Ipswich Town 1-1 Sunderland - Match Report
Saturday, 18th Dec 2021 17:06
James Norwood was on target for the second League One game running as Town and Sunderland drew 1-1 at a packed Portman Road. Norwood headed home Macauley Bonne’s cross in first-half injury time, Town having dominated before the break, but Nathan Broadhead levelled for the Black Cats five minutes after the restart with the Blues looking the more likely winners in the closing stages.
Wes Burns returned to the Town XI following his hamstring injury with new manager Kieran McKenna watching his new players from the stands.
Burns started at right wing-back as the Blues continued with interim manager John McGreal, in his fourth and final game in charge and his first at Portman Road, sticking with the 3-5-2 system utilised in the second half at Barrow on Wednesday with Matt Penney on the left, George Edmundson, Luke Woolfenden and Janoi Donacien the centre-halves and Christian Walton in goal.
In central midfield, skipper Sam Morsy was joined by Lee Evans with Sone Aluko ahead of them with Norwood and Macauley Bonne forming a front pairing.
Only Walton, Penney, Aluko and Norwood remained from the XI which started at Barrow on Wednesday.
Sunderland were unchanged from last week’s 2-1 home victory over Plymouth with midfielder Lynden Gooch OK having limped off with a groin problem against the Pilgrims.
Following the #PackOutPR campaign, Portman Road was packed with 29,005 watching, the highest attendance since the play-off semi-final against Norwich in 2014/15 when 29,166 saw the sides draw 1-1.
Ahead of kick-off fans waved large blue and white flags which had been left on every seat by the club, while pyrotechnics were set off as the players made their way on to the pitch with the stadium as lively as they’ve been for some while.
Prior to the start, the Town players took a knee to applause, while Sunderland remained standing as they have throughout the season.
The Blues started brightly with Norwood striking the game’s first shot in the sixth minute, but with his left-foot edge-of-the-area effort screwing away off the outside of his boot and out for a throw on the opposite side of the field.
Three minutes later, Burns and Norwood exchanged passes on the right of the box and the Welshman shot into the side-netting.
Town should have taken the lead in the 10th minute when Burns was sent away down the right by Norwood and crossed to Penney breaking into the area on the left but the former Sheffield Wednesday man hit the ball into the ground and over with the goal at his mercy.
The Blues continued the pressure, Burns beating his man before whipping over a cross towards his opposite wing-back Penney at the far post but a Sunderland defender nodded behind. From the corner, the ball looked to be headed wide by a Black Cat but a goal-kick was awarded.
In the 23rd minute Sunderland’s 11-goal top scorer Ross Stewart hit the visitors’ first effort of the afternoon but sent the ball well into the packed Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
But it was still mainly Town. Just before the half-hour, Aluko sent Bonne away on the left and the striker’s cross found Burns at the right of the box but the wing-back’s shot was blocked by Callum Doyle.
Moments later, Bonne claimed a penalty when he was manhandled by Tom Flanagan as Wearsiders’ keeper Thorben Hoffman grabbed a high ball played into the box. Referee Thomas Bramall and his linesman showed no interest with the Blues having a reasonable if not overwhelming case.
In the 36th minute Evans won a tackle with Leon Dajaku, which left the Sunderland man on the floor and his team-mates incensed with a short spell of pushing and shoving ensuing. Referee Bramall eventually briefly spoke to Evans, who looked to have done nothing wrong despite it having been a solid challenge, and then the two captains after awarding the visitors a free-kick.
Dajaku struggled to his feet and tried to walk off with help before sitting back down with the stretcher cart subsequently making its way onto the pitch and taking him down the tunnel. Denver Hume, who has been out with an ankle injury since October, took his place.
The lengthy stoppage led to a minor lull from Town and the visitors’ first sustained spell of possession with the Blues momentarily looking a little shaky.
But in the first of seven additional minutes, Town finally made their overall dominance tell when they went in front.
Bonne’s cross from the right deflected as it came into the box and Norwood rose to nod into the net off the underside of the bar, the striker’s second goal of the season, both in the last two matches.
There were no more chances before the Town players were given a big ovation by the near-capacity crowd as they left the field having fully deserved their lead after a dominant first-half display, as stark a contrast as there could be from the performance in the opening 45 minutes at Barrow on Wednesday.
