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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.

Photo: TWTD

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midastouch added 17:26 - Dec 14
I would rather be at home having my missus nagging the tits off me than watch a game of football [like that].
So it's nearly Xmas and we still haven't beaten a top 8 team all season. Hardly promotion form but then we are still clinging on to second place but if we don't get our act together double quick then surely we won't be for very much longer.

Sindre94 added 17:27 - Dec 14
Im a glass half full kind of guy, but today was unacceptable. Looked to me like PL just threw together the best possible players and hoped for the best. A complete disaster in terms of relations between players with lots of sloppy and intercepted passes. Nolan for me should have been subbed after 20 minutes, with FOUR woeful and wasted passes. On the bright side I thought Nors linked play well, and Woolf and Downes keep putting in decent performances. Norwood, Jackson and Keane are strikers, so with basically no width to feed them with, it's really contraproductive. I would prioritize a decent and explosive winger in the january window - someone to challenge defenders and run at them with a decent shot. Someone in the mould of Tom Lawrence. We have a lot of tippy tappy players but many of them are too similar.

We need to find a system and stick to it - this chopping and changing cant continue. We've won games this season based on the fact that we have a lot of good individual players. Also Chambers was badly missed today.

BUT we are still in a good place, so keep the positivity going. Difficult to go from an awful side to a decent one in just a few months. I still trust and believe in Lambo and his plans, but today was horrendous.

RobITFC added 17:34 - Dec 14
The rotation is not working , but even so the team today should be winning comfortably, poor defense, midfield not creating, no punch up front and seems no confidence throughout the team. This is relegation form not promotion. Whatever the problem needs to be fixed soon. I keep hearing other teams how they are unchanged , just stick with your best team PL and get back to winning ways.

iaintaylorx added 17:37 - Dec 14
Very frustrating!! There is so much frustration in the team, you can tell. This whole rotation policy is ridiculous. I like Lambert, but he needs to stick with a team. That wasn’t far off our best 11 today, but please do not change 4, 5, 6 players for Pompey!! We need a win because I have forgotten what one feels like!

martin587 added 17:37 - Dec 14
I’m just lost for words.Do we want promotion.? These players are playing like strangers.WE MUST HAVE A SETTLED TEAM.I rest my case..I don’t like being critical but things have to change.Yes I know we are still second with a game in hand but this is NOT the Ipswich I know and love.😡

DifferentGravy added 17:37 - Dec 14
Well, i was spot on in my pre match analysis. BTTS because Bristol Rovers love a goal. So what does Lambert do.......mess the team/formation round yet again and have us at sixs n sevens. We were so defensively frail in the first 20 mins.

From a footballing point of view........tactics, formations.....actually thinking we can win a game.....i have lost all faith in Lambert. His decision making is ridiculous and apart from the odd half here and there we dont look a promotion candidate. He has the players, they have the ability......but he is ruining it with his constant fiddling

DifferentGravy added 17:39 - Dec 14
Oh......and we will get HAMMERED by Pompey coz Lambert will continue to fiddle

TimmyH added 17:44 - Dec 14
Really don't think Lambert knows our best starting 11 or the formation we play best in although the majority or our success has come in the 3-5-2 formation. Heard today that West Brom and to a degree Liverpool (leaders of their perspective divisions) start with the same formation whoever they play...

Well with Wycombe surprisingly galloping of into the distance we could be looking at one automatic place for promotion though still a long way to go...only saving grace is that other teams who have been playing well of late also seem to be stumbling i.e. Oxford, Rotherham, Doncaster, Portsmouth etc. - can't help feeling this is a poor league.

By the way all season ticket holders and paying supporters HAVE the right to criticize which can be construed as 'negativity'...and yes at the moment you can understand why there are rumbles of negativity going around on social networks, today even some at the ground (which I'm not sure helps).

ShropshireBluenago09 added 17:44 - Dec 14
We have no presence in the air up front. I though Will Keane would be that man, but he doesn't jump and challenge ever. No one on the end of crosses. We would thrive on a Murphy type.
Also, think we have missed Chambers organisation at the back.

therein61 added 17:45 - Dec 14
Again we needed leadership on the park(as the last game) not powderpuff finger pointing strolling around!!!! for gods sake stop selecting this man.

