GALLERY & MATCH REPORT: Ipswich Town 1 Bolton Wanderers 0 – Jay Tabb nets late winner

Jay Tabb celebrates his winner

Jay Tabb celebrates his winner - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Ipswich v Bolton: A scruffy Jay Tabb goal, towards the end of a match fraught with anxiety, secured Ipswich Town a much-needed home win against Bolton Wanderers tonight.

With the Blues having slipped from second to seventh in the Championship table during a frustrating 2015, the sense of nerves inside Portman Road was palpable from the first to the last minute.

That transmitted to the players and Town certainly rode their luck at times, especially in the first half, but they were able to nick the victory thanks to Tabb’s bouncing volley creeping into the net in the 79th minute.

There was still time for Craig Davies to head a gilt-edged chance wide from close-range, a collective sigh of relief greeting that miss and the full-time whistle.

Town remain seventh in the table with sixth-spot rivals Brentford and Wolves beating Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy, stubborn as ever, ignored growing calls from supporters to change the make-up of his back four.

The only alteration he made to his starting XI, following the 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough, was an enforced one – Bartosz Bialkowski replacing Dean Gerken in goal after the latter suffered concussion at the Riverside Stadium.

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By contrast, Bolton boss Neil Lennon – perhaps with Saturday’s trip to fellow relegation-battlers Wigan – made five changes to his team following a 2-0 home win over Millwall.

Ex-Town midfielder Liam Trotter was handed only his sixth league start of the campaign, in-form striker Adam Le Fondre – nursing a slight knock – dropped to the bench and ended up getting injured in the warm-up, while 19-year-old Benfica loanee Diogo Rochinha, a Portuguese attacking midfielder, was handed his debut in a wing-back system.

The opening quarter of an hour was devoid of incident, the edgy, anxious, nervy mood inside Portman Road palpable. Very quickly it became apparent that the onus was on the players to lift the supporters rather than vice versa.

The game’s first real opening arrived when Freddie Sears robbed a hesitant Tim Ream of the ball in a dangerous area and burst forward for a golden one-on-one opportunity. His signposted shot was saved by on-rushing keeper Ben Amos though, Jonathan Parr left screaming in frustration having bust a gut to make himself available for a killer sideways pass.

Things started to liven up around the half an hour mark, a dramatic spell of end-to-end football only serving to ramp up the tension.

Tyrone Mings drove forwards, slipped a pass to the over-lapping Sears and was just unable to get enough contact on the return low cross. Bolton broke at speed and suddenly found themselves in a two on three scenario, Eidur Gudjohnsen twisting Tommy Smith inside out only to be denied by a last-ditch Christophe Berra intervention.

Within a minute, Town had gone close again. Jay Tabb’s deep free-kick was nodded back into the six-yard box by the towering Berra, but Smith – fully on the stretch – was only able to prod the ball straight up in the air.

Town’s defence had once again looked shaky though, an under-fire Smith in particular, with the groans from the stands only exacerbating the nerves on the pitch.

The Blues certainly rode their luck in the latter stages of the half, with Bolton twice passing up fantastic openings.

First, after Bartosz Bialkowski had made an unconvincing stop from Tom Walker, the Trotters went close from a corner. Town’s marking was non-existent, Mills heading a deep delivery back into the danger zone and Ream afforded the time to chest the ball down just outside the six-yard box. Fortunately for the hosts he didn’t get hold of his shot and Parr was able to clear off the line.

Then, in the 39th minute, Rochinha skipped past half-tackles by Luke Chambers and Smith, played a smart one-two with Craig Davies and slide a fine first-time effort inches beyond the right-hand post.

Rochinha’s quick feet and turn of pace had caused Town no end of problems all half, the diminutive attacking midfielder’s display reminiscent of the way Brighton’s Joao Teixeira had tormented the Blues at The Amex Stadium back in January.

Both teams had created two good openings in the first half but it was Bolton whose play had been far easier on the eye.

McCarthy brought on Luke Varney for Parr at the break, switching to a 4-3-3 system. That allowed Skuse to man-mark Rochinha and, as a result, the visitors were kept a lot quieter

Town did, momentarily, lift the crowd thanks to Skuse twice going close from outside the box. The Blues midfielder – who is yet to open his goalscoring account for the club – sent one dipping volley on to the roof of the net. Moments later, after a cross was half-cleared, he struck a well-hit half-volley against the left-hand post.

The game, and atmosphere inside the ground, soon returned to being flat again though. When Murphy pulled a shot well wide from the edge of the box you just began to sense that the home side, and supporters, were lacking belief.

A wholly uninspiring goalless game looked to be on the cards until Town broke the deadlock in scruffy fashion in the 79th minute. After Murphy’s average delivery from the left was only half-cleared, an under-pressure Tabb struck a volley into the ground, the ball creeping into the far corner of the net.

Still the anxiety inside Portman Road did not lift, even though Bolton had barely threatened in a second half display that came nowhere matching their bright first half showing.

Their concerns were valid, a collective sigh of relief/disbelief exhaled in the 88th minute when Bolton striker Craig Davies headed wide from point blank range following Ream’s cross.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr (Varney 46), Bishop (Bru 57), Skuse, Tabb; Murphy, Sears (Clarke 90).

Unused subs: Kenny, Chaplow, Anderson, Wood.

Booked: Skuse (22), Bru (90)

BOLTON WDRS (3-5-2): Amos; Mills (cpt), Dervite, Ream; Vela, Trotter, Rochinha (Hall 79), Coke, Walker; Gudjohnsen (Bannan 64), Davies.

Unused subs: Bogdan, Moxey, Woolery, Twardzik, Threlkeld.

Attendance: 16,923 (249 away)

Referee: Fred Graham.

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