|Preston North End 3 v 2 Ipswich Town
Saturday, 3rd February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Preston North End 3-2 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 3rd Feb 2024 17:08
Town are down to fourth in the Championship following a topsy-turvy 3-2 defeat at Preston North End in which returning striker Kieffer Moore netted twice having come on as a half-time sub. The Blues found themselves 3-0 down at the break as two goals from former Town striker Will Keane on five and 39 sandwiched an eighth-minute George Edmundson own goal. But after Moore, re-signed on loan from AFC Bournemouth on Thursday, had been introduced at the break, Town were a different prospect after the break and the Wales international netted on 75 and 87 but the Blues were unable to find the third goal which would have claimed a point.
New striker Kieffer Moore and Ali Al-Hamadi were named on the bench as manager Kieran McKenna made two changes from the last league game, the 1-1 draw away to leaders Leicester.
Skipper Sam Morsy returned in midfield following his suspension with Lewis Travis dropping to the subs, while Jeremy Sarmiento was handed his full league debut with Marcus Harness also on the bench, alongside Moore, Al-Hamadi and Nathan Broadhead.
Preston made one change from their 1-1 draw at Millwall last time out with skipper Alan Browne returning to the starting line-up for Ryan Ledson, who was among the subs.
Former Blues striker Keane started and ex-Town keeper Dai Cornell was on the bench.
The home side created the first chance just over a minute after the game got under way, Town, wearing their orange away kit, looking to have been caught cold as Liam Millar was found on the left of the box but fortunately the Canadian international screwed his volleyed shot well wide.
But in the fifth minute, the Lilywhites were in front. Town were closed down as they sought to play out from the back and the ball fell loose to Keane in space 25 yards out after Luongo had looked to clear. The former Blues striker took it forward and struck a shot which caught Edmundson, wrong-footed Vaclav Hladky and beat the Czech keeper to his right.
Three minutes later, it was 2-0. Emil Riis was played in on goal by a defence-splitting Keane pass, took it on into the area and Edmundson inadvertently stabbed past Hladky as he looked to take it away from the Preston striker. Video evidence suggested Riis was offside when the pass was played.
Having had a nightmare start, the Blues set about getting themselves back in the game but made little progress against a determined Preston side with their tails up.
On 23, Millar ran from deep - with Town having failed to track runners on a number of occasions - and wafted over a cross from the left which was just too far in front of his teammates.
A minute later, Millar cut in from the left and hit a shot which deflected wide off Luke Woolfenden. Harry Clarke complained to referee Graham Scott that he’d been fouled but to no avail.
Town had a spell where they began to put passes together as the half moved into its final 10 minutes but without threatening and Preston quickly got on top with a third home goal looking more likely than the Blues pulling one back. On 37, Hladky was forced to palm away a dangerous cross from the right.
And on 39, it was 3-0 after Town were again undone passing it out from the back. Woolfenden played it to Hladky, who passed forward to Morsy just inside the box but Mads Frokjaer behind him forced the ball away from the Town skipper, who slid in to tackle as it reached Riis, but it ran to Keane, who stroked his second of the game into the empty net.
The shellshocked Blues, who had only found themselves 3-0 behind once before in the league this season, at Leeds just before Christmas, looked to find a foothold in the game. On 42 a free-kick was played short to Burns, but his low strike was blocked.
Play very quickly returned to the other end and Millar, who had caused Town problems down the left all half, crossed and Brad Potts hit a low cross-shot off Leif Davis and out for a corner, following which Woolfenden turned another effort from a low angle wide.
Town managed their first serious shot of the half with the half already deep in four minutes of injury time, but Clarke’s stabbed effort from the right of the area flew well beyond home keeper Freddie Woodman’s right post.
Earlier in the move, Burns had found himself in space just outside the box but opted to look for Jackson rather than shooting with his pass running behind the striker before Conor Chaplin picked it up.
There were boos from the Town support at the whistle after perhaps the most frustrating 45 minutes of the Championship season so far.
The Blues were slow out of the blocks and might have conceded within the first 70 seconds and were still trying to find their feet when Preston did go ahead in the fifth minute as Town’s usually controlled passing out from the back let them down.
The second goal had more than a hint of offside about it but with Town still trying to get going, then the third goal was much the same as the first with Preston continuing to press the Blues in their final third and cause errors.
Town have been the comeback kings so far this season but it will take an effort beyond anything they’ve achieved so far to get anything out of this.
