Ipswich Town 2-2 Morecambe - Match Report
Saturday, 7th Aug 2021 17:09
Debutant sub Macauley Bonne netted an injury-time equaliser as Town drew 2-2 at home to Morecambe in an entertaining opening-day encounter at Portman Road. Cole Stockton put the visitors ahead on 22 before Scott Fraser levelled for the Blues in the 61st minute. Stockton was gifted a second on 72 before Bonne spared Town’s blushes right at the death.
Eight players were handed their Blues debuts the Gamechanger 20 and Paul Cook eras got under way in earnest.
Vaclav Hladky was in goal with Matt Penney at left-back, while Kane Vincent-Young at right-back and centre-halves Toto Nsiala and Luke Woolfenden, the only player who was involved in the final day game against Fleetwood, were the only players starting who were at the club last season.
Lee Evans skippered in central midfield alongside Rekeem Harper with Scott Fraser on the left and Wes Burns on the right. Conor Chaplin was behind lone striker Joe Pigott.
For Morecambe, ex-Blues loanee Toumani Diagouraga and academy product Shane McLoughlin both started as they handed six players debuts after a summer personnel turnaround of their own.
The 21,037 Portman Road crowd making their return after 17 months had already been in fine voice before manager Paul Cook appeared to rapturous applause four minutes prior to the scheduled kick-off time before taking his place in the dugout.
The volume increased significantly when the players made their way out of the tunnel and lined-up for the handshakes across the halfway line.
After a minute’s applause in tribute to legendary Blues striker Paul Mariner, who died last month aged 68, the game got under way with the crowd continuing to make themselves heard.
But it was the Shrimps who made all the early running, winning a corner, from which Ryan Cooney spectacularly air-kicked after the ball was played to him just outside the area.
On seven, Morecambe keeper Kyle Letheren had to rush off his line quickly to clear after a defender deflected a through ball towards him with Burns chasing into the area.
Three minutes later, Fraser was bundled over by Diagouraga five yards outside the penalty area to the left. Evans took the kick and caused the first ‘Oooo’ of the afternoon from the fans as his shot flew narrowly past Letheren’s right post.
Town began to get more into the game and on 13 Vincent-Young was felled by Liam Gibson as he broke away down the right but Fraser’s free-kick came to nothing.
The Blues were gaining confidence and were starting to find some fluency with the noise of the fans behind them, and in the 19th minute Pigott wasn’t too far away from opening his account when he flicked a stooping near-post header across goal from Fraser’s corner from the right onto the roof of the net.
However, it was the Shrimps who would take the lead in the 22nd minute with their first goal in League One.
Vincent-Young’s poor clearance found Cole Stockton, who brought the ball into the area and to the right unchallenged with the Town backline standing off him before slipping past the advancing Hladky.
It was a dreadful goal to concede from a defensive perspective but one which will live long in the memory for Stockton and the travelling Morecambe fans.
Town set about getting back on terms and didn’t look unduly affected by going behind - the team of the last few seasons having been one which often reacted badly to adversity - and in the 28th minute Nsiala nodded wide at the far post under pressure from a Fraser corner from the right.
However, Stockton wasn’t too far away from a second on the half hour when, following a neat move, he curled a low shot past Hladky’s left post from 25 yards with the ball, according to referee Craig Hicks, having taken a deflection on the way.
Morecambe were forced into a sub in the 33rd minute when Ryan Delaney, who trained with Town during a pre-season trip to Ireland in 2016, was replaced by Sam Lavelle.
Two minutes later, Nsiala pulled up as he ran down the touchline holding his hamstring and dropped to the turf. With new signing George Edmundson not fit and not on the bench, and Corrie Ndaba having played for the U23s this morning, Janoi Donacien took over in his less favoured centre-half role.
Almost immediately after the change, Penney was sent away in space on the left of the box and struck a shot into the side-netting, reinvigorating the support.
As the game moved into injury time, a Morecambe free-kick on the left dropped to Arthur Gnahoua just inside the box but the Frenchman’s effort looped well into the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
The Blues built up a head of steam in the final moments of the half and put the visitors under pressure. A Vincent-Young shot blocked, then a cross came in from the left from Penney, before Burns sent over a dangerous low ball from the right which flashed along the six-yard line with no one able to get a touch.
There was applause at the whistle despite Town being behind. It had been a patchy half from the Blues. After a slow start, they had started to gain control of the game when Morecambe scored a goal which was a bit of a mess from a Town perspective.
Town hadn’t managed a shot on target but in the final couple of minutes before the break they began to put the Lancastrians under pressure, something they will need to continue once the second half gets under way.