EssexTractor added 17:51 - Dec 14
Here we are again
Disappointment, frustration and now anger..
Many say we have the best League One squad..have we?
Maybe if coached properly ..I have seen little evidence of that recently.
Today's first 20 minutes was woeful .
Maybe no other choice than to play Skuse at full back but oh dear not his position at all.
But apart from that who would have chosen a different eleven today from those fit and available?
Chambers has his critics but when on the field you do have a Captain...his absence and no one on field to take responsibility.
The team is slow...that's a fact..the midfield just does not move the ball quickly enough.
Individually Wolfenden stood out, Keane played well in patches, Garbutt drove forward but no one close enough to him on many occasions.
We did score a very good goal....we had lots of possession..BUT...
Some players are simply not consistent or productive enough for League One
The early season points are keeping us in contention
WE WERE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.to beat a team who we gave goals away too.

Bluearmy_81 added 17:51 - Dec 14
Yes Lambert picks the team but we aren't good enough to go up. Just like last season we weren't good enough to stay up. So if we're generally not good enough, even in the 3rd tier, who's fault is that? Please wake up and put some godamn pressure on our hopeless malignant owner who has had a ridiculous free ride ever since the PR/spin session...

BettyBlue added 17:53 - Dec 14
“I can’t believe the negativity here, it’s incredible. I’d love to have seen it when it wasn’t going well."


MickMillsTash added 17:53 - Dec 14
There were 3 changes (plus the keeper) from Coventry in the league

With Donacien and Edwards out- its was only Judge dropped - and I guess you would argue Jackson or Norwood came in for him which is Ok

Lamberts selection frustrates me and we HAVE to find a formula where we stop conceding goals but perhaps his hands were tied today.

blue86 added 17:54 - Dec 14
Dear oh dear town! Thought from the off that the team selection looked very unbalanced. How do we choose our first 11 now? Draw straws? Need to go back to basics, choose a settled side, stop rotating. The good thing is we are still 2nd! Which is crazy with how we have tailed off of late. Need to get that early season form back asap, feel we are missing a player In the side? Someone in midfield to make things happen and create. Just really hope our chances aren't slipping away....coyb

cat added 17:55 - Dec 14
Decent game pony result. Some more bizarre selections from Lambert, win in 10 ain’t good enough and there’s only one man to blame for that. Thought we played some good football in patches agains5 what I consider to be an average team. Lambert needs to sort things cause we are in free fall. The squad We have is capable of success in this league.

runaround added 17:55 - Dec 14
Strange formation that defensively was all over the place. Skuse as a right back just didn’t work & he was a liability today there. The front 3 seemed to get in each other’s way especially early on whilst no player seemed to know what they were doing until we were 2 down. To be fair after that they gave it a right good go but the damage was done by then. All the early season momentum has gone thanks to games being cancelled & a ridiculous number of team changes every match. It’s mid December but the team looked like they had never played together. We might still be second but we won’t be for much longer unless massive improvement is made now. When we fall out of the top 2 I fear we may not get back in it again. Lambert needs to sort it out now

blue75 added 17:59 - Dec 14
Just over a year Lambert has been in charge & today proved that he doesn’t have a preferred style of play, doesn’t know what formation he wants to play. He choose to play Skuse at RB when he had Woolfenden on the pitch who in the last 2 games has shown he can beat players with the ball! All game there was 2 massive gaps on the pitch where our 2 wingers could’ve been causing havoc, Jackson tried to play the 2 roles ran his socks off Norwood had flashes during the game his goal being 1 of them. Really don’t know where we go from here. But Lambert needs a style of play & a settled team if not we’re staying in this division & waiting to change manager yet again!

runningout added 18:01 - Dec 14
Our coach and team can’t cope with us winging gits! We must except our team is under performing and shut up

Cloddyseedbed added 18:03 - Dec 14
Rotational ruination.

TimmyH added 18:03 - Dec 14
blue86 - we've been missing that midfielder for years, a box to box player who can create/score as well as put in a challenge we use to have Holland/Westlake/Norris but haven't had anything in the same class for years hence why we're 3rd tier material.

WhoisJimmyJuan added 18:06 - Dec 14
There will be bumps along the way we are told. Well this is starting to feel like a very long farm track. Lambert was already sounding fed up, sensitive and tetchy this week. I'm beginning to wonder about him now, I really am.

TractorJed added 18:08 - Dec 14
Simply not good enough. Asking players to play a different formation every week and with different teammates.
The message in training must be different every week also!!
No clear style of play and too ponderous and predictable apart from rare moments.
Choose a formation, your strongest 11 and let us judge you on that!!!

blue86 added 18:10 - Dec 14
TimmyH - yeah your spot on, would love to have someone like maddison at Peterborough. trouble is that would cost alot of money! Just feel we are missing that type, I had high Hope's for Alan judge, but hasn't really done a great deal so far.

Skip73 added 18:12 - Dec 14
How are the team supposed to have any consistancy when there is a different line up every game. For Gods sake Lambert, stick with a settled XI before its too late.

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