FULL-TIME: Ipswich Town 0 Brighton 3
17:58 01 January 2013
Ipswich v Brighton: Mick McCarthy suffered his first defeat on home soil as Ipswich Town’s impressive festive period went flat against Brighton.
First-half goals from Dean Hammond and Craig Mackail-Smith was added to by Wayne Bridge’s long-ranger as a tired-looking Town had no answer.
After fantastic away successes at Charlton and Wolves, it appeared to be a case of one game too many for McCarthy’s small squad – especially against a side as adept at keeping the ball as Gus Poyet’s men.
But once the poor way to start 2013 dies down a little, Town fans will reflect on a festive points haul of seven from 12, which has eased them further away from trouble.
Mick McCarthy made just one, enforced, change from the side that were so impressive in beating Wolves on Saturday.
Andy Drury was laid low with illness so in came Nigel Reo-Coker for Town’s first change in six games.
Teenage defender Tyrone Mears made the 18-man squad for the first time since his move from Chippenham Town last month with Danny Higginbotham opting to join Sheffield United rather than extend his loan deal at Portman Road.
The scene was set for a dismal first-half for the hosts as early as 35 seconds in when Lee Martin went steaming into a tackle with David Lopez, the winger rightly booked for a late and high lunge.
An impressive festive period appeared to be taking its toll on the hosts who went behind in the 14th minute when Town’s marking, Guirane N’Daw in particular, went wandering.
The big midfielder lost his man, Hammond, who had the simple task of heading in Andrea Orlandi’s corner in at the near post.
Halfway through the first-half, Town had their best moment of a disappointing afternoon.
Guirane N’Daw eased the ball over the Brighton defence and Daryl Murphy was strong enough to hold the ball up and shoot, only for Tomasz Kuszczak to parry the well-hit effort away.
Bradley Orr latched onto the rebound but his attempt to find Carlos Edwards was ended by a great saving tackle from LuaLua.
In the 34th minute, the Seagulls doubled their advantage after Craig Mackail-Smith outpaced a slightly flat-footed Luke Chambers.
Andrea Orlandi’s chip was headed on by Barnes and the impressive Mackail-Smith was alert to race clear and make a mockery of the tight angle – firing a shot off the far post and in.
A fast start to the second half was needed, but never really materialised as the Blues had decent possession, but largely failed to break down their opponents.
McCarthy threw on Michael Chopra and Jason Scotland, for his first appearance in 11 games, which meant DJ Campbell got the standing ovation his loan spell deserved before he returns to parent club QPR.
But minutes later, the points were safe as Brighton scored for the third time with only their third shot on target.
Sub Gary Dicker’s crossfield ball found Wayne Bridge in too much space and his bouncing shot from 25 yards evaded Stephen Henderson and found the corner.
You could ask whether Henderson should have done better and whether Bridge should have been allowed too much time. Both were probably true.
It was a killer blow as the game virtually died a death.