Ipswich Town 1-0 Rotherham United - Match Report
Saturday, 12th Jan 2019 17:19
Will Keane’s first Blues goal saw Town to a vital 1-0 home victory over Rotherham United at Portman Road. Town, who are now seven points plus goal difference from safety, were on top in the first half and Keane put them ahead from close range on 31. However, the Millers dominated the second period and the Blues were forced to defend resolutely throughout to claim the three points and only their third clean sheet of the season.
New signings Collin Quaner and James Collins were handed their Blues debuts and Keane and Callum Elder their Town league bows and their first appearances at Portman Road having played at Accrington last week.
Collins joined skipper Luke Chambers at the centre of the defence with Pennington at right-back and Elder on the left.
Cole Skuse was back after his knee injury with Trevoh Chalobah at the heart of a four-man midfield.
Jack Lankester was on the right with Freddie Sears on the left, while Keane started behind Quaner up front.
Emyr Huws returned to the bench having been out for 13 months alongside Town’s fifth new signing Simon Dawkins. For Rotherham, ex-Blues keeper Lewis Price was on the bench.
Town had most of the ball in the early stages but without creating a serious chance. On 10 captain Chambers took what looked a nasty fall over the perimeter wall into the stand having seen the ball out of play ahead of Millers’ striker Michael Smith but was quickly back on the pitch.
Visitors’ defender Zak Vyner was shown the game’s first yellow card in the 13th minute for shoving Sears. The Millers struggled to clear the ball from the resultant freekick but the set piece ultimately came to nothing.
Town similarly took their time to clear a Rotherham set play on 18 but eventually broke quickly with Chalobah finding Keane on the left with a cross-field pass.
The on-loan Hull City man laid the ball back to Skuse, who struck a shot which deflected off one Millers player onto another’s arm. Referee James Linington waved away the Blues’ ambitious appeals for a penalty.
Lambert’s much-changed Town increasingly dominated but without being able to carve out a chance until the 31st minute when they took the lead.
Keane fed Sears wide on the left and the ex-West Ham man crossed back towards the one-time Manchester United trainee six yards out. The ball got away with him from his first touch but it came back to him off a defender and having taken a touch he lashed his first Blues goal into the net before celebrating in front of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
The game was subsequently held up for a long spell as Smith and Chambers, presumably due to his early tumble over the fence, underwent treatment. Soon after play had restarted, Rotherham’s on-loan Norwich defender Sean Raggett was replaced by Ryan Williams.
There was a scare for the Blues in the 43rd minute when Collins headed an Anthony Forde freekick from deep on the right against former Blues trialist Semi Ajayi and the ball looped wide.
A minute later at the other end, Sears hooked a shot over from a tight angle in the aftermath of a Lankester corner on the left.
Rotherham ended the half strongly, Joe Mattock hitting an effort from distance which Blues keeper Dean Gerken saw past his left post.
During three minutes of injury time Skuse was booked for a foul on Williams inside the centre circle.
Just before the end of the half, Taylor half-volleyed over from Forde’s cross when he will feel he ought to have found the target.
Not long after, the half-time whistle was greeted by applause and cheers from the Portman Road support after an entertaining period with Town deserving to go in ahead.
The new look Blues had certainly looked to have more potential going forward than they had prior to the transfer window opening with Quaner adding a significant physical presence and Keane bright and inventive on the ball.
However, up until the goal, which Keane tucked away clinically at the second attempt, they had been unable to carve out a chance.
They had moved the ball around confidently, although while also showing some raggedness at times, perhaps inevitably given the number of changes to the team.
At the other end Collins had added composure and assurance on the ball to the backline. Rotherham failed to register a shot on target, although they had one or two occasions when they might have made more of openings inside the box.
Neither side made a change at the break and Rotherham had the better of the opening minutes, Gerken saving Smith’s long distance effort in the 50th minute down to his right.
The Blues keeper was in action again on 53, diving to the same side to keep out a 30-yard effort from Millers skipper Will Vaulks after the ball had been tapped to him from a freekick.
