town began to put the visitors under pressure winning a series of corners. From one Harrison teed-up Sears, whose shot was blocked by McGoldrick, then from the flag-kick subsequent to that Chambers was unable to get over a high ball at the far post.
The early part of the second half developed into a more even game than much of the first had been but the Blades began to create chances. Sharp shot well wide on 57, then a minute later a low ball was played across the Town six-yard box but with no one able to add a touch.
Stevens lashed into the side-netting from a tight angle on the left after a cross from the right reached him as the match passed the hour mark with the Blades again starting to turn the screw.
On 66 Pennington did superbly to slid in to block from George Baldock with the right wing-back having been found in a promising position inside the box after a spell of incisive Blades passing.
In the 69th minute Sheffield United swapped McGoldrick, who was warmly applauded off by his old supporters, for Leon Clarke and Town switched Dozzell for Grant Ward.
Basham was booked for a somewhat cynical foul as Nolan burst past him just out side the area a minute later. Sears took the freekick but curled it wide with Henderson untroubled.
But the Blues found themselves under the cosh for the most part with the Blades forcing them to defend resolutely and at times desperately. On 77 Harrison blocked from Stevens.
A minute later, the former Wales U21 international was replaced by Roberts having put in an impressive shift.
In the 79th minute there was a scare for Blades keeper Henderson as he dropped a Nolan freekick played deep to the far post. Fortunately for the on-loan Manchester United keeper he was able to recover before a Town player was able to pounce.
As the match moved into its final 10 minutes the Blues began to look the more threatening team, winning a number of corners
There was controversy in the 84th minute when Norwood appeared to deliberately strike Chalobah off the ball after the two had tussled on the touchline. With the Portman Road crowd baying for a red card referee Woolmer showed only a yellow. The Northern Irishman could count himself lucky.
Jordan Spence was yellow-carded for a foul 30 yards out midway through three minutes of injury time. In the aftermath of what was an over-elaborate but under-practised freekick routine Egan volleyed well over.
That shot was to prove the final chance of an entertaining game, referee Woolmer ending the fixture soon afterwards before being booed off by a Town crowd thoroughly unimpressed with his afternoon’s work, not least the failure to dismiss Norwood.
Ultimately, the Blues will be happy to have taken a point given the opposition and the pressure they found themselves under for often long spells.
Town will be disappointed to have surrendered their lead soon after the break and had one or two chances to restore their advantage but for a greater part of the half they had to dig deep to claim a draw which sees them move closer to safety, the gap now four points plus goal difference with the four teams above them all losing. The Blues are next in action at QPR on Boxing Day.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Pennington, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Chalobah, Dozzell (Ward 69), Nolan, Edwards, Sears, Harrison (Roberts 78). Unused: Bialkowski, Jackson, Nsiala, Kenlock, Lankester.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Sharp (c), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Clarke 69), Duffy. Unused: Moore, Coutts, Stearman, Johnson, Crainie, Washington. Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire). Att: 17,942 (Sheffield United: 1,292).
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