Ipswich Town 0-0 Cheltenham Town - Match Report
Tuesday, 22nd Feb 2022 21:50
Boss Kieran McKenna’s 100 per cent home record with Town came to an end as the Blues were frustrated by Cheltenham, the game ending 0-0. McKenna’s side dominated for most of the match and created enough chances to have claimed the three points.
Bersant Celina, Conor Chaplin and Tom Carroll returned to an XI otherwise unchanged from the 3-0 home victory over Burton Albion on Saturday.
Carroll joined skipper Morsy in the centre of the midfield with Lee Evans having picked up a knee problem late on at the weekend.
Celina and Chaplin started behind Kayden Jackson, who was the central striker having scored one and assisted two against the Brewers. Sone Aluko and Joe Pigott dropped to the bench with James Norwood not in the 18.
Cheltenham, at Portman Road for the first time since a 3-1 Southern League defeat in March 1938, make four changes from their weekend 5-5 draw at Wycombe Wanderers with Lewis Freestone, Reece Hutchinson, Charlie Colkett and Andy Williams in for Ben Williams, who is among only five subs, and William Boyle, Callum Wright and Kion Etete, who are out of the squad.
After the two teams had taken a knee to applause, the Blues got off to a positive start with Chaplin shooting wide from 25 yards in the third minute.
Town should have gone ahead two minutes later when Celina brought the ball forward on the left before sending over a cross which somehow reached one-time Cheltenham loanee Wes Burns breaking towards the far post from where the Welshman was unable to keep his shot down.
Celina continued to be in the thick of the action and on 12, after exchanging passes with Dominic Thompson in the Blues’ half, the Kosovan international brought the ball to the edge of the box before shooting not far over the Robins’ goal.
Town were dominating and in the 17th minute Chaplin twice went close. First the former Barnsley and Portsmouth man hit a sharply-taken shot against a defender from a Burns cross from the right, then when the ball was returned from the other flank sent a diving header towards the corner of the net which visiting keeper Owen Evans palmed away to his right.
Within a minute, Celina shot in to the side-netting, then Chaplin struck an effort which hit a defender and looped up into keeper Evans’s arms.
In the 21st minute, Jackson broke away on the left and sent over a cross which was just too high for Chaplin despite the diminutive forward’s best efforts.
There was a scare for the Blues soon afterwards when keeper Christian Walton played a pass straight to Robins midfielder Elliot Bonds 25 yards out from where he shot over.
Jackson curled a weak effort into Evans’s arms in the 27th minute with the Blues maintaining their dominance.
Morsy felt he should have been awarded a penalty two minutes later when Carroll, having a very impressive game in the centre of midfield, miscued a half-volley from the edge of the area well wide following a corner on the left.
Celina, who had taken the flag-kick, picked up the ball and hit a low shot which deflected out to Morsy, who was crowded out as he looked to shoot, illegally according to the Egyptian international but not referee Andy Davies.
Town continued to look for the opening goal, Burns shooting over from the right of the box in the 37th minute from Morsy’s pass.
On 44 Burns turned a cross from the right against a Cheltenham defender, who he claimed had stopped it with a hand. Referee Davies said otherwise but from the corner Town went close yet again, Luke Woolfenden flicking a head just over the bar.
As the half moved into its final scheduled minute, Chaplin volleyed over from just outside the box.
That was the last chance of a first half entirely dominated by the Blues with the shot count of 13-1 and possession percentage of 69-31 illustrating Town’s control of the match.
The Blues had passed the ball around slickly and at a tempo and had created enough openings to be ahead, albeit without forcing visiting keeper Evans into too many big saves.
Cheltenham, who beat Town 2-1 at Whaddon Road earlier in the season, had defended determinedly but had shown next to nothing going forward.
Comedian Omid Djalili was interviewed over the PA at half-time having moved to Ipswich during the lockdown and having become a regular at Town this season.
The Chelsea fan paid tribute to new boss Kieran McKenna, then Town’s great side of the 1970s and early 1980s - “Everyone’s second favourite team” - and some of those players, including the late Kevin Beattie and Paul Mariner, before giving his version of the Shefki Kuqi swan dive goal celebration, to the amusement of the Portman Road faithful.
Town made a scruffy start to the second half with the visitors looking potentially threatening but without being able to carve out a chance.
The Blues quickly restored their earlier dominance and on 52, Jackson cut a ball back from the right to the edge of the six-yard box but no Town player was on hand to add the final touch.
Just before the hour, with the Portman Road crowd upping the volume as they got behind their side, Chaplin looked to have played in Jackson but the ball hit the striker’s heel.
On 64 Colkett was shown the first yellow card of the game for a late tackle on Burns after the wing-back had been played in on the right by Morsy. From Celina’s free-kick, the ball flashed across the face and somehow wide.
Moments later, Town swapped Thompson and Jackson for Kane Vincent-Young and Macauley Bonne, then on 71 Cheltenham switched Hutchinson with Ben Williams.
A minute later, Andy Williams shot straight at Walton with the visitors showing more going forward than earlier in the game with the Blues less in control.
Freestone was booked for an agricultural tackle on Chaplin, then on 74 Aaron Ramsey, who a few minutes earlier had spent a lengthy period down injured following what looked a minor collision with Burns, was replaced by Wright.
Town hearts were in mouths in the 77th minute when an Alfie May free-kick from the left flew through a crowd of players and was blocked in front of the line before being grabbed by Walton.
But the Blues began to settle again and a minute later, following a corner, Chaplin crossed from the left and the ball fell to Bonne beyond the far post but the on-loan QPR man shot over.
The excellent but tiring Carroll was replaced by Pigott in the 79th minute, then on 82 Chaplin shot over when stretching from a Vincent-Young ball from the left 25 yards out. Two minutes later, Ben Williams was booked for preventing Town from taking a throw-in.
In the 86th minute Pigott and Celina both went for a Burns low ball in from the right with the former AFC Wimbledon man getting there first but with his first touch badly letting him down when a first-time shot looked the better option.
Town continued to push as the game moved into its final moments but not overly convincingly, while Cheltenham looked to waste time and stop the game from having any flow.
The announcement of six additional minutes led to a roar from the Blues support, but it was the Robins who were next to go close, Andy Williams volleying wide from beyond the far post.
Williams subsequently took the turf, much to the frustration of the Town team. Edmundson tried to pull him up but only succeeded in pulling him along the grass, then Woolfenden was confronted by Robins skipper Charlie Raglan. Once order was restored, the latter pair were booked as the Sir Bobby Robson Stand chanted ‘Boring, boring Cheltenham’.
The game was coming to a scruffy end with the Blues not particularly looking like finding the goal they’d been searching for all game.
Deep in injury time, a Celina corner from the left only reached Chaplin, who hooked over, the last chance of the game.
A frustrating night for Town as manager McKenna’s 100 per cent home record ended. In the first half the Blues dominated and they were well on top for most of the second period, although while having scrappier periods and running out of ideas towards the end.
Cheltenham, who have now drawn seven in their last 10, defended resolutely and battled for their point, but Town really had enough chances to have had the game won but on too many occasions keeper Evans wasn’t forced into a save.
One positive for Town was the clean sheet, the fifth in a row, matching a club league record achieved previously in August and September 2019, in March and April 2013 and during the same period in 1997.
The Blues, who travel to face Morecambe on Saturday, remain ninth, still four points away from the play-offs.
Town: Walton, Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Burns, Morsy (c), Carroll (Pigott 79), Thompson (Vincent-Young 66), Celina, Chaplin, Jackson (Bonne 66). Unused: Hladky, Burgess, Bakinson, Aluko.
Cheltenham: Evans, Pollock, Raglan (c), Freestone, May, A Williams, Blair, Hutchinson (B Williams 71), Bonds, Ramsey (Wright 74), Colkett (Long 88). Unused: Flinders, Soule. Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire). Att: 21,318 (Cheltenham: 251).
Photo: Matchday Images
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