Ipswich Town 1-0 Gillingham - Match Report
Saturday, 5th Feb 2022 17:03
Conor Chaplin’s ninth goal of the season saw Town to a 1-0 victory over Gillingham at Portman Road, maintaining manager Kieran McKenna’s 100 per cent home record. The Gills had hit the woodwork twice before Chaplin’s low strike in the 74th minute with the Blues unconvincing for much of the afternoon.
Joe Pigott, Lee Evans, Tom Carroll and James Norwood returned to the Town starting line-up.
Pigott was making his first start since Kieran McKenna took over with Macauley Bonne dropping to the bench.
Norwood played off central striker Pigott to the left with Chaplin to the right with Bersant Celina on the bench and Sone Aluko not in the squad.
Evans was in central midfield after returning from a groin injury alongside Carroll, who missed last week’s 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday after his partner gave birth. Tyreeq Bakinson was among the subs and Idris El Mizouni wasn’t in the 18, while Dominic Thompson was handed his home debut at left wing-back.
For the Gills under new manager Neil Harris, Gislingham-born Stuart O’Keefe, a one-time Town academy player, skippered.
The visitors struck the game’s first shot in the third minute, Danny Lloyd hitting a low free-kick from 25 yards which Christian Walton bundled away to his right.
But Town, with Ed Sheeran watching from his box in the Cobbold Stand alongside Olly Murs, soon took over, dominating possession but without threatening in the final third.
On 12, David Tutonda was shown the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Janoi Donacien as the right-sided centre-half ran onto a return pass. From the free-kick, Evans whipped a curling ball into the area just beyond Norwood and stand-in skipper George Edmundson was unable to direct it goalwards.
Town went closer two minutes later when Carroll sent over a corner from the right, Luke Woolfenden battled hard to nod back across goal and Pigott looped a header over when the striker, a former Gillingham loanee, will feel he ought to have done better.
As the game reached the 20-minute mark, the Blues had a couple of sloppy moments with Lloyd finding himself in a good position from the first before handling the ball. Soon after Lloyd under-hit a back pass towards Aaron Chapman but the keeper was out quickly to clear ahead of Pigott.
Town began to regain their earlier composure and might have gone ahead in the 27th minute. Wes Burns hit a low shot from the right which Chapman uncomfortably palmed into the path of Thompson breaking into the box at pace, but the on-loan Brentford man was unable to keep his first-time shot down.
The Blues were starting to look more threatening and on 29 Evans clipped a looping ball into the area which a defender diverted away from Norwood and Thompson at the far post. From the resultant corner, Edmundson headed over.
However, Town were far from in total control and on 34 Gillingham debutant Ben Thompson screwed a shot from 20 yards wide.
The Blues continued to have sloppy moments, giving the ball away in their own half too regularly but with Gillingham unable to force a serious chance.
On 43 the ball was cleverly worked in from the Town right but Carroll turned the ball in front of Norwood with the striker not expecting it.
The Blues were seeing plenty of the ball as the whistle blew for half-time but still without finding a way through a Gillingham side more organised and determined than they had been in the 4-0 Town win at the Priestfield Stadium last month.
Town had had the lion’s share of the possession - 71-29 according to the stats - but had been too sloppy, particularly in their own half with passes having gone astray in potentially dangerous areas. However, neither Walton nor Gills keeper Chapman had had a particularly busy half.
The Blues started the second half on the front foot with a couple of crosses from the right cut out but three minutes after the restart the visitors hit the post.
Striker Vadaine Oliver was sent away and hit a shot across Walton from the right of the box which beat the keeper and bounced on to the post and away.
The Blues continued their first-half sloppiness and a minute later Burns gave the ball away in the final third and Woolfenden lost out in a tackle before Edmundson stepped across to clear the danger.
On 50, following Walton’s punch clear from a corner, Robbie McKenzie sent a low ball across the area but too far in front of Oliver.
Town were forced into a change three minutes later when Burns, who had suffered a knock towards the end of the first half, took to the turf for treatment before being swapped for Kyle Edwards, making his first appearance of the McKenna era.
The Gills hit the woodwork for the second time a minute later, Lloyd turning a cross from the left on to the post from the edge of the six-yard box with Walton appearing to get a touch.
Town continued to give the ball away in their own half with their performance becoming scrappier and the crowd audibly more anxious.
Just after the hour mark the game was held up after Lloyd suffered an injury in a challenge with Woolfenden when he looked to have landed awkwardly.
Play continued with the Gills man evidently in pain before the game was brought to a halt for lengthy treatment and the forward was eventually taken down the tunnel on the stretcher cart, Woolfenden having spoken to the grounded former Tranmere player, who was replaced by Charlie Kelman.
Town continued to give the ball away in dangerous areas and on 70 Olly Lee played in Oliver but Edmundson read the pass and got his foot in as the Gills striker shot and his effort looped over the bar.
From the corner, Edwards broke down the left and fed Pigott, who looked to find Chaplin breaking towards the area on the right but his pass was too close to keeper Chapman, who claimed.
But Chaplin didn’t have to wait too much longer for a chance and when it came the former Portsmouth and Barnsley man put the Blues in front.
The ball was stroked to Edmundson in space midway inside the Gills’ half to the left and the centre-half drilled a ball into Chaplin’s feet just inside the area. Despite his first touch not having been the best, the forward then lashed a low shot past Chapman.
It was a goal which had hardly been coming with the Blues’ performance having drifted in the second half but Chaplin once again showed his habit of scoring at important moments, taking his tally for the season to nine.
Bonne replaced Pigott, who was applauded off by the home fans, in the 78th minute, while the visitors swapped Thompson for on-loan Norwich striker Tom Dickson-Peters. Seven minutes later, Chaplin was switched for Bakinson.
Bonne curled a shot high and wide from the edge of the box in the 88th minute from a Bakinson lay-off.
The Blues saw out the final minutes - including eight additional minutes for Lloyd’s injury - without too much danger to claim a hard-fought three points.
Having most of the ball but without creating chances in the first half while giving the ball away all too often, the Blues became even scruffier after the break and were fortunate not to concede when the Gills hit the post twice.
But there was always a chance an opportunity would come and when it did Chaplin showed the clinical finishing which Town fans have become used to this season to claim the three points from a game in which the Blues had been under-par for the most part.
The victory sees Town stay ninth in the League One table but now eight points from the play-offs ahead of Tuesday’s visit to bottom side Doncaster, who won 2-1 at Sunderland today.
Town: Walton, Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson (c), Burns (Edwards 54), Evans, Carroll, Thompson, Chaplin (Bakinson 85), Norwood, Pigott (Bonne 78). Unused: Hladky, Burgess, Celina, Jackson.
Gillingham: Chapman, Tutonda, O'Keefe (c), Ehmer (Phillips 90), Tucker, Lee, McKenzie, Masterson, Lloyd (Kelman 68), Oliver, Thompson (Dickson-Peters 78). Unused: Dahlberg, Jackson, Sithole, Maghoma. Referee Stephen Martin (Staffordshire). Att: 20,698 (Gillingham: 486).
Photo: Matchday Images
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