Burton Albion 0-1 Ipswich Town: McGuinness wins it for nervy Blues at Burton
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A first professional goal from Mark McGuinness was enough for Ipswich Town as they edged past League One’s bottom side this afternoon.
You could sense the relief in the air as the Arsenal loanee headed home Alan Judge’s deflected cross, on an afternoon where the Blues struggled to create during a scrappy affair at the Pirelli Stadium.
Following defeat to 23rd-placed Swindon Town last weekend the pressure had piled onto manager Paul Lambert during the course of the week, with victory a welcome tonic for the Scot and his side as the Blues moved up to seventh in the League One table. They are now three points off Hull in second, having played a game more than the Tigers.
The result and performance will do little to lift the pressure on the Town boss from supporters heading into two games with promotion contenders, as Peterborough visit on Saturday and Sunderland come to Portman Road the following Tuesday.
Lambert, who returned to the touchline for this game having watched the Swindon defeat from the stands during his recovery from Covid, made six changes to his side covering all three areas of the pitch.
James Norwood and Flynn Downes both made significant impacts from the bench against the Robins and were elevated to the starting XI as a result, while Gwion Edwards and Teddy Bishop returned to action after injury.
At the back, Tomas Holy replaced David Cornell between the sticks and Toto Nsiala came into the heart of defence in place of Luke Woolfenden, with the Town backline troubled little during a quiet opening 15 minutes.
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After struggling for ball in midfield during the early minutes of the contest, the Blues began to get on top as the half went on, with Downes seeing more of possession and looking to switch it out to Alan Judge on the right flank.
Their only method of attack was through deep crosses from the right side, with few threatening, until an Andre Dozzell corner on 40 minutes was headed wide by Nsiala.
The whistle blew on a scrappy opening period, lacking quality and any sniff of a clear-cut chance, but the Blues were only level thanks to a stunning block from captain Luke Chambers in added time, with the skipper throwing himself in front of Charles Vernam’s close-range shot after Ryan Edwards’ cross had deflected off the top of Holy’s crossbar.
The second half began in much the same manner, with neither side threatening until Holy’s hesitant run off his line saw him just about block Akins’ shot behind for a corner. The following set-piece saw Burton penalty appeals waved away as, not for the first time, home skipper John Brayford hit the deck and appealed for a spot kick. He received a yellow card for his troubles.
Town’s first change saw Lambert turn to Aaron Drinan as Norwood made way, with the Irishman soon in the thick of the action as he met a teasing Chambers cross and angled a header over goalkeeper Ben Garratt and off the top of the crossbar.
To say a goal was coming would perhaps be generous but Town had moved things up a gear before eventually taking the lead. Bishop won a free-kick on the edge of the box with his final touch before being replaced, with Judge whipping in a cross which took a big deflection before McGuinness towered above his man to head home.
There was a real sense of relief around an empty Pirelli Stadium after Town took a lead they so nearly doubled a few minutes later, when Drinan’s downward header from Judge’s cross was pushed off the line by goalkeeper Garratt.
There was a nervy moment as Holy was required to pounce after the previously-excellent Nsiala slashed a cross towards his own goal, before Josh Parker then fired over another opening for the hosts as they searched for an equaliser.
But the Blues just about stood firm as they claimed three valuable points.
Burton: Garratt; Brayford, Carter, O'Toole (Bostwick, 7), Gallacher (Vassilev, 87); Gilligan, Akins, Powell (Clare, 76), Edwards, Vernam (Parker, 76), Hemmings
Subs: O'Hara, Hart, Varney
Ipswich Town: Holy; Chambers, Nsiala, McGuinness, Ward; Dozzell, Downes, Bishop (Hawkins, 72); Judge, Edwards (Sears, 78); Norwood (Drinan, 59)
Subs: Cornell, Woolfenden, Kenlock, Lankester