Ipswich Town beat Rotherham United 4-3 at Portman Road last night. Stuart Watson reflects on the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: Tom Eaves (second left) celebrates after giving Rotherham an early lead.Tom Eaves (second left) celebrates after giving Rotherham an early lead. (Image: PA)


Rock-bottom Rotherham came into this match with just four away points to their name. With the Blues heavy favourites, Kieran McKenna's final message to his players was 'we need to keep tension out of the stadium'.

Less than two minutes after kick-off, however, and a poor goal had been conceded.

Harry Clarke tried and failed to shield the ball rather than win it after Sam Clucas took a touch inside. Luke Woolfenden then appeared to lose his bearings as a poked through ball was coolly finished off by Tom Eaves.

Ipswich have now conceded the first goal in 19 of the 39 games they've played across all competitions (10 at home, nine away).

Six times now they've let in a goal inside the opening five minutes. Sixteen times their goal has been breached inside the opening quarter of an hour.

That's something that needs addressing.

East Anglian Daily Times: Wes Burns celebrates after getting Ipswich Town level.Wes Burns celebrates after getting Ipswich Town level. (Image: PA)


A bumper home crowd of 28,026 responded positively to the early set-back. So too did the players.

Town almost drew level when Kieffer Moore headed a Leif Davis deep dead ball delivery narrowly wide. They subsequently did when Cameron Burgess won the ball high, Sam Morsy clipped a cross to the back post and Wes Burns planted a firm header back across the keeper.

Burns had the beating of 37-year-old Lee Peltier every time down the right side. Rotherham couldn't handle Moore's physicality up top either. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore has now scored four goals in five games since joining on loan from Bournemouth.Kieffer Moore has now scored four goals in five games since joining on loan from Bournemouth. (Image: Steve Waller)

After Burns had rifled a low shot inches past the post, Town duly scored a slick second. Clarke's pass up the line was perfectly-weighted, Burns' sweeping low cross was inch-perfect and Moore arrived right on queue to side-foot home on the run. The Bournemouth loanee has now scored four goals in five games.

A third goal arrived in the 29th minute when Burns stabbed home after his initial shot and Leif Davis' follow-up effort had been saved by keeper Viktor Johansson.

The early damage had been undone. The away team's spirits had been broken. All that was required from here was some careful game management.



There was an unusual edginess to Town's possession play throughout this game, even with a two-goal advantage.

Rotherham finished the first half, which had 10 minutes of stoppage-time due a couple of lengthy injury delays, winning a series of corners. Ipswich, to be fair, defended them well.

After the restart, Woolfenden had a long exchange with keeper Vaclav Hladky about the issues over deep build-up play.

Rotherham, with their awkward man-to-man approach, continued to make it a scrappy bits-and-pieces affair. Then, out of nowhere, they got a goal back.

It was a high and hopeful ball into the box from deep left. Hladky came and completely missed a wild attempt at a single handed punch through traffic and Hakeem Odoffin reacted quickest to fire into an unguarded net. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Rotherham sub Cafu dinks a penalty past Ipswich keeper Vaclav Hladky.Rotherham sub Cafu dinks a penalty past Ipswich keeper Vaclav Hladky. (Image: PA)


For the first time this season, Town faded in the latter stages. That's not surprising, really, given this was the culmination of a gruelling Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday schedule that had included away trips to Millwall and Swansea. Not only was it a long journey back from South Wales, but that match had been played on a heavy pitch in torrential rain.

The first warning sign came in the 78th minute when, following Johansson's big punt upfield, Eaves won a towering flick-on over Woolfenden and sub striker Sam Nombe saw a shot charged down by Davis. A minute later, a cross from the right was not cleared and Nombe's shot on the turn thumped the outside of post.

When the fourth official indicated that an extra eight minutes of stoppage-time was to be played the crowd let out a collective groan. They knew their side were clinging on.

With 90+4 on the clock, the Millers flung another hopeful straight ball into the box. Burgess' clearing header dropped into a dangerous area and Kayden Jackson, on as a late sub, was controversially adjudged to have tripped Peter Kioso. It looked a really soft decision. Cafu converted with a cheeky Panenka penalty to make Hladky's night even worse. Town, it seemed, had blown it...

East Anglian Daily Times: Omari Hutchinson scores Town's dramatic 90 5 winner.Omari Hutchinson scores Town's dramatic 90 5 winner. (Image: Steve Waller)


"It would have been easy to lie on the floor at 3-3 and give up on the game or maybe even come under pressure because they've got all the momentum," said McKenna.

"But we found the spirit to win the ball back, launch another attack and produce a moment of real, real quality."

Town made six subs in this game (having been afforded an extra change due to the fact Rotherham had Ollie Rathbone gone off concussed in the first half) and three of them combined for the dramatic 90+5 winner.

Ali Al-Hamadi ran the channel and worked the ball inside under pressure, Jackson showed great composure to cut the ball back to Omari Hutchinson and he, after a fine first touch, rifled into the bottom right corner to raise the Portman Road roof.

From deflation to elation. It was a finish that brought back memories of Pablo Counago's dramatic winner against Coventry, also in front of the North Stand, back in 2010.

Chelsea loanee Hutchinson may have only started nine league games this season, but he's produced several key moments. The 20-year-old scored the winner at Southampton, secured victory at Middlesbrough and has bagged last-gasp goals against West Brom and Rotherham. This bright young talent, who has developed at a rate of knots, really looks like he is going places.

That's the sixth time this season Ipswich have scored in the 90th minute or beyond. It's the 12th time they've netted beyond the 85th minute.

The never-say-die spirit in this group really is remarkable.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieran McKenna, Omari Hutchinson, Kayden Jackson and Martyn Pert applaud the fans following Ipswich Town's dramatic 4-3 home win against Rotherham.Kieran McKenna, Omari Hutchinson, Kayden Jackson and Martyn Pert applaud the fans following Ipswich Town's dramatic 4-3 home win against Rotherham. (Image: PA)


Just how big a moment will this prove to be in the context of the season? Time will tell. It certainly feels like a game we could end up looking back on as being pivotal.

Southampton lost 2-1 at home to Hull last night. Town have leapfrogged them into second and drawn level on points with Leeds. All three now have 13 games left to play.

Leeds and Southampton still have the distraction of FA Cup fifth round ties at Premier League clubs to come. Leeds host Leicester on Friday night. They host Southampton on the final day.

Those fallen top-flight clubs are going to really being feeling the pressure. The nature of Town's latest win will be a major psychological blow to them. Little old Ipswich, just up from League One, just won't go away.

For all the talk about the top-two race, it shouldn't go unnoticed that Town are 18 points clear of seventh place. That's incredible.

This victory reminds me of the nervy 2-1 home win against Port Vale last April. Town weren't at it that night either, but found a way to get the job through Nathan Broadhead's late pressure penalty. These are the games that really fortify belief. 

Catch your breath, because there's another game soon coming. Up next, Birmingham City, at Portman Road, on Saturday.