Match report: Derby County 0 Ipswich Town 1 – Connolly goal extends remarkable Pride Park run
Ipswich Town must wish they could play at Pride Park every week!
The Blues claimed a backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win against Derby County last night, clinging on for much of the second half having taken an early lead through Callum Connolly’s excellent fifth minute header.
It’s their third successive victory by this scoreline at the home of the Rams and extends their unbeaten run at this venue to 10 matches stretching back to November 2006.
Boy how Mick McCarthy’s men needed this gutsy clean sheet following a run of soft goals conceded. This was their first shut-out away from home in the league in 19 attempts.
More importantly a morale-boosting victory sees the gap to the Championship play-off places cut to three points when defeat would have seen it widen to eight.
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Town’s perfect start came after Grant Ward’s perseverance led to a corner and Martyn Waghorn continued where he had left off at Aston Villa by whipping in a wicked inswinging dead ball delivery.
Everton loanee Connolly timed his run to perfection, meeting the ball with a firm angled header beyond the near post. The ball was clawed out from under the bar by keeper Scott Carson, but technology notified referee Scott Duncan that the ball had crossed the line.
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The Blues then produced a supremely organised team display to frustrate the hosts. McCarthy’s men were happy to sit behind the ball, sensed when to press and then looked to counter quickly once possession had been turned over.
Connolly and Cole Skuse sniffed out any danger in the middle of park, while nothing got by Luke Chambers at the back.
At the other end, wide men Ward and Bersant Celina were always a speedy outlet and Martyn Wahorn, leading the line in the absence of the injured Joe Garner, ran the channels and provided some good link-up play.
Derby’s growing desperation was summed up when Tom Lawrence was booked for diving in the box after 34th minute. The ex-Blues loanee had driven to the byline, but then seemed to throw himself into Chambers in an attempt to win a penalty.
The Rams continued to try and unlock the door but could not find the key. Emyr Huws blocked a stabbed Curtis Davies effort at a corner, while Matej Vydra’s clever flick was just too strong for Andreas Weimann.
Town nemesis David Nugent – the man who had scored 15 goals in 15 games against the Blues – had barely touched the ball was replaced by Chris Martin at the break.
The visitors started the second half well, with Connolly’s far post shot blocked by Davies inside the opening few seconds.
Rams fans needed something to get behind and they got it in the 50th minute. Town wasted a free-kick in a golden position after Celina dallied on the ball, Derby countered at pace and eventually it required a superb stop from Bartosz Bialkowski to deny Tom Huddlestone’s well-hit and deflected shot through a crowded box.
Gary Rowett’s men took that as their mark to step up a gear. Vydra twisted and turned before firing just wide from the edge of the box, then Chambers and Adam Webster were both booked for lunging fouls on the direct-running Lawrence.
Chambers is now suspended for Saturday’s visit of Nottingham Forest.
Bialkowski parried one Vydra free-kick, while another clipped the top of the wall to go behind.
Celina and Huws, who had simply run out of gas, were replaced by Freddie Sears and Flynn Downes on the hour mark. Tristan Nydam then replaced Callum Connolly as the Blues looked to stem the tide.
Town had struggled to get out of their own half for a long spell, but a rare attack ended with Waghorn going down under Davies’ pressure inside the box. It was a similar collision to the one which led to Waghorn being awarded a penalty at Hull recently, but on this occasion the referee was unmoved.
Derby threw the kitchen sink at Town in the closing stages and there were several heart-in-mouths moments.
Vydra stabbed just wide inside the box following smart play by Lawrence and Ledley, then, in the 88th minute, Ledley skied a good far post chance after substitute Johnny Russell had danced to the byline.
And, in stoppage-time, Russell’s teasing deep delivery somehow evaded several home players in the box.
DERBY COUNTY (4-2-3-1): Carson; Baird, Keogh (cpt), Davies (Thorne 83), Forsyth; Huddlestone, Ledley; Weimann (Russell 70), Vydra, Lawrence; Nugent (Martin 46).
Unused subs: Mitchell, Wisdom, Olsson, Pearce.
Booked: Lawrence (34), Russell (90+)
IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Bialkowski; Spence, Chambers (cpt), Webster, Knudsen; Skuse, Connolly (Nydam 72); Ward, Huws (Downes 60), Celina (Sears 60); Waghorn.
Unused subs: Gerken, Iorfa, Bishop, Morris.
Booked: Chambers (58), Webster (64), Downes (82)
Referee: Scott Duncan