Comment: Routine in the end, but significance of Ipswich Town win at Millwall shouldn’t be under-estimated
The significance of Saturday’s 3-1 win at Millwall should not be downplayed, if Ipswich Town achieve automatic promotion in May.
The Blues moved back into second place with this victory, following Derby County’s shock 2-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest earlier in the day.
In the end, two goals from Noel Hunt and a late strike from substitute Jonathan Parr ensured a routine victory for Mick McCarthy’s men – Magaye Gueye reducing the deficit to 2-1, just before the break.
Make no mistake though, this was a potential banana skin for the visitors, given the game’s sub-plots, but Ipswich came through with flying colours and, crucially, unscathed.
On paper, Town headed to London as clear favourites, having taken 27 points from a possible 33 since defeat at Cardiff in October.
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However, a home loss to Derby last weekend saw them slip to third in the table and that was followed by a disappointing FA Cup defeat to Southampton, in midweek.
Town could also only name six substitutes on the bench too, with Cole Skuse (ill) being sent home on the morning of the game and joining Teddy Bishop (illness), Dean Gerken (hip), Luke Hyam (knee) and David McGoldrick (leg) on the sidelines.
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That was nothing compared to Ian Holloway’s wounded Lions though, who were still licking their wounds following the 4-0 defeat at League One Bradford, in the FA Cup.
Millwall went into the game having won just two of their last 20 league fixtures and had taken just 12 points from a possible 36 at home. They were desperate for a victory.
The Den can be a tough place to play, should a vociferous home support be given any early encouragement, and the Lions’ Diego Fabbrini fired just wide after two minutes.
That proved to be a big chance missed as Noel Hunt silenced the locals with two goals inside the opening 14 minutes.
Ipswich have and will play much better this season but, having deflated the hosts, were able to sit back and pick off a clueless home side. Holloway’s men lacked invention and only poor concentration levels from Ipswich allowed Gueye to finish from Gregory’s pass.
That lifted the home fans but despite plenty of endeavour, Millwall huffed and puffed and Parr’s goal finally broke their spirit.
Town were on a hiding to nothing and now face similar games at Brighton (18th) on Wednesday night, before hosting Wigan (23rd) and travelling to Rotherham (21st).
A seven-point haul from this trio is a minimum requirement and success will represent three more tricky hurdles overcome.