FULL-TIME: Ipswich Town 3 Bristol Rovers 1
Ipswich v Bristol Rovers: Town cruised into the second round of the Capital One Cup with a disciplined 3-1 win over League Two Bristol Rovers.
Right-back Michael Smith’s stunner goal out of nothing gave the Pirates a 26th minute lead against the run of play.
But Jason Scotland scored five minutes before the break and second half goals from Tommy Smith – just 60 seconds after Michael Chopra missed a penalty – and Aaron Cresswell gave the Blues a safe passage in the competition.
After Luke Chambers got in a good block to deny Wayne Brown a shot at goal inside 60 seconds, the home side proceeded to carve out a number of chances in their first competitive match of the 2012/13 season.
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Lee Martin, starting on the left-wing as Paul Jewell went with Jason Scotland and Michael Chopra upfront in a 4-4-2 formation, looked bright.
And it was he who almost broke the deadlock in the third minute when he exchanged a short corner with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and his cross-shot was heading for the far corner but Dave Clarkson headed off the line.
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Both Chopra and Scotland had shots saved by Sam Walker in the Rovers goal before the keeper and Town fan, signed on loan just hours before kick-off, denied Emmanuel-Thomas at his near post.
A minute later, the lower league side took the lead – and it was an early contender for goal of the season at Portman Road.
There seemed to be no danger when Smith picked up the ball more than 30 yards out. But he took aim with his left-foot and planted an unstoppable curling shot into the far corner and out of the reach of debutant Scott Loach.
To Town’s credit, they responded well.
Luke Chambers headed over, Chopra was again denied twice by Walker before Scotland’s equaliser five minutes before the break.
After a slow start to the second half, Town burst into life during an amazing 120 seconds of football.
First, Chopra turned provider, releasing Luke Hyam who was tripped in the area by Adam Virgo.
Chopra confidently strode up, having scored from 12 yards against West Ham in the showcase home friendly, but his deliberate hesitation in the run-up appeared to put off taker rather than keeper.
Walker dived to his left and saved well, though it was a good height for the stopper.
But before fears could spread about the Chelsea man being a thorn in Town’s side for the second successive season, the Blues took the lead just 60 seconds after Chopra’s spot-kick woe.
Emmanuel-Thomas’ corners were a feature of the whole night and his near-post set-piece was met perfectly by Smith whose header gave Walker no chance in the 56th minute.
Looking to kill the game off, Emmanuel-Thomas then rifled a fierce drive just over the bar after good work from Carlos Edwards and Scotland.
With 72 on the clock, Martin showed fantastic skill to skip past two defenders and burst into the box but his driven cross was deflected wide by Jim Paterson as Chopra looked to atone for his penalty miss.
The delicate nature of the scoreline meant Jewell could never rest too easy on the bench and, after Cresswell failed to clear a hopeful long ball, Clarkson nipped in but could only divert the ball wide of Loach’s near post.
It was something of a let-off, though massively against the run of play.
Ipswich put the cup tie to bed in the 84th minute thanks to another fine flowing move.
Chopra had the presence of mind to release Emmanuel-Thomas in space on the right and while Walker parried his shot, Cresswell was on hand to head home the rebound from inside the six-yard-box.
Ipswich: Loach; Edwards (cpt), Chambers, Smith, Cresswell; Emmanuel-Thomas, Luongo, Hyam, Martin (Burke 89); Chopra, Scotland (Stevenson 89). Subs – Lee-Barrett, Ellington, Ainsley, Whight, Lawrence.
Bristol Rovers: Walker, Smith, Paterson, Clarkson, Gill (cpt – Lund 61), Harrold, Brown, Norburn (Clucas 63), Anyinsah (Clarke 80), Virgo, Brown. Subs – Harding, Gough, Staley.