Ipswich Town 1-2 Bristol Rovers - Match Report
Saturday, 14th Dec 2019 17:26
Bristol Rovers recorded their first victory at Portman Road since Boxing Day 1958 as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by the 10-man Pirates, their third League One defeat of the season. Tyler Smith and Tom Nichols gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before James Norwood pulled one back in the 37th minute and the Blues were unable to find a second even after visitors’ skipper Ollie Clarke was dismissed for a two bookable offences on 77.
Town boss Paul Lambert made six changes from the side which exited the FA Cup to Coventry on Tuesday.
Tomas Holy kept his place in goal with Cole Skuse skippering with Luke Chambers still out with his neck injury.
The veteran Bristolian, who was with Rovers as a schoolboy, made a rare start at right-back, the position he played at the start of his career at Bristol City, with Janoi Donacien unwell. Luke Garbutt was on the left with James Wilson partnering Luke Woolfenden at the centre of the defence.
Lambert returned to the midfield three which impressed in the first half of the 1-1 league draw at Coventry last Saturday, Andre Dozzell, Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan.
Up front, Will Keane started down the middle with Kayden Jackson on the right and Norwood on the left.
Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears were among those who warmed up on the pitch beforehand as they continue their recoveries from injury but weren’t included in the 18.
The Pirates, wearing yellow and black, were without 10-goal star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris and full-back Mark Little along with suspended midfielder Abu Ogogo. Former Blue Ed Upson started in the midfield.
Town won a corner in the opening minute which was cleared to Nolan, who volleyed over from not too far outside the box.
However, the visitors took the lead with their first attack of the game only four minutes later.
A quickly-taken Luke Leahy long throw on the left came across the box, Clarke held off his man and Smith used the space created to beat Holy from just inside the area.
The Pirates, who last won at Portman Road on Boxing Day 1958, should have been two in front only three minutes later when Rollin Menayese was allowed a free header from a Liam Sercombe corner on the left but nodded over when it appeared easier to hit the target.
On 10 Sercombe shot not too far over from distance with the Pirates having all of the early chances.
The Blues had had one or two decent spells on the ball but without creating a chance and while looking distinctly shaky at the other end.
In the 13th minute Nolan played a clever ball through for Jackson, the former Accrington man took it past advancing keeper Anssi Jaakkola but very wide and the danger was snuffed out.
The Blues briefly started to get on top, winning a series of freekicks - with Upson shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Nolan - and corners on the left in the minutes that followed. On 16 Norwood might have equalised as the ball came in from the left following a flag-kick but failed to get a touch.
However, the Blues continued to look unsure of themselves at the back and misplaced passes and miscommunication began to become commonplace.
And on 25 Rovers went two in front. Alex Rodman was found on space on the right and sent over a cross which Nichols stooped to nod home at the far post.
The home crowd made their frustrations at a second Pirates goal and a disappointing Blues performance evident as the visitors celebrated.
Town were close to pulling a goal back on the half hour when Jackson was sent away on the right and sent over a dangerous low cross. Keane failed to get a decent contact on it and Nolan behind him could only slam against keeper Jaakkola as he closed the space.
The Blues were by now dominating possession and were regularly winning corners with the pressure beginning to grow.
On 36, after excellent work from Woolfenden on the left following another flag-kick, Jackson saw and effort saved by Jaakkola, then Garbutt’s powerful strike was blocked.
But Town kept the Pirates pinned back in their half and a minute later the Blues reduced the visitors’ advantage.
A slick move started when Downes flicked on to Nolan, who turned on to Jackson, by now on the left, who took the ball on before sending over a cross to the far post which Norwood breaking in from the right nodded into the net.
Having pulled a goal back the Blues went looking for another. Referee James Adcock turned down and appeal for penalty after a Norwood shot hit Alfie Kilgour on the hand, then moments later the former Tranmere man guided a Garbutt cross from the left straight into the keeper’s arms.
The Pirates were the next to threaten, Leahy sending in a 43rd minute cross for Smith whose header was well-saved low down to his left by Holy.
As the game moved into two minutes of injury time, Rovers skipper Clarke needlessly reacted to a Downes challenge on Upson, leading to a brief outbreak of handbags. Order was quickly restored and referee Adcock booked Clarke and Downes.
Town continued pressing in the final minute or so with Norwood and Nolan both having strikes blocked, before Menayese somehow diverted the ball wide of his own goal at the near post ahead of Norwood as a low cross came in from the right.