The Blues made the expected half-time change, handing Moore his second Blues debut for Kayden Jackson.
And immediately Town looked a different prospect. On 48, Davis came within a whisker of pulling one back when he caught everyone unawares with a cheeky free-kick which he looked to be playing into the box but instead struck against the unmoved Woodman’s right post.
On 50, with the 3,435 Blues supporters behind the goal getting firmly behind their side, Burns crossed from the right and the ball flicked off 6ft 5in tall Moore’s head and away. The new loan striker was already giving the Preston backline more to think about than they had in the first half.
The impetus from the opening moments began to fade but as the game moved towards the hour mark but on 61 Sarmiento struck a shot on the turn from 25 yards but straight at Woodman.
A minute later, Davis crossed from the left and Moore rose high but headed back across goal and wide, then in the 64th minute Clarke flicked a near-post header across the face and beyond the far post.
Preston had present no further threat since the break but on 66 Potts was found on the right of the box but Edmundson got across to block.
Moments later, Luongo was found the furthest man forward for Town by Morsy and cut in but scraped his shot wide. Ahead of the goal-kick, the Blues swapped Sarmiento and Chaplin for Broadhead and Omari Hutchinson.
Preston almost forced another goal from Town playing out from the back on 68, Hladky desperately clawing the ball away from Frokjaer just in front of his line having missed Morsy’s backpass with the Lilywhites - with good cause - appealing for a an indirect free-kick.
The home side made a double change in the 71st minute, McCann and Osmajic replacing Frokjaer and Riis.
Four minutes later, the Blues pulled one back. Davis stood up a cross from the left and Moore rose above everyone to nod his first goal for the club, seven years after signing for his first spell at Portman Road.
The goal gave Town a sniff with enough time on the clock to cause Preston some nerves if not turn the game around.
A minute after the goal, Burns headed too close to Woodman from another Davis cross, then on 78 the Wales international nodded well over when he should have nodded back into the box from a corner.
Town made another double change in the 80th minute, swapping Burns and Luongo for debutant Al-Hamadi and Harness.
Three minutes later, Osmajic shot wide from 20 yards out on the right, then seconds later Moore turned a shot against a defender at the other end.
Al-Hamadi had the first sight at goal of his Town career on 85, chasing a ball played over the top but the recent signing from AFC Wimbledon was unable to get a clean contact and Woodman claimed.
Two minutes later, it was 3-2. Hutchinson crossed from the right, Davis nodded back across goal, Moore and Al-Hamadi initially got in one another’s way, then the Iraqi international hit it against Woodman before the on-loan AFC Bournemouth slammed his second of the match into the net.
Town, sensing another famous comeback, threw the kitchen sink at the Lilywhites in the final minutes.
With the game in five minutes of injury time, Moore again got his head on the ball in the area, this time from a right-sided cross, but Woodman was able to get down to it to save.
As the game moved into its final minute and a half, Hutchinson cut in from the right and shot not too far over.
In the final moments, Hutchinson whipped over a cross from the right but beyond his teammates and referee Scott’s whistle signalled a roar from the relieved home support.
Town had been much better in the second half - they recorded nine on target to none in the first half - but Moore’s two goals probably came too late to allow time for a third.
The defeat, only the Blues’ fourth of the season, and the drop to fourth in the table - albeit with Leeds in third having played a match more - will be a blow to fans, however, there were certainly positives to be taken from the second half, most prominently Moore getting on the end of crosses and finding the net twice.
Overall though, a disappointing afternoon for the Blues, who have now won only one of their last eight in the Championship with another tough game at home to West Brom, who beat Birmingham 1-0 at home this afternoon, next Saturday.
PNE: Woodman, Whiteman, Lindsay, Keane (Woodburn 95), Browne (c), Frokjaer (McCann 71), Storey, Hughes, Riis (Osmajic 71), Millar (Brady 78), Potts. Unused: Cornell, Cunningham, Ledson, Mawene, Whatmough.
Town: Hladky, Clarke, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Davis, Morsy (c), Luongo (Harness 80), Burns (Al-HAmadi 80), Chaplin (Hutchinson 68), Sarmiento (Broadhead 67), Jackson (Moore 46). Unused: Walton, Tuanzebe, Travis, Humphreys. Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire). Att: 17,313 (Town: 3,435).
Photo: Matchday Images
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