Ipswich Town 2-2 Millwall - Blues send fans home happy as goal drought ends in entertaining draw
PUBLISHED: 17:01 02 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:38 02 April 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
They may not have secured three points, but Ipswich Town sent their fans home happy following a highly entertaining contest at Portman Road.
In a game arguably offering more entertainment than the previous seven Ipswich home games in 2018 combined, the Blues finally ended a five-game home goal drought when the ball was bundled home to level Jake Cooper’s early header at the start of the second period.
The goal was initially given to young striker Ben Folami, introduced at the break for his Championship debut, although replays suggested Waghorn scooped the ball home before the striker profited from a loose backpass to put his second home just two minutes later.
George Saville soon levelled, but with the home crowd enjoying what they were seeing and encouraging their side, the game had urgency levels significantly above the drab affairs that have been served up at home of late.
It continued to be an end-to-end affair until the final whistle and, while there was no winner, the home crowd left Portman Road entertained as their side hung on despite some questionable late defending.
With four changes from the side which lost at Birmingham on Saturday, the Blues started brightly with the incoming Bersant Celina and Mustapha Carayol, Myles Kenlock and Stephen Gleeson involved early.
But it was Waghorn who had the first effort on goal as a majestic long ball from Adam Webster allowed the striker to take the ball down on his chest before he stabbed an effort towards goal. It was saved by Archer, as was the rebound before Waghorn’s third effort bounced off his thigh and behind.
Ipswich continued to push, using the ball wide and through the middle, with Cole Skuse influential and even being slipped in behind by Celina only for his cut-back to be turned away from Waghorn.
There were shaky moments amongst the free-flowing football, as Webster made things difficult for Bartosz Bialkowski with a back pass before the Polish goalkeeper dwelled on the ball a little long a moment later. He just about recovered to keep the ball away from Steve Morison, before the striker was penalised for trying to hook the ball out of the goalkeeper’s arms.
The next sight of goal went to Carayol as he collected a superb Waghorn pass, before letting fly from 30 yards and sending the ball just over the bar.
But for all their bright work, it was the Lions who edged ahead as winger Ben Marshall, who McCarthy revealed he tried to sign in January, managed to clip a ball into the box which Cooper beat Knudsen to to head home.
The goal hit Ipswich hard as they looked to re-establish themselves before the half-time whistle, with McCarthy opting to match up his opposition as Folami came on for a Championship debut at the break.
The youngster had an immediate impact as he offered physical support to Waghorn, with the Blues’ home goal drought coming to an end just seven minutes after his introduction.
Folami started the move, laying the ball off for Skuse to shoot. His effort was parried, with Folami scuffing the rebound to create an almightly goalmouth scramble that ended with the ball in the back of the net, with replays showing it was Waghorn who applied the final touch.
There was no doubt about the second, though as two minutes later it was 2-1, with Cooper’s weak backpass pounced upon by Waghorn who skipped round the goalkeeper and slotted home.
Every outfield player got involved in the celebration as there was a sense of release inside Portman Road, as Luke Chambers ran the length of the field to fist pump the North Stand.
Sadly the lead didn’t last long, as Bialkowski couldn’t reach a cross from Jed Wallace before Saville rifled into the bottom corner, but the enthused home support were soon roaring on their team again.
Bialkowski was required to make three superb saves late on, first from Gregory and then from Mahlon Romeo and Wallace, to secure the point as both sides pushed to win it before the hosts were applauded off at the end.