Ipswich Town 0-1 Fleetwood Town: Lambert’s Blues lack intensity, invention and fight as ‘must-win’ game ends in defeat
PUBLISHED: 21:40 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 23:49 03 March 2020
Ipswich Town’s lingering play-off hopes are now on life support after the Blues went down 1-0 to rivals Fleetwood Town.
Ched Evans, the former Norwich striker, scored the only goal of the contest just before half-time of a game in which the Blues lacked invention, intensity and fight.
Once they fell behind, you never truly felt like they would find have enough quality to find an equaliser, let alone a second goal required to secure a victory manager Paul Lambert stressed was required from what he had labelled a must-win game.
Fleetwood's opener led to chants against owner Marcus Evans and manager Lambert from a North Stand who have grown tired with their club's slide down the football pyramid, and more-recently the League One table.
The ironic chants continued throughout as the hosts never truly looked like finding a way back into this game, which is ultimately how it played out despite a slight improvement in the second half.
The defeat is surely a terminal blow to Ipswich's play-off hopes. They remain ninth but are now six points behind Fleetwood having played two games more, with Joey Barton's side moving into the final play-off place.
Next up is the visit of Coventry City, who are chasing automatic promotion.
There were raised eyebrows when the Ipswich team sheet was released at 6.45pm, as Brett McGavin has given his league debut and Andre Dozzell handed a first league appearance of 2020. Their inclusions came as Cole Skuse (shin) and Emyr Huws (toe) were ruled out through injury and Freddie Sears and Teddy Bishop deemed not fit enough to go again having started at the weekend.
Alan Judge and Jon Nolan came in for them, while Flynn Downes (suspended) and Luke Woolfenden also dropped out of the side with James Wilson and Janoi Donacien coming in in their places.
Lambert was also of course without his two leading goalscorers, with Kayden Jackson (suspended) and James Norwood (injured) still on the sidelines. They will be there for the weekend visit of Coventry, too.
Fleetwood, on the other hand, named an unchanged side for a fourth-successive game and got the game started inside a muted Portman Road, following the Blues' poor run of form which has seen them tumble out of promotion contention.
Lambert opted to return to wing-backs, having switched to a back four at Blackpool, with Luke Garbutt and Donacien dealing with pressure well inside the opening few minutes.
Neither side were able to grab hold of the contest during the first 15 minutes, before former Ipswich loanee Callum Connolly was forced off after suffering a cut to the face, with former Norwich striker Ched Evans on in his place.
Faint chants of 'Marcus Evans, get out of our club' came from the North Stand as the uninspiring football on the pitch did little to lift a flat home crowd, with hearts in mouths as captain Luke Chambers stepped in to block a low Barrie McKay cross away and ended up firing it off his own post. Thankfully it bounced safely.
The moans and groans continued from the stands as the Blues misplaced pass after pass and took heavy touches which rolled harmlessly into touch, before the biggest boo of the half as the ball was slid through the middle of the Ipswich defence where Evans took his time, rolled the ball past Chambers and slotted into the net past Tomas Holy.
That goal prompted further anti-Evans chanting and 'sacked in the morning' jibes aimed at manager Lambert. The traveling Fleetwood fans responded with the same.
The Blues strung some decent passages of play together before being booed off at the break, with Freddie Sears emerging after the interval in place of youngster McGavin.
Saturday's goalscorer nearly had an instant impact, as his shot was deflected over within minutes of coming on, before Tyreece Simpson was introduced for Will Keane to great cheers.
The young forward, who only signed his first professional contract on Monday, added a new physical threat and Ipswich were nearly level soon after his introduction, as first Alan Judge's in-swinging free-kick was hacked off the line before Nolan's follow up shot was cleared from danger inches from the goal.
Sears, Simpson and Teddy Bishop, Lambert's third substitute, added a new dimension to the Blues, with Simpson turning and having a good shot clawed away by Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns, but sadly that's as good as it got before the hosts were booed off at full-time.
Ipswich Town: Holy; Donacien, Chambers, Wilson, Earl, Garbutt, McGavin (Sears, 46), Dozzell, Nolan (Bishop, 75), Judge, Keane
Subs: Norris, Woolfenden, Edwards, Dobra
Fleetwood Town: Carins; Coyle, Souttar, Gibson, Andrew; Connolly (Evans, 15), Coutts (Thorvaldsson, 85), Whelan; Burns, Mckay (Sowerby 72), Madden
Subs: Crellin, Morris, Saunders, Holgate
Att: 15,678 (88 Fleetwood fans)
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