Gallery: Town storm back in six-goal thriller

IPSWICH Town rallied from 3-1 down to secure a draw in a Portman Road thriller against Tony Mowbray’s Middlesbrough.

Ipswich Town 3-3 Middlesbrough

IPSWICH Town rallied from 3-1 down to secure a draw in a Portman Road thriller against Tony Mowbray’s Middlesbrough.

Grant Leadbitter fired Town into an early lead, although three unanswered goals from Andy Halliday, Scott McDonald and Andrew Taylor put Boro in the driving seat.

Yet Town came storming back, via Connor Wickham’s superb header and Leadbitter’s slick penalty, to leave everyone breathless by the final whistle.

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So although Town were unable to chalk up a fourth successive league win, for the first time since the Autumn of 2004, their fans could have few complaints about the entertainment served up. It was value for money all the way.

The goal-feast began after just seven minutes, with Leadbitter giving Town the early impetus.

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Jimmy Bullard’s corner was headed back by Damien Delaney, and David Norris slid the ball into the path of Leadbitter, who let fly with a 20-yard shot that took a wicked deflection (seemingly off Gareth McAuley) on its way into the net.

Town appeared to be coasting, but the game was then turned on its head by two goals inside a minute before half-time.

Substitute Halliday poached the equaliser on 42 minutes. McDonald’s cross-cum-shot was sliced onto his own bar by Delaney, and the lurking Halliday gleefully volleyed home the rebound.

The Portman Road faithful were still digesting this shock disappointment when ‘Boro struck with a second goal.

This time Halliday turned creator, leaving McAuley floundering on the deck as he burst down the left flank and squared for McDonald to lift his shot over an onrushing Arran Lee-Barrett.

Six minutes into the second period and ‘Boro were 3-1 up, thanks to Taylor’s slick finish from Halliday’s precise pass.

Town looked to be dead and buried, but they came storming back during the final half-hour.

Wickham reduced the deficit by heading home Bullard’s 63rd minute free-kick. It was a clinical finish from the teenager, his eighth goal since the turn of the year.

And it was 3-3 in the 77th minute. Substitute Lee Martin was tripped in the box by ‘Boro skipper Matthew Bates, so enabling Leadbitter to step up and stroke home his second goal of the game, and his fifth of the campaign.

Both sides had chances to win this thriller late on, but a draw was perhaps the most appropriate result for such a topsy-turvy game.

Jewell had named an unchanged team from Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, and his side were soon in the ascendancy.

Man-of-the-moment Josh Carson, with a spring in his step following his brace of goals over Palace, caused a stir with a superb low cross that fizzed along the face of the goal. The awaiting Jason Scotland was just unable to divert home.

But it didn’t take long for Town to take the lead, via Leadbitter’s deflected drive. It was his first goal from open play this season.

Town had three opportunities to double their lead, before ‘Boro struck with their shock brace.

Wickham had a shot blocked by Tony McMahon, and lone front-man Scotland was denied a sight of goal by Stephen McManus’ excellent block tackle on the edge of the six-yard box.

Skipper Norris went closer in the 40th minute. Carson whipped over a delightful cross with his left boot, and Norris’ flick header was pushed away by keeper Smith at full stretