Portsmouth 1-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 21st Dec 2019 17:03
Ronan Curtis’s second-half goal was enough to see Portsmouth to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Town at Fratton Park. The Irish international found the net from 20 yards five minutes after the break and Town were unable to find an equaliser before skipper Luke Chambers was red-carded for a second bookable offence with two minutes remaining.
Chambers and Toto Nsiala returned to a three-man backline as manager Paul Lambert made four changes from last week’s 2-1 home defeat by Bristol Rovers.
Chambers, who missed the last two with a neck injury, was on the right of the trio with Nsiala in the middle and Luke Woolfenden on the left.
Gwion Edwards, suspended last week, was at right wing-back and Luke Garbutt on the left. Will Norris came in for Tomas Holy in goal.
In midfield, Cole Skuse was joined by Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan, while James Norwood partnered Will Keane up front.
Andre Dozzell, Kayden Jackson, James Wilson and Holy dropped to the bench, alongside Janoi Donacien, who missed last week’s match through illness.
Pompey made three changes with Andy Cannon, Ryan Williams and Christian Burgess, who was back after a one-match ban, in for James Bolton, Marcus Harness and John Marquis, who drop to the bench.
Former Blues striker Ellis Harrison started as the lone frontman in a 4-2-3-1 system, while another ex-Town frontman Brett Pitman was among the subs.
Prior to kick-off there was a minute’s applause for former Portsmouth player Ron Saunders, ex-manager Jim Smith and D-Day veteran and long-time Pompey boardroom steward John Jenkins MBE, all of whom died recently.
Former Blues striker Harrison was booked within the first 15 seconds for a very late tackle on his ex-skipper Chambers after charging down a clearance from the Town centre-half.
In the fourth minute Pompey broke and Williams cut in from the right and hit a shot which Norris saved down to his left. Nsiala cleared the loose ball.
On seven Nsiala joined Harrison in referee Brett Huxtable’s book for a shirt pull on the former Blues striker, although the Town defender looked to have had his jersey grabbed first.
The game had got off to a scruffy start having been frequently punctuated by freekicks, but with Pompey seeing most of the ball and on 13 Norris was forced into another save.
A low pass into the area was deflected into the path of Ross McCrorie, who hit a shot which Norris pushed past the post to his left.
Town were trying to get their passing going but all too often the ball would be misplaced or overhit.
In the 21st minute Ronan Curtis turned and shot from the edge of the box but the ball flew well over
A minute later, Nsiala was adjudged to have fouled Harrison midway inside the Town half with the Pompey crowd and players calling for a second yellow card, while the Blues claimed that the Town defender had got the ball, which looked to be the case. Thankfully for Town and Nsiala, referee Huxtable kept his cards in his pocket.
In the 25th minute, after another scruffy passage of play with Town unable to fully clear the danger from their area, Ben Close hit a low effort from 20 yards which gave Norris no trouble.
The Blues had their first foray into the Pompey box a minute later but Keane’s low cutback caught a home defender and ran behind his team-mates.
Edwards was booked for a foul on Curtis in the 27th minute not too far outside the Town box to the left. The Irish international hit the freekick against the wall, the ball was looped back in by Close and Harrison headed weakly to Norris.
Two minutes later, with the Blues having a spell on top around the Pompey box, Garbutt looped towards the edge of the six-yard area and Sean Raggett almost diverted the ball into the path of Chambers, who had pushed forward, however, Portsmouth keeper Craig MacGillivray claimed just ahead of the Town skipper.
The home fans again called for a second Nsiala yellow card on the half hour but referee Huxtable deemed, probably correctly, that the Town defender had been the player fouled initially.
Pompey skipper Burgess got his name in referee Huxtable’s book for a late challenge on Nolan moments later, Garbutt smashing the freekick and then the rebound into the wall.
Town were showing signs of getting on top, as rain began to fall very heavily, even if keeper MacGillivray was still to be seriously tested.
The Blues made an early change in the 37th minute, replacing Nsiala, who was in danger of getting booked for a second time, with Alan Judge. Manager Lambert had a lengthy consoling word in the subbed defender’s ear as he made his way off the field.
Town stuck with a back three but with Skuse on the right, Woolfenden in the centre and Chambers on the left.
Six minutes before the break, Harrison was fortunate not to be penalised for catching Chambers from behind on the touchline, the Blues’ captain losing his boot.
Referee Huxtable somehow failed to see the challenge as a foul, while Downes pointed out the number of fouls Harrison had committed over the course of the half since being booked in the opening seconds.
Portsmouth were forced into a substitution in the 42nd minute when McCrorie picked up a knock. James Bolton took over.
