GALLERY & MATCH REPORT: Ipswich Town 2 Derby County 1
23:20 25 March 2014
Ipswich v Derby: Christophe Berra headed home a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Ipswich Town secured a gutsy 2-1 come-from-behind win against high-flying Derby County at Portman Road.
Patrick Bamford had put the Rams ahead after just 33 seconds, but the Blues produced a gutsy performance. Johnny Williams – who was kicked from pillar to post throughout – rifled home a superb leveller in the 68th minute.
Then Berra, moments after a crunching saving tackle at one end, rose majestically to head home a dramatic late winner from Aaron Cresswell’s corner.
With top six rivals Wigan, Brighton, Reading and Nottingham Forest all losing, the Blues moved up to eighth-place in the Championship table and are just two points adrift of the play-off places ahead of Saturday’s visit of a Forest side in free-fall.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI line-up – and bench – following his side’s 2-0 win at Brighton three days’ earlier.
There was a real buzz in Portman Road ahead of kick-off with Blues fans who hadn’t made it to the Amex Stadium last weekend keen to see if their side could produce a repeat performance and really ignite a push for the play-off places.
Less than a minute later and all that sense of anticipation had been blown out of the water.
Ipswich surged forwards from kick-off and had the crowd on their feet as Stephen Hunt burst to the by-line and pulled back a cross which hit a defender on the torso. Half-hearted penalty appeals had barely died down as Derby quickly counter-attacked, left-back Craig Forsyth pulling the ball back for Chelsea forward Bamford to convert for the sixth goal of a productive loan spell.
Portman Road was stunned.
At that stage it looked as though a repeat of the goalfest from the reverse fixture – Derby coming back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 at Pride Park last October – was on the cards.
However, instead of bursting into life, the match went rather flat thanks, in part, to the visiting side’s spoiling tactics.
With goalscoring chances at a premium, a ding-dong duel between Rams striker Chris Martin and Blues centre-back Berra became more interesting than the game itself.
Martin twice went down easily under pressure from Berra. The latter had a word and Martin reacted with a shove. Yellow card.
The Derby front man could then count himself lucky to stay on the field in the 30th minute after leaving a leg in on Berra as the defender cleared the ball up the line.
Ipswich passed the ball about nicely at times, with the lively duo of Paul Anderson and Williams popping up all over the place.
Derby had clearly marked Williams as a threat who had to be stopped at all costs though and they continually kicked lumps out of the tricky advanced midfielder.
Craig Bryson was booked for one late challenge which left the Crystal Palace loanee writhing in pain and limping for a few minutes. Moments later, Jeff Hendrick escaped with just a telling off after Williams took another kick.
Blues boss McCarthy let referee Fred Graham know what he thought as the teams came off at the break. Tempers were soon flaring after the restart after Aaron Cresswell’s lunge on George Thorne in front of the dug-outs.
Moments later, Thorne became the third Derby player to be booked after petulantly preventing Williams taking a quick free-kick.
A football match finally started to break out as the hour mark approached, Gerken quick off his line to block from Bamford while at the other end Luke Chambers couldn’t get enough on his back post header following Williams’ fine run and cross.
Town finally produced their first shot on target in the 60th minute, Murphy latching onto Anderson’s flick and producing a fine angled right-foot shot which forced Lee Grant into an acrobatic stop.
The introduction of strikers Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Frank Nouble off the bench lifted the home crowd further.
The roof was then lifted as the Blues drew level in the 68th minute. After Murphy was fouled, Cresswell tapped the free-kick to his right and Williams arrowed a 25-yard shot beyond the despairing dive of Grant. It was a cracking goal from a cracking player. Town fans should enjoy him while they can, Palace boss Tony Pulis watching from the stands as a guest of Blues owner Marcus Evans.
Williams’ loan spell is due to expire after Saturday’s visit of Nottingham Forest, though Town could extend the deal until the end of the season if that could be agreed before Thursday’s deadline.
Derby responded and twice came close to getting their noses back in front. First, Bamford’s left-footed volley went inches past the post following Martin’s cross, while moments later Forsyth hit the outside of the post from outside the box.
Five minutes later, Ipswich hit the woodwork themselves. The energetic Nouble provided the run and cross, with fellow sub Ebanks-Blake rising highest in the centre of the goal to head against the base of the left upright.
With Ipswich going all-out for the win and Derby a threat on the counter it always felt as though one side would win it.
And after Berra had made a superb crunching tackle on Martin at one end, the Blues countered and won a corner through Nouble’s run and shot. Cresswell swung in the set-piece and Berra rose majestically to power home a header.
With skipper Luke Chambers having gone off injured, Berra and Tommy Smith undertook the captain’s traditional fist-pump celebrations at the end. Town’s top six hopes are very much alive and well.
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IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-1-1): Gerken; Chambers (cpt) (Richardson 79), Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Anderson (Nouble. 60), Hyam, Wordsworth, Hunt (Ebanks-Blake 60); Williams; Murphy.
Subs: Loach, Mings, Green, Tabb.
Booked: Williams (66), Nouble (78)
DERBY COUNTY (4-3-3): Grant; Wisdom, Keogh (cpt), Buston, Forsyth; Hendrick, Thorne (Naylor 90+), Bryson; Bamford (Sammon 75), Martin, Russell.
Subs: Legzdins, O’Brien, Whitbread, Bailey, Thomas.
Booked: Martin (15), Bryson (45+), Thorne (51), Forsyth (84)
Attendance: 17,399 (611 away)
Referee: Fred Graham.