Ipswich Town 0-0 Gillingham - Half-Time
Thursday, 26th Dec 2019 16:02
Town and Gillingham remained locked at 0-0 at half-time at Portman Road.
Boss Paul Lambert made three changes with Janoi Donacien returning to the XI at right-back in a 4-4-2 system with Luke Garbutt on the left and Toto Nsiala and Luke Woolfenden the centre-halves. Skipper Luke Chambers was suspended for one match after Saturday’s red card, while Will Norris continued in goal.
In centre midfield Cole Skuse, who captained, was partnered by Jon Nolan with Alan Judge returning to the starting line-up on the left and Gwion Edwards on the right. Flynn Downes dropped to the bench.
Kayden Jackson was back up front alongside James Norwood with Will Keane among the subs as was Freddie Sears, in the 18 for the first time this season following his ACL injury.
Gillingham fielded an unchanged team from the 3-1 home victory over the MK Dons with former Town academy youngster Stuart O’Keefe in their midfield and ex-Blues loanee Ben Pringle on the bench.
As the lunchtime heavy rain continued, and with Luke Garbutt off the pitch having what appeared to be a problem with his boot attended to, the visitors struck the first shot in the second minute, Norris saving to his right from Brandon Hanlan. From the resultant corner, the ball was cleared to Olly Jones, who blazed over.
The Gills continued to look the more threatening side with the Blues’ forays forward breaking down too easily. On 13, after a mix-up between Nsiala and Woolfenden, former Colchester man Mikael Mandron curled a shot not too far wide of Norris’s right post.
Two minutes later, Nsiala allowed Hanlan to get away from him on the Gillingham left after failing to read the ball on the wet surface but got back to slide in superbly and take the ball away from the Gills forward well inside the area to the left as he prepared to shoot past the advancing Norris, who was also felled by the former Shrewsbury defender’s challenge.
On 23 Norris inexplicably kicked the ball straight to Mandron just outside the area but fortunately the immediate opportunity was snuffed out by Nsiala and Woolfenden and when it was played out to Thomas O'Connor on the left his low shot was easy for the relieved keeper.
Four minutes later, with the Blues still struggling to get going with the visitors having adjusted to the conditions far better than Town, Norwood was booked for a foul on Gills skipper Max Ehmer.
The Blues’ first chance came in the 32nd minute from a Garbutt freekick from deep. Norwood’s knee diverted it to Judge, who turned it into the path of Jackson as he tried to go past a defender on the edge of the box. The former Accrington striker’s first shot was blocked by Ehmer and his second from a tight angle flew into the side-netting.
Moments later, with Town starting to get on top and show more of a threat, Norwood flicked a cross from the left towards goal but didn’t get enough on it to divert it past Gillingham number one Jack Bonham.
The Blues continued to see most of the ball and in the 39th minute, after a long spell of possession, an Edwards cross almost found Garbutt breaking into the box at the far post.
Town were suddenly on top and in control with Gillingham unable to get out of their half but with the Blues unable to carve out a serious chance.
But as the game moved into injury time, Town should have taken the lead. Judge picked up a loose pass just inside the Gills’ half and played it into the path of Jackson to his left.
The striker broke past a defender with Norwood unmarked and in space in the middle calling for it. However, the Blues’ number nine expected Norwood to hold his run and cut back behind him as the ex-Tranmere frontman continued to break into the six-yard box. Just before the whistle, Nsiala was booked for pulling back Hanlan on the right.
There were muted boos as the half was brought to a close. The Blues had started very poorly and allowed the Gills to have much the better of the first 25 minutes or so before finally finding their feet.
Town then had the visitors pinned back in their box for a brief spell before the Gills forced their way out before the Blues had their big chance which Jackson and Norwood should have turned into the game’s opening goal.
Lambert’s men need to start the second half on the front foot - which they failed to do in similar circumstances at Portsmouth on Saturday - rather than allow the Gills to make the early running following the restart.
Town: Norris, Donacien, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Garbutt, Edwards, Skuse (c), Judge, Nolan, Jackson, Norwood. Subs: Holy, Dozzell, Huws, Keane, Wilson, Downes, Sears.
Gillingham: Bonham, O’Keefe, Ehmer (c), Ogilvie, Hanlan, Mandron, Fuller, Jones, Lee, O’Connor, Tucker. Subs: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Pringle, Marshall, Jakubiak. Referee: Craig Hicks (Surrey).
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