After three uneventful minutes of injury time, referee Huxtable brought a somewhat combative half to an end, Town keeper Norris and manager Lambert both having words with him as the official made his way off, presumably about Harrison’s late challenge on Chambers, which really ought to have yielded the Welshman’s second booking. There appeared little love between the striker and his former team-mates.
The Blues had taken a while to get going with the game having been very stop-start due to the regular interruptions for freekicks.
However, Pompey had been unable to create a serious chance, nothing beyond shots from distance, and Town had gradually started to get on top, with Judge starting to add some urgency in the final minutes, albeit without carving out an opening or a shot on target.
There was a big scare for the Blues in the opening minute after the break. Norris reached a cross from the left but could only punch it as far as Close, but the falling keeper was able to save. The ball fell to Williams and his header was nodded off the line by Garbutt.
With the rain falling if anything more heavily, the home side had began the second half much the better and 48 on Norris pawed away a Curtis cross from the left ahead of Harrison.
But Pompey didn’t have to wait too long for a goal. In the 50th minute, shortly after Norwood had struck Town’s first shot on target of the afternoon from distance into MacGillivray’s arms, Curtis brought the ball forward on the left and, with no one closing him down, struck a shot which Norris diving to his left could only divert into the roof of his net.
Having gone behind, Town began to see more of the ball as they had in the spell before the break and on 54 Garbutt struck a powerful shot which MacGillivray batted away. A minute later Chambers was booked for a foul on Harrison on the touchline.
In the 59th minute Portsmouth swapped Andy Cannon for Gareth Evans, then the Blues switched Skuse for Donacien as they moved to 4-4-2.
Two minutes later, Norwood just failed to find Keane with a low cross from the right, then Nolan was booked for a foul on Close. On 64 Jackson took over from Edwards on the right.
Almost immediately the Blues went close to getting back on terms. The ball fell for Norwood inside the box but Town’s eight-goal top scorer poked just wide.
Harrison hit a shot which Norris stopped comfortably on 68 with the Blues seeing most of the ball but without while struggling to make an impact in and around the box.
Woolfenden allowed the ball to run behind him for Norris on 70, not realising Evans was behind him but Norris saved the sub’s strike from a tight angle. Following the corner on the left, Close hit a powerful effort wide.
Two minutes later, Downes saw a strike blocked with the Blues briefly pinned the home side back in their final third.
In the 74th minute Norwood was found on the left of the box by a looping ball forward but scraped wide from a tight angle when he will feel he should have scored.
The pitch was becoming more and more affected by the rain with the ball sticking in puddles and passes sliding away out of play from both teams.
Town’s afternoon got worse and their chances of getting back on terms reduced in the 88th minute when Chambers was shown a second yellow card and then a red for pulling back Harrison on the touchline, although as with the first-half incident involving Nsiala it appeared six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
Woolfenden was next to go into the book for dissent and then in the final minute referee Huxtable was called over by his fourth official to yellow-card Town assistant Stuart Taylor, presumably also for complaining.
In injury time Jackson became the sixth Town player to see a yellow card - which will see the Blues face a fine - for pulling back Close.
Portsmouth first-team coach Jake Wigley was shown Pompey’s fourth yellow card before referee Huxtable ended an unhappy afternoon on the south coast for the Town.
Having appeared to show signs of getting in charge at the end of the first half, the Blues started the second slowly and allowed the home side the lead.
From there, they saw a lot of the ball but little penetration with Norwood missing the two real opportunities.
Overall, the Blues were never dominant or brave enough going forward and never convinced that they would be able to get back in it.
At the other end, they struggled to cope with ex-Town man Harrison up front, although the Welshman was probably fortunate to stay on the field for his challenge on Chambers just before the break, while referee Huxtable did little to help the game’s flow.
Town are down to third behind Wycombe, who lost 1-0 at Oxford, by seven points and Peterborough, who drew 0-0 at Bristol Rovers, on goal difference.
Gillingham visit Portman Road on Boxing Day when the Blues - without suspended skipper Chambers - will seek to arrest a winless slide which has now stretched to five league games.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, McCrorie (Bolton 42), Burgess, Raggett, Walkes, Close, Naylor (c), Williams, Cannon (Evans 59), Curtis, Harrison. Unused: Bass, Downing, Harness, Marquis, Pitman.
Town: Norris, Woolfenden, Chambers (c), Nsiala (Judge 38), Edwards (Jackson 64), Skuse (Donacien 59), Downes, Nolan, Garbutt, Keane, Norwood. Unused: Holy, Wilson, Dozzell, Huws. Referee: Brett Huxtable (Devon). Att: 18,801 (Town: 1,994).
Photo: Steve Waller
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