Ipswich Town beat Swansea City 3-2 at Portman Road yesterday. Stuart Watson reflects on the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: Jay Fulton heads Swansea City into an early lead.Jay Fulton heads Swansea City into an early lead. (Image: Steve Waller)


Bursting out the blocks in games has become a trademark under Kieran McKenna's management. Lately, however, Town have found themselves getting put on the back foot in the opening exchanges.

Why is that? It looks like teams have finally cottoned on to the fact that you have to press high and with numbers to disrupt Ipswich's desire to build from the back.

Swansea did just that in this game. Town were penned in from the off. And then, to compound matters, the visitors scored from a set-piece. A deep free-kick delivery into the box wasn't fully cleared and Jamal Lowe crossed for Jay Fulton to head home.

For the fifth game in a row (and 11th time this season), Ipswich had conceded inside the opening 15 minutes. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Jack Taylor (right) is congratulated after his super strike drew Ipswich Town level against Swansea.Jack Taylor (right) is congratulated after his super strike drew Ipswich Town level against Swansea. (Image: PA)


Ipswich, it seemed, were going to need a moment of magic to turn the tide. Thankfully, Jack Taylor - who was making his first home league start for the club - produced one in the 17th minute.

There was only one thing in the midfielder's mind when he received the ball 25 yards out. His first touch took him inside from the left, his second sent a powerful swerving effort past the keeper and inside the far side-netting.

That's his second spectacular goal of the season following on from that dipping volleyed winner against Wolves. Having also bundled one over the line at Rotherham last Tuesday night, his overall tally moves on to three.

“I do like getting a goal if I’m honest," he said, when completing a summer switch from Peterborough. "I got 10 in the end last season, which was my target. Hopefully I end up with another 10 this year. That’s optimistic, but I think I can do it."

East Anglian Daily Times: Conor Chaplin's expert volley put Ipswich Town 2-1 ahead.Conor Chaplin's expert volley put Ipswich Town 2-1 ahead. (Image: Steve Waller)


That stunning strike seemed to act like a defibrillator. Ipswich, sparked into life, suddenly mounted wave-after-wave of attack.

Conor Chaplin oddly opted to pass in the box when shooting was the better option. Cameron Burgess had a header saved at a corner and George Hirst was just beaten to the rebound. Omari Hutchinson dispossessed Bashir Humphreys as he looked to stride out from the back, but then took too many touches in the box before firing straight at keeper Carl Rushworth. Chaplin blazed the rebound chance over.

Everyone was still trying to digest three quickfire opportunities going begging when a second goal arrived. Town can thank Matt Grimes for kicking the ball away to prevent Leif Davis taking a quick throw. Instead, Davis flung it into the area, Hirst showed great strength to fend off two defenders and Chaplin was there to expertly get his foot over an awkward bouncing ball and squeeze a shot inside the near post.

Ipswich had worked out the puzzle on the job. Clipping balls over the high press kept creating chances. Hutchinson's teasing low cross was cut out just ahead of Hirst. Chaplin's lay-off led to Hirst seeing a low shot go just wide from the edge of the box. The omnipresent Hutchinson was then guilty of not taking enough care over a square pass across the six-yard box to Nathan Broadhead following Hirst's clever dummy. If the Chelsea teenager can add consistent end product to his work rate and trickery he's going to be some player. 

In stoppage-time, Sam Morsy's exquisite drop of the shoulder, turn and through pass led to Hirst seeing a one-v-one effort turned around the post. This was vintage Ipswich. Somehow, the lead was only a single goal come the interval.

East Anglian Daily Times: George Hirst celebrates after his goal from the penalty spot extended Ipswich's lead against Swansea.George Hirst celebrates after his goal from the penalty spot extended Ipswich's lead against Swansea. (Image: Steve Waller)


Ipswich has two penalty shouts in that first half too.

First, Hutchinson went down under the attentions of Humphreys down the right side of the box after some twisting and turning - I'm not sure that one was a foul. Second, Taylor was bumped off balance by Grimes after an unconventional lay-off by Hirst - that one, for me, was a strong shout.

Was it going to be another one of those days when it came to the officials? It certainly looked that way when Harry Clarke's headed finish at a corner was ruled out for no clear reason. The pushing and shoving in the box looked to be six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Two minutes later, however, Ipswich had been awarded their first spot-kick of the season. Why on earth Harrison Ashby decided to try and rugby tackle Taylor just inside the area as a deep dead ball delivery sailed high into the sky was known only to him. Hirst coolly converted down the middle. Ipswich, at last, had some breathing room.

East Anglian Daily Times: Jamal Lowe pulls a goal back for Swansea late on.Jamal Lowe pulls a goal back for Swansea late on. (Image: Steve Waller)


Swansea winger Liam Cullen was shown a second yellow card in the 69th minute for barging over Leif Davis from behind. Swansea were down to 10 men and there was a feeling, at that point, the floodgates could now open.

There had been a few signs on the hour mark, however, that Ipswich were getting a little complacent. Concentration levels slipped even more once the numbers became uneven.

With the home fans singing about Norwich's demise, some of Town's attacks lacked crispness and care. Then, in the latter stages, the Blues began to switch off at the back too.

A warning was served in the 90th minute when Vaclav Hladky had to push Jamal Lowe's shot around the post following a slack moment from Burgess. It wasn't heeded. Five minutes into stoppage-time, a far too casual-looking Luke Woolfenden allowed Lowe to breeze past him and cut inside to score.

It made for an unnecessarily nervy final five minutes, with Hladky doing well to land on a dangerous Lowe cross into the six-yard box at the very death.

It's a reminder that you can't ever afford to let your standards drop at this level. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town players congratulate George Hirst after his penalty goal against Swansea.Ipswich Town players congratulate George Hirst after his penalty goal against Swansea. (Image: Stephen Waller)


Newly-promoted Town go into the third international break of the season sandwiched between three freshly-relegated sides at very top of the Championship table.

The Blues are only behind league leaders Leicester on goal difference now, following the Foxes' 1-0 loss at Middlesbrough, remain eight points clear of third-place Leeds and nine ahead of Southampton. That's a remarkable feat given where those three clubs have been in recent years. 

I've written a few times about how McKenna's men have dipped just a little bit during this recent hectic block of fixtures. And yet, with plenty of miles travelled and some key men missing at times, they've still managed to come through it with three wins, two draws and just the one (cup) defeat. 

As Mick McCarthy always used to say, every point's a prisoner. Don't underestimate how hard Ipswich have had to work for all 39 of the ones they've got on the board so far. They are the underdogs in this promotion fight, no doubt about it.

This pause for action comes at a good time. The Blues need to recharge and refocus ahead of several December dates with destiny.