New manager McKenna will have seen plenty to be positive about from his new players, who had been on top virtually from start to end with the Black Cats only showing anything in the short spell after Dajaku’s injury.
As in the game between the sides at the Stadium of Light, the Wearsiders had struggled to make any impact with Walton in the Town goal still to make a save.
However, it took the Black Cats only six minutes of the second half to get back on terms. The visitors passed their way through Town in the centre of the pitch before Dan Neil played in Nathan Broadhead and the on-loan Everton man beat Walton to his left before celebrating in front of the travelling Wearside fans.
Carl Winchester was booked for a foul on Evans and subsequently maintained a strong exchange of views with his manager Lee Johnson on the touchline before Sunderland threatened again.
Stewart was found on the right of the box but Walton was quickly off his line to block and the loose ball was cleared.
Town had looked distinctly shaky in the opening minutes of the half, but quickly began to restore their composure and return to the ascendency.
On 59 Aluko’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked, then within a minute Bonne nodded wide at the near post from Burns’s right-wing cross.
Flanagan was yellow-carded for time-wasting as Town looked to take a throw-in quickly, then Stewart joined him in the book for a cynical trip on Burns as the former Fleetwood man burst into the Black Cats’ half.
The Blues swapped Penney, who had looked a danger in the first half, for Kane Vincent-Young in the 63rd minute, while the visitors replaced Alex Pritchard with Elliot Embleton.
Winchester might have been fortunate not to see a second yellow card in the 67th minute for a foul on Vincent-Young on the Town left. Evans whipped the free-kick in under the bar and Hoffman uncomfortably bundled over.
A minute later, Burns became the first Blues player to get his name in the referee’s book for a foul on Hume as Sunderland counter-attacked following a Town corner. On 69, Town switched Norwood, who was applauded off by the home support after his first game at Portman Road since September, for Conor Chaplin.
On 72, with Town still on top but with Sunderland threatening on the break, Vincent-Young curled a shot wide from the left.
Three minutes later, Chaplin hit a volleyed effort on the turn which wasn’t strong enough to test Hoffman.
The momentum swung back towards Sunderland with the Black Cats winning a series of corners as the 80th minute approached.
But Town began to threaten again. On 84 Vincent-Young cut back from the left and Chaplin’s shot was blocked by Bailey Wright. In the aftermath, Burns hit an effort over.
Play quickly moved to the other end and Stewart momentarily looked to have got behind Woolfenden and in on goal. However, the striker left the ball behind and Edmundson was able to clear the danger. On 87, Sunderland replaced goalscorer Broadhead with Aiden O’Brien.
A minute later, Burns shot wide from 25 yards following a Town corner on the right with the Blues finishing the stronger.
As the game moved into its final scheduled minute, Morsy teed-up Aluko on the edge of the area from where the Nigerian international hit a shot which was deflected wide. In the wake of the resultant corner Aluko struck another effort, this time over.
In the final moments of four minutes of injury time, Burns crossed and Chaplin flicked to Hoffman from the near post.
The Blues were warmly applauded at the whistle having looked the more likely winners of the game and but for a slow start to the second period probably would have been.
Town had been very much on top in the first half and deserved their lead but they allowed Sunderland back in it at the start of the second and might even have found themselves behind before regaining their composure.
While Sunderland were better after the break, the Blues looked the more likely scorers of the game’s third goal.
No Portman Road win for interim boss McGreal and coaches Rene Gilmartin and Kieron Dyer in their fourth and final game in charge, and their first at Portman Road, but a more than creditable display ahead of the start of the Kieran McKenna era on Monday.
Town: Walton, Donacien, Edmundson, Woolfenden, Penney, Burns, Morsy (c), Evans, Aluko, Bonne, Norwood (Chaplin 69). Unused: Hladky, Burgess, Vincent-Young, Carroll, Fraser, Pigott.
Sunderland: Hoffman, Flanagan, Doyle, Dajaku (Hume 41), Broadhead, Gooch, Stewart, Winchester, Pritchard (Embleton 63), Neil, Wright (c). Unused: Patterson, Alves, Embleton, O'Brien, Younger, Kimpioka. Referee: Thomas Bramall (Sheffield). Att: 29,005 (Sunderland: 2,023).
Photo: Matchday Images
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