Town had failed to get going after the break and there was a big scare in the 59th minute when Jon Taylor chased a Williams ball down the middle and appeared to nod it out of Gerken’s hands as the keeper claimed. However, neither the linesman or referee signalled until the Millers midfielder had taken it out of play.
Rotherham were putting the Blues under more and more pressure with Town unable to get on the ball.
The South Yorkshiremen ought to have levelled on the hour but Smith, the scorer of the only goal when the sides met at the New York Stadium in August, headed Forde’s cross over when he will feel he should have hit the target. On 63 Smith shot over from distance.
Town swapped debutant Quaner, who had put in a hard-working and combative debut in front of his new fans and his hometown supporters visiting from Fortuna Düsseldorf, for Flynn Downes who joined the midfield.
In the 67th minute Sears was booked for kicking the ball away as the Millers prepared to take a freekick, then three minutes later Jerry Yates took over from Forde for the visitors.
Rotherham continued to have the better of it but with the pressure having been relieved somewhat. However, on 71 Taylor was just unable to reach Vaulks’s cross in from the right.
Lankester almost carved out a chance for Keane with a clever pass on 72 but with the loanee having strayed offside. A minute later the 18-year-old was replaced by another debutant Dawkins.
Town threatened for the first time in the second half in the 79th minute. Chalobah beat his man down the right and brought the ball into the Rotherham half before feeding Sears. The former Colchester United striker tried to turn the ball on to Keane breaking on the left but Taylor was able to deflect it back to Millers keeper Marek Rodak.
But the Millers were still well on top with the Blues’ defence by far the busier as the game moved into its final 10 minutes. However, they were remaining resolute, despite referee Linington having awarded a number of generous freekicks to the visitors.
On 85 Vaulks hit a low shot from distance which Gerken claimed confidently down to his right. A minute later, Williams sent across a low ball from the right which was too far in front of his team-mates.
Rotherham continued to press, Vaulks long throw almost fell for Mattock but Gerken just got there and the danger was cleared.
Moments later Millers’ defender Vyner was replaced by Richard Wood, then in four minutes of injury time Toto Nsiala took over from Sears for Town.
Town just about kept out a mammoth goalmouth scramble with Collins, who along with Chambers and Pennington had been immense in the second half, mis-hitting against Gerken at one stage before eventually clearing a ball which seemed to ricochet around the Blues box for an age.
There was just one more generously awarded freekick for the Blues to defend before referee Linington blew his final whistle to a huge roar from the Town support, while Collins and Chambers both punched the air in front of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
The second half had been a gritty, backs to the wall defensive effort of a type which became familiar during Mick McCarthy’s time as Blues boss.
Time and again the ball was sent into the box by Rotherham but usually it was Collins, who put in as good a defensive debut performance as Portman Road has seen in a while, Chambers or Pennington getting their heads on it.
The second period was a great contrast to the first when the Blues had been on the front foot and for large parts in control. Town never really got going as an attacking unit after the break, with the number of players short on match fitness perhaps a factor.
However, the the three points were the main thing to take from today’s game and Town claimed them via only their third win of the season and their second at home.
The victory, which was being celebrated by the visiting Fortuna Düsseldorf fans long after the final whistle, sees them stay bottom but now a less daunting seven points from safety - plus goal difference - ahead of next week’s trip to Blackburn Rovers.
Town: Gerken, Pennington, Chambers (c), Collins, Elder, Skuse, Chalobah, Sears (Nsiala 90), Lankester (Dawkins 73), Keane, Quaner (Downes 65). Unused: Bialkowski, Harrison, Bishop, Huws.
Rotherham: Rodak, Vyner (Wood 89), Raggett (Williams 37), Robertson, Mattock, Ajayi, Forde (Yates 70), Vaulks, Wiles, Taylor, Smith. Unused: Price, Ihiekwe, Wood, Jones, Palmer. Referee: James Linington (Newport IoW). Att: 20,893 (Rotherham: 729).
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