Neither side made any changes ahead of the second half with the Blues starting positively and managing their first shot on target.
Pigott picked up a loose ball after Burns and a defender had tangled before taking inside and hitting a well-struck 25-yard effort which Letheren palmed behind for a corner.
In the 49th minute Wes McDonald was shown the afternoon’s first yellow card for a foul on Chaplin after a late challenge on the former Barnsley man as he exchanged passes with Pigott on the left.
There was a scare for the Blues in the 53rd minute when Evans was caught in possession just inside the Town half but fortunately Morecambe’s swift break was snuffed out.
Two minutes later at the other end, as rain began to fall heavily as it had earlier in the day, Fraser struck a cross-shot from the left over the bar.
Town should have levelled in the 57th minute when Penney was found in space on the left of the area. The former Sheffield Wednesday man opted to cut across the area rather than shooting and put the ball behind everyone rushing into the box. However, it reached the deeper Vincent-Young, whose effort was deflected behind for a corner.
The Blues fans and players made their frustration with referee Craig Hicks clear in the 59th minute after Penney was very clearly tripped by Town old boy McLoughlin as he broke towards the area on the left, not the first decision which had gone against Town.
Two minutes later, those chants of frustration towards the referee turned to celebrations as the Blues equalised.
Fraser exchanged passes with Chaplin, who had begun to get more into the game after a quiet first half, as he broke into the area and curled a left-footed shot across Letheren and into the net.
Town continue to take the game to the visitors with Vincent-Young making a number of trademark runs down the left before being stopped by challenges, which looked for the most part to be fouls although with referee Hicks continuing to be less than generous to the Blues with his decision-making.
When he did give the Blues a free-kick his over-fussiness required it to be taken three times before he was happy.
The second half had been all Town and they appeared the only likely scorers of the second goal but in the 72nd minute they gifted the visitors a second.
Penney underhit a pass weakly to Woolfenden, who casually tried to take it past Stockton, who dispossessed him and brought it into the area. Hladky forced the striker wide and as Donacien slid in, the Morecambe number nine tapped home his second of the game.
Gibson was finally yellow-carded for the latest in a succession of fouls in the 75th minute as the home crowd began to sound more frustrated. On 78 Evans joined him in the book for a foul on Jonah Ayunga.
Town swapped Chaplin, who had grown into the game after a quiet first half, for James Norwood and Bonne for Pigott in the 79th minute. Soon afterwards, Penney got his name in the book for fouling Ayunga as Morecambe broke.
Four minutes after his introduction, Norwood was booked for vehemently complaining to the referee having been adjudged to have fouled Ryan Cooney.
The game drifted into a litany of cheap free-kicks awarded against the Blues - and conversely what looked more obvious fouls not given against the Shrimps - with the players and crowd all expressing their frustration with referee Hicks.
As the fourth official’s board announced four additional minutes, Town weren’t looking like getting an equaliser.
But a minute in to added-on time Ipswich-born Bonne saved the Blues’ opening day blushes by finding the net via route one. Norwood flicked on a long ball and the on-loan QPR man held off his man and confidently slipped past Letheren.
Seconds before the end, Norwood headed the game’s final chance over as the game ended all-square.
The Town players were cheered and applauded for their late comeback at the whistle, while referee Hicks was booed off as he reached the tunnel after an inconsistent and often perplexing display.
A draw was probably a fair result overall. Having got on terms via Fraser’s well-worked goal, the game looked there for the taking by the Blues but they handed the visitors the lead for a second time via a howler which Woolfenden will want to forget very quickly.
The match seemed to be going nowhere and Town set for defeat when Norwood flocked on to Bonne to score his first goal for the club he supports.
Town continue to look the work in progress they are but with positive signs in patches, not least the character they showed to come back twice.
They’re next in action at home to Newport County in the Carabao Cup at Portman Road on Tuesday.
Town: Hladky, Vincent-Young, Nsiala (Donacien 38), Woolfenden, Penney, Harper, Evans (c), Burns, Fraser, Chaplin (Norwood 79), Pigott (Bonne 79). Unused: Holy, Barry, Dobra, El Mizouni.
Morecambe: Letheren, O’Connor, McDonald (Ayunga 61), Diagouraga, Stockton, Delaney (Lavelle 33), McLoughlin, Cooney, Gibson, Gnahoua (Leigh 76), McCalmont. Unused: Andresson, Mellor, Leigh, Jones, Phillips. Referee: Craig Hicks (Surrey). Att: 21,037 (Morecambe: 356).
Photo: Matchday Images
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