Ipswich Town 1-2 Bristol Rovers: Blues men beaten at home as Lambert's men fail to recover from early goals
PUBLISHED: 16:55 14 December 2019 | UPDATED: 18:10 14 December 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town never recovered from conceding two first-half goals as they fell to their third league defeat of the season to Bristol Rovers.
Early goals from Tyler Smith (4) and Tom Nichols (23) ultimately won this game for the visitors, even though Paul Lambert's men improved significantly for the final hour following a poor start.
The hosts had the better of things for much of the game, keeping the ball down and playing through the thirds at times to create openings, but ultimately James Norwood's header on 37 minutes was the only one they were able to take as a string of chances came and went.
The final 15 minutes saw Ipswich battle against 10 men, with Gas skipper Ollie Clarke dismissed for two yellow cards. The first came following an altercation with Flynn Downes, which saw the Town youngster also booked, with the second the result of a bizarre incident when the midfielder stepped back onto the field prematurely after receiving treatment.
Town pushed for an equaliser but never truly figured to find one, meaning the hosts have now won just one of their last 10 games in all competitions inside 90 minutes. The shootout victory at Peterborough the only other success during that period.
Ipswich remain second, but Wycombe's victory over Burton this afternoon means the gap to the leaders is now seven points. Lambert's men still hold a game in hand.
As usual there was intrigue on the team sheet, with Lambert naming a strike trio of Will Keane, Kayden Jackson and James Norwood all getting the nod from the start.
Janoi Donacien's illnees meant Cole Skuse lined up at right-back behind a three-man midfield of Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan, with the latter having the game's first chance as he struck a volley well enough but ultimately fired over the top.
But disaster soon struck as a Rovers throw down the Ipswich right caused havoc in the Town defence, with the entire backline seemingly drifting towards the same man which left Tyler Smith free to ram the ball into the back of the net.
The warning signs kept coming as Rollin Menayese headed over after losing Keane before Liam Sercombe fired over the top after another throw tore through the Ipswich midfield.
And it was soon two. Dozzell gave the ball away in the middle of the Ipswich half before Rovers switched play from right to left and back again, where Alex Rodman cross for Nichols to head home.
The moans and groans were creaking out at Portman Road, with Ipswich misplacing passes and struggling to gain any kind of attacking momentum. And when a chance did come, Nolan and Keane conspired to get in each other's way when both were perfectly-placed to fire home and reduce the deficit.
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Midfield possession wasn't a problem for the Blues as the they worked the ball well-enough in the middle of the pitch, before things more-often-than-not broke down in the final third.
Jackson had a low shot saved and Garbutt saw his rebound blocked as Ipswich began to build some pressure, which eventually told as Jackson popped up on the left to deliver an inch-perfect ball which Norwood did well to angle home with his head.
Jackson then had penalty appeals waved away as shouts of handball went up as Tony Craig blocked the striker's shot, with Norwood having a header easily caught by Jaakkola soon after.
Tomas Holy, preferred in goal to Will Norris, had to get down smartly to keep Smith out before Norwood and Nolan had efforts blocked before the break as Ipswich battled their way back into the contest.
Their improved display from the half-hour mark had done enough to ward off the half-time boos and earn a smattering of applause, which so nearly turned into an eruption of cheers just two minutes into the second period only for Norwood to hit the bar from two yards out. The offside flag had already been raised in any case, saving the striker's blushes.
Jaakkola got the slightest of touches on Jackson's low shot before Nolan fired wide from the following corner, with Ipswich racking their tally of corners to 10 soon after without being able to put the visitors under an abundance of pressure from set-pieces.
Norwood's square ball for Skuse to cross created the a great opening for Nolan, following Jackson's header back across the box, but the midfielder lacked patience and went with his head when he had time to let the ball drop and turn home.
The door was occasionally left ajar at the back, with Sercombe and substitute Victor Adeboyejo, but Ipswich kept on pushing as Norwood's curling shot from the edge of the box was tipped over by Jaakkola.
The hosts continued to huff and puff following Clarke's dismissal but, even against 10 men, there was no way back before the full-time whistle went.
Ipswich Town: Holy; Skuse, Woolfenden, Wilson, Garbutt; Downes, Dozzell (Judge 65), Nolan; Keane, Norwood, Jackson.
Subs: Norris, Nsiala, Kenlock, Huws, Dobra, Georgiou, Judge
Bristol Rovers: Jaakola, Rodman, Kilgour, Craig, Menayese; Leahy, Upson, Clarke, Sercombe; Nichols (Tomlinson 77), Smith (Adeboyejo 65)
Subs: van Stepperhoef, Kelly, Hargreaves, Hoole, Phillips
Attendance: 18,806 (927 Rovers fans)