The whistle ended a rollercoaster half soon afterwards with the Blues having done enough to get themselves back on terms.
After a poor start and some very shaky defending as the makeshift backline struggled their feet and conceded the two Rovers goals, Town dominated and might have pulled one back prior to Norwood’s eighth of the season.
From there, the Blues - who had had 68 per cent of the possession - had further opportunities to score and a leveller before the break wouldn’t have been undeserved.
Town began the second half as they ended the first and came very close to having the ball in the net within two minutes of the restart, Jackson crossing from the right and Norwood heading on to the bar from a few feet out when it seemed impossible not to hit the target. The striker’s blushes were saved by a raised linesman’s flag.
A minute later, Jackson sent a low ball across the six-yard box which Jaakkola pushed past the post.
The Rovers keeper was yellow-carded for time-wasting on 50, then a minute later Woolfenden joined him in the book for a foul on Smith.
The visitors had a spell seeing more of the ball, Clarke curling over the bar before the Blues began to press the visitors back in their own half again.
Just after the hour mark, Jackson and Jaakkola collided as the keeper came out to claim the ball in front of the striker and briefly dropped it before getting his hands on it at the second attempt.
On 65 Town swapped Dozzell for Alan Judge, while the visitors switched Smith for Victor Adeboyejo ahead of a freekick on the right. Garbutt curled the ball into the box but Norwood’s header flew over.
The Blues should have levelled in the 70th minute when Skuse crossed from the right, Norwood nodded back across goal to Nolan who headed well over when he ought to have hit the net.
At the other end Sercombe blazed over, then on 73 sub Adeboyejo was found in a decent position in the area but similarly hit his effort too high.
Town hadn’t been as dominant in the second half as they had been for much of the first but again weren’t too far away from a second goal in the 75th minute.
With to Rovers players down - something which had become an increasingly common sight as the game wore on - the Blues broke and Norwood cut in and hit a shot which Jaakkola tipped over.
Rovers switched Nichols - one of those who had been on the floor - for Lucas Tomlinson with a plastic bottle flying towards the striker from the Sir Bobby Robson Stand as he made his way round the pitch, then moments later they were reduced to 10 men.
From the corner, the ball was cleared and Pirates skipper Clarke, who had left the field having undergone treatment, came back on without being waved on by the referee and was shown his second yellow card of the game.
Town began to pile on the pressure, Norwood and then Nolan both saw strikes blocked, then for Rovers Sercombe shot over following a quick break down the left.
On 87, Jackson crossed from the right and Norwood headed straight at Jaakkola before a Garbutt effort was blocked by a defender. A minute later Anthony Georgiou replaced Nolan.
Moments after the fourth official held up the board indicating five additional minutes, Judge found Jackson on the right of the box. The striker turned but shot over.
Town dominated the closing moments with balls coming into the box but with the Pirates backline and keeper remaining resolute until the final whistle, which was greeted by frustrated boos from some sections of the Blues support.
Overall, Town certainly deserved something from the game. Having given themselves a bigger task than the game ought to have been by conceding the two goals, they had chances before the break to level.
In the second half, although not as dominant as they were for large spells of the first, the Blues had opportunities to level with Norwood and Nolan both missing decent chances.
However, in the closing stages, the Rovers backline and keeper repelled everything thrown at them comfortably and they will feel they deserved their three points for their second-half rearguard action.
Another frustrating afternoon means the Blues are now without a win in their last four league games and haven’t been victorious over 90 minutes in their last seven matches in all competitions.
Town are now seven points behind leaders Wycombe and only a point ahead of Peterborough in third but with a game in hand on both the Chairboys and Posh, while Bristol Rovers, who have won their last four league games, are up to fourth, two points behind Town.
Next week the Blues have a trip to Portsmouth, who are 10th having lost 4-1 at Accrington today.
Town: Holy, Skuse, Wilson, Woolfenden, Garbutt, Nolan (Georgiou 88), Downes, Dozzell (Judge 65), Jackson, Norwood, Keane. Unused: Norris, Nsiala, Kenlock, Dobra, Huws.
Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola, Craig, Upson, Sercombe, Clarke, Nichols (Tomlinson 75), Leahy, Kilgour, Smith (Adeboyejo 65), Menayese, Rodman. Unused: Van Stappershoef, Kelly, Hoole, Hargreaves, Phillips. Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire). Att: 18,806.
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