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Ipswich Town 4-3 Blackburn Rovers - Match Report
Saturday, 23rd Sep 2023 17:14

Massimo Luongo’s 79th minute goal saw Town beat Blackburn Rovers 4-3 and back up to second in the Championship after a pulsating, end-to-end clash at Portman Road. Harry Clarke gave the Blues the lead with his first goal for the club on four but Blackburn debutant Arnor Sigurdsson levelled five minutes later. Nathan Broadhead restored Town’s lead on 18 and George Hirst made it 3-1 against his old club seven minutes later before Rovers hit back after the break through Leonard and Szmodics on 52 and 65 before Luongo’s decisive strike 11 minutes from the end.

Town boss Kieran McKenna made three changes from the team which won 1-0 at Southampton in midweek with Leif Davis, Luongo and Broadhead all back in the XI.

Davis returned to training following the ankle injury he suffered at Sheffield Wednesday last week yesterday and was fit enough to resume his role at left-back with Brandon Williams dropping to the bench.

Luongo was back in the middle of midfield with Jack Taylor among the subs, while Nathan Broadhead returned to the left of the attacking quartet with Omari Hutchinson, the scorer of the winning goal at St Mary’s on his full league debut, also among the subs.

For Blackburn, Icelandic international midfielder Sigurdsson was handed his debut for Ryan Hedges, who was a sub, their only change from the team which lost 3-1 at home to Sunderland on Wednesday.

Town won a corner in the opening minute which was cleared and following which Blackburn ended up attacking.

Clarke played back to Vaclav Hladky but the keeper’s pass out failed to find Sam Morsy and landed at Adam Wharton’s feet. He played in Harry Leonard towards the right of the box and Hladky rushed over to intercept. Leonard went to ground claiming he’d been fouled but referee Keith Stroud and his assistant gave a goal-kick.

Three minutes later, the Blues took the lead. After a Davis shot from the left of the box had been palmed behind by Rovers keeper Aynsley Pears, Cameron Burgess flicked the flag-kick up in the air and it was half-cleared to Conor Chaplin at the back of the area on the right.

The forward’s shot was blocked but the rebound fell loose to Clarke on the edge of the box from where the right-back smashed a shot into the top corner of the net. The defender wildly celebrated his first goal for his hometown club as fans serenaded the goalscorer as “one of our own”.

But Town’s lead wasn’t to last for long. In the ninth minute Rovers passed their way through the Blues on the left of the area, debutant Sigurdsson receiving the final ball from Sammie Szmodics before deftly stroking the ball across Hladky and into the net.

The Blues’ rhythm didn’t appear to be unduly upset by conceding and in the 14th minute, Chaplin wasn’t far away from restoring the lead, taking down a ball over the top at pace and stabbing goalwards, however, the advancing Pears was able to block.

And in the 18th minute they scored their second. Pears was only able to find Chaplin as he cleared having advanced to the edge of his area under pressure from former Blackburn loanee Hirst.

The former Portsmouth man found Broadhead with his first touch and the Welshman took it down, looked up and shot into the corner of the net from 25 yards with Pears having only just got back in his ground to claim his fourth goal of the season, making him Town’s current highest scorer.

A pulsating opening 20 minutes had been mainly Town but Blackburn quickly threatened again, once more down their left flank, Sigurdsson turning Harry Pickering’s low ball straight at Hladky when an inch or two either side of the Czech and he would have scored.

But four minutes later, it was 3-1. Burgess played a defence-splitting ball for Hirst, who gleefully burst into the area and slipped through Pears’s to claim his second goal of the season before celebrating in front of his old fans after a tough half-season loan spell at Ewood Park last season in which he failed to find the net.

A minute after extending their advantage to two goals, there was a big scare for the Blues. Hladky played a loose pass inside his area straight to Lewis Travis but recovers quickly to dive at the Rovers skipper’s feet to snatch the ball back.

However, after that Town’s third goal saw the game’s impetus flow more towards the Blues, who were playing with ever-more confidence and fluidity, while Rovers appeared somewhat shell-shocked at having conceded three times.

Just before the half hour, Broadhead beat two men on the left of the box and the ball looped off a defender to Pears above Chaplin on the edge of the six-yard box.

Town continued to dominate and look for a fourth, Andy Moran tripping Chaplin just outside the area on 34 as the Blues forward was shaping to shoot. Chaplin’s free-kick was blasted into the wall.

The Blues maintained the pressure, Burns eventually shooting well wide after Rovers had been unable to clear.

The visitors began to play themselves back into the game, however, and on 39 Leonard sent a dangerous low ball across the Town box from the right beyond Hladky but too far away from any teammates.

Two minutes later, Sigurdsson was booked for a frustrated late tackle on Burns in front of the dugouts.

Following the free-kick, Davis looped a cross in from the left and Broadhead’s back header looped well into the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand.

Town continued to pass the ball around as slickly as at any time this season, Broadhead, Davis and Luongo combining to win a corner on the left. The left-back sent over the flag-kick and Chaplin’s goalbound header deflected wide off two defenders.

The subsequent corner was taken short and Luongo, who earlier had made a couple of sublime sliding challenges in midfield to stop Blackburn in their tracks, brought the ball in from the left before feeding Clarke.

The right-back feinted to shoot, then took the ball into the right of the area before cutting back inside and hitting a shot across goal and only just past the angle of post and bar.

In the half’s final scheduled minute, Broadhead went even closer, hitting a shot from 20 yards which had Pears beaten but scuffed the outside of the keeper’s left post.

Town were warmly applauded off at the end of a rip-roaring, humdinger of a first half. Having taken the lead with their first serious effort of the game, a brilliant first goal for the club by Clarke, Blackburn carved out an excellent leveller.

But, as has been the case in previous games this season, the Blues didn’t allow conceding to cause them any concern and they quickly restored their lead via Broadhead, whose clinical, accurate finish was set up by Chaplin’s awareness and precision pass.

Hirst delightedly took his opportunity to score against his old club to put daylight between the Blues and Rovers, and Town really should have increased their lead after that having dominated the visitors, playing as well as at any time this season.

Blackburn made two changes ahead of the restart, Tyrhys Dolan replacing Moran and Hedges taking over from Sigurdsson.

Town started the second half as they had ended the first. Within seconds of the restart, Clarke found Hirst on the left of the edge of the box, the striker laying off to Broadhead, who worked himself space before hitting a low shot which Pears saved down to his left. The loose ball was stabbed away from lurking Burns for a corner.

From the flag-kick, Burgess got his head on the ball but it flicked away across the face but beyond the diving Chaplin. Australian international Burgess claimed he’d been fouled with his case helped by the fact that his defender still had his shirt in his grasp while he was unsuccessfully trying to persuade referee Keith Stroud to give a penalty.

Three minutes after the restart, skipper Morsy was shown his fifth yellow card of the season for a foul on Szmodics. As a result, the Egyptian international will be suspended for next week’s trip to Huddersfield.

Blackburn began to get on top and on 50 sub Dolan was found in space in the area and really should have scored by Hladky spread himself to divert the ball behind. A minute later, Callum Brittain’s shot following a corner was blocked.

But a second Rovers goal wasn’t too long in coming. Brittain floated a high ball into the box from the right over Burgess and Leonard headed past Hladky as he battled with Clarke, who might have got the final touch.

Rovers sub Hedges lasted only nine minutes, pulling up with a hamstring injury before being replaced by Dilan Markanday.

The visitors would have had a third in the 57th minute, Pickering crossing from the left and Leonard looping a header towards the top corner but Hladky got across to his right to palm the ball away.

Hirst joined his skipper in the referee’s book just before the hour after shooting over the bar after referee Stroud had harshly given a decision against him on the edge of the area. Given the noise around Portman Road, it was doubtful Hirst had heard the whistle.

Town, who had been rather lacklustre since their bright opening to the half, made a double change on the hour mark, Hutchinson and Williams replacing Burns and Clarke.

The on-loan Chelsea man quickly made an impression, bursting down the right and shooting from a tight angle.

Two minutes later, Hayden Carter was booked for a foul on Hutchinson, then on 64 the sub threatened again on the right, forcing Pears into another save. Moments later, Chaplin’s strike from outside the area was blocked.

But a minute later, with the game by now ridiculously open, Rovers got back on terms, one-time Colchester man Szmodics holding off Williams and looping a left-footed shot beyond Hladky and into the corner of the net.

With the game increasingly resembling a basketball match, Town looked to restore their lead for a third time, Williams crossing for Hirst but the striker’s header was too high.

A minute later, a Broadhead strike from distance struck a defender and looped over the bar. Soon after, Travis was yellow-carded for a foul on the Wales international.

On 74, Chaplin was cautioned for a foul, then a minute later Hladky pounced on a loose ball in the six-yard box from a low cross from the right.

Both sides were looking like they could score from every attack with both defences being pulled one way and then the other.

Town made another two changes with Marcus Harness taking over from Chaplin and Dane Scarlett from Hirst, who will have been pleased with his afternoon’s work - and particularly his goal - against his old club.

And the sub was involved as the Blues grabbed their fourth goal of the game. After Hutchinson had twisted and turned on the right of the area, Harness clipped a ball into the box, it was cleared to Luongo on the edge of the area where he the Australian took it down on his chest before lashing into the top corner of the net to send Portman Road wild.

Town should have had a fifth as the game moved into its final 10 minutes, Hutchinson having robbed Dominic Hyam before bursting through on goal. The former Arsenal youngster took it wide of Pears to the left but not far enough and the keeper was able to block.

On 83, the Blues swapped Broadhead for Taylor, moments after Rovers had switched Semir Telalovic for Leonard and Joe Rankin-Costello for Brittain.

Town continued to look for a fifth goal, perhaps leaving themselves a little too open at times, although by no means as open as earlier in the half.

In the penultimate scheduled minute, prior to the fourth official indicating seven additional minutes, both Harness and Taylor saw shots blocked from promising positions in the area.

Davis went down requiring treatment on the right ankle which he damaged last week at Sheffield Wednesday with the Blues having used all their subs.

Deep in injury time, Carter looped a shot from distance well over the bar following a corner, easing the nerves around Portman Road.

At the whistle there was a palpable sigh of relief from Town supporters as well as a loud cheer as the Blues confirmed their seventh win out of eight since their return to the Championship.

In truth, Town should have been home and hosed much earlier in the afternoon, having had chances to seal the win at 3-1.

Blackburn’s second goal, poorly defended by the Blues, opened the door for a comeback and Szmodics’s strike came at a time when Town were out of sorts, perhaps tiring after two lengthy trips this week and their exertions in those two tough away victories.

But the substitutions reinvigorated Kieran McKenna’s side even if the game was way too open in the spell before Luongo’s well-taken goal sealed three points which take Town back up to second, only behind new leaders Leicester on goal difference with Preston down to third having drawn 1-1 at Rotherham.

The Blues last won seven of their first eight in the league in 1980/81, widely regarded as the best season in the club's history, when Sir Bobby Robson's side recorded seven wins and a draw rather than the current team's seven victories and one defeat.

Town are next in action in the Carabao Cup third round at Portman Road on Tuesday when the face Wolves with a visit to Huddersfield up next Saturday.

Town: Hladky, Clarke (Williams 60), Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis, Morsy (c), Luongo, Burns (Hutchinson 60), Chaplin (Harness 78), Broadhead (Taylor 83), Hirst (Scarlett 78). Unused: Slicker, Evans, Ladapo, Ball.

Blackburn: Pears, Brittain (Rankin-Costello 81), Carter, Hyam, Pickering, A Wharton, Travis (c), Szmodics, Moran (Dolan 46), Sigurdsson (Hedges 46 (Markanday 55), Leonard (Telalovic 82). Unused: Wahlstedt, Hill, S Wharton, Tronstad. Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire). Att: 28,792 (Rovers: 858).

Photo: Matchday Images

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Kickingblock added 13:31 - Sep 24
Great game. Sorry to see an elderly person laying in Portman road afterwards. Good to see the first responders were there doing what they do.
I hope the casualty is recorded and ok.

Kickingblock added 13:39 - Sep 24
I hope they recovered and are ok.

Kickingblock added 13:39 - Sep 24
I hope they recovered and are ok.

Runner added 14:49 - Sep 24
Blackburn were playing the same way as us, could have been 6 all.

dirtydingusmagee added 16:31 - Sep 24
ONCE AGAIN,we dig for Victory, well done lads. My hert sank when Blackburn equalised, thought we were home and dry.However with good time still on clock i honestly thought ,no these lads will not give up and get a fourth and take the points, and so it was, bloody brilliant. That would never have happened pre Mc Kenna . We will lose games at some point, [and moaners will moan] but this squad are fighters and oppo will have to have good day to beat us thats for sure.Fans certainly get value for their money now IMO. , Well happy , and cherry on top was Nodgers result especially after the Radio Norfolk commentator said after they lost to Leicester ,that they played well and lost to the best team they will meet this season LOL. COYB

BlueRuin69 added 16:33 - Sep 24
Best performing team in Europe, one loss in 24 games, 21 being wins, goals galore and entertainment…….and yet still the whiners wine…….and Wolfe if yr reading this….YOU ARE DOING GREAT!

dirtydingusmagee added 16:44 - Sep 24
RobsonWark, careful, you are in danger of peaking to early. LOL.

Cadiar added 00:27 - Sep 25
See its day release from the asylum. RobsonWark & Blueboy are out both showing their total ignorance & lack of knowledge about football.
Remember Blueboy was calling for KM to be sacked not so long back.
Brilliant game by the way

Gazelle added 08:49 - Sep 25
Who says our defence is not good enough after conceding just one goal in 4 away games.

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