|Ipswich Town 2 v 3 Millwall|
Tuesday, 1st January 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich Town 2-3 Millwall - Match Report
Tuesday, 1st Jan 2019 17:22
Town have a mountain to climb in 2019 if they are to avoid relegation to the third tier for the first time in 62 years with the gap to safety now 10 points following a 3-2 New Year's Day defeat to Millwall at Portman Road. Jack Lankester’s first senior goal had given the Blues a deserved 1-0 lead and Town might have been further ahead at the break, but in the second half a Shane Ferguson penalty and goals from Jake Cooper and Tom Elliott put the Lions 3-1 up before Kayden Jackson’s fourth of the season gave the Blues late hope of claiming a draw.
Lankester, Teddy Bishop and Ellis Harrison returned to a young Town side with an average age of 24.6 otherwise unchanged from the one which lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Bishop, making his second start of the season, came into midfield for Jon Nolan, who was left out of the 18, while Lankester was wide on the right, with Gwion Edwards among the subs, and Harrison the central striker. Kayden Jackson also dropped to the bench.
Myles Kenlock continued at left-back with the set-to-depart Jonas Knudsen among the subs and with Callum Elder’s loan from Leicester being formalised tomorrow.
Millwall were forced into two changes with defender Shaun Hutchinson and striker Lee Gregory missing due to injury with Murray Wallace and Aiden O’Brien coming into the team. In Hutchinson’s absence Ryan Leonard skippered, while ex-Blues loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe started.
Town’s 2019 was only two minutes old when they took the lead. Freddie Sears was clattered by Jake Cooper midway inside the Millwall half as he played the ball wide to Jack Lankester on the right.
Referee Stephen Martin played a good advantage and Lankester cut in and curled a low shot beyond Jordan Archer and into the net before celebrating his first senior goal with his team-mates. The 18-year-old becomes the first player born in the 2000s to net a first-team goal for the Blues.
The early goal unsurprisingly boosted the Blues’ confidence and they continued to take the game to the visitors and in the ninth minute they went close to doubling their lead.
Bishop found Harrison on the right and, with the Lions defence hesitant, his cross deflected into the path of Sears, whose effort at goal was blocked by Archer.
The Blues threatened again in the 11th minute, a Spence cross from the right reaching Sears at the far post but the ex-West Ham man’s shot was diverted behind by Mahlon Romeo.
The early stages had been all Town but as the match moved past the 15-minute mark Millwall began to see more of the ball, however, the Blues backline prevented them from creating an opportunity.
On 19 Jed Wallace blazed over from distance, then two minutes later Matthew Pennington did well to get across to dispose Millwall skipper Leonard as he looked to get on to a ball played ahead of him into the area. At the other end, Harrison headed a Bishop freekick from deep on the right over the bar.
In the 26th minute, a quick break involving Downes, Sears and Kenlock led to Harrison deftly controlling the left-back’s cross and hammering a shot against a Millwall defender from just inside the area.
Town almost netted a brilliant second in the 28th minute after a superb passing exchange on the right involving Lankester, Bishop and Downes led to the one-time Luton loanee finding Sears in acres of space in the middle. The striker looked set to net his fifth of the season until Tunnicliffe blocked his goalbound effort.
From the resultant corner, which like several earlier set pieces had been wasted by the Blues, Millwall broke and Jed Wallace burst through on goal with only Gerken to beat. However, the keeper was out quickly to block and Downes cleared the loose ball.
On 41 Bishop found Lankester on the right and the youngster tried to trick his way past two defenders as he broke into the box but was eventually dispossessed.
Neither side threatened again before referee Martin brought the half to a close to warm applause from the Blues support pleased with their side’s first-half display and their deserved lead.
Lankester’s excellent early strike settled Town’s early nerves and the Lions couldn’t have complained if the Blues had gone in with a greater advantage, Sears having gone close on a number of occasions.
Town keeper Gerken had only been seriously tested once with the home backline having remained resolute for the most part despite Millwall having seen more of the ball as the half wore on but with the Blues still looking the more threatening of the teams on the counter-attack.
After their largely lacklustre first half, Millwall swapped James Meredith for veteran frontman and club captain Steve Morison ahead of the second period.
The Blues began the second period on the front foot with Sears shooting high and wide having cut in from the left in the 49th minute.
Two minutes later, Jed Wallace whipped over a cross under Gerken’s bar and the keeper was forced to tip over.
In the aftermath of the corner, the ball was sent back in from the left but Murray Wallace headed well wide when he will feel he should have done better.
The Blues carved out another well-worked chance in the 56th minute, after involvement from Lankester and Downes, Bishop eventually fed Spence on the right and the full-back sent over a cross which Harrison diverted wide at the near post.
Town were increasingly looking a threat on the break and in the 58th minute, after Downes had been crowded out as he took the ball into the box, Trevoh Chalobah hit a low effort from distance Archer claimed with ease.
Millwall had shown no signs of getting back on terms but right on the hour they were awarded a penalty.
Morison nodded down for Elliott and he and Chambers tangled as they chased the ball, the Blues skipper sending the striker to ground. Referee Martin took his time before pointing to the spot, much to Chambers’s frustration. It had looked more a tangle of legs than either player fouling the other. Shane Ferguson blasted the penalty past Gerken to level.
Town boss Lambert was shown the yellow card for arguing about a freekick, before Andre Dozzell took over from Bishop, who had shown glimpses of his best before tiring. On 65 Morison was booked for a wild challenge on Chalobah.
Match Gallery: 12 photos
In the 68th minute the visitors took the lead. Spence allowed the ball to run out for what Town thought would be a goalkick, however, referee Martin gave a corner. After it was initially cleared, Morison hooked it back into the box from the right, Elliott nodded back across and Cooper headed home from close range.
Chalobah made way for Jackson in the 76th minute as the Blues moved to 4-4-2. But before the switch could make an impact Town found themselves 3-1 behind.
Pennington underhit a backpass to Gerken, Elliott seized on it and stabbed towards goal. Chambers forced it away but not out of play and O’Brien backheeled it back to Elliott who found the net.
Harrison hit a deflected shot through to Archer as the Blues looked to regain a foothold in a game which had so swiftly run away from them.
And with just under two minutes remaining, they pulled a goal back. Harrison was thwarted as he broke into the area on the left but sub Jackson picked up the loose ball, brought it inside and smashed home from the edge of the box off the inside of the post.
The late goal and the fourth official’s board indicating six additional minutes got the Town crowd vociferously behind their side.
The Blues won late corners with keeper Dean Gerken going upfield to assist his team-mates and following the second flag-kick Lankester teed-up Harrison on the edge of the box. His low shot flew through a crowd of players but Archer was able to claim down to his left.
However, Millwall eventually saw out the final minutes to claim their first away win of the season and to deal Town’s already fading hopes of survival a very serious blow.
It was a game which Town, whose players were warmly applauded off the field at the end, ultimately needed to win to maintain the previous seven-point gap with Rotherham winning 2-1 at home to Preston.
And it was a match they ought to have had won in the first half having had a number of opportunities to extend the lead gained via Lankester’s goal.
Millwall hadn’t looked like getting back into the match until the penalty which was one you’d feel you should have be awarded if you’re a striker but seems harsh if you’re the defender.
From there, the Lions grew in stature, while the Blues wilted and gifted goals via the type of errors which have become all too familiar over the season.
Even with the planned January addition of experienced Championship players to the squad, 10 points - plus goal difference - looks too much of a gap to be bridged.
The Blues are next in action at Accrington Stanley next Saturday in the third round of the FA Cup with Rotherham visiting Portman Road in the league the following weekend.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Pennington, Chambers (c), Kenlock, Chalobah (Jackson 75), Downes, Bishop (Dozzell 65), Lankester, Sears, Harrison. Unused: Bialkowski, Knudsen, Edwards, Roberts, Nsiala.
Millwall: Archer, Cooper, M Wallace, Romeo, Leonard, J Wallace (Karacan 90), Tunnicliffe, Meredith (Morison 46), Ferguson, O’Brien, Elliott (Webster 82). Unused: Amos, Skalak, Brown, White. Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire). Att: 16,957 (Millwall: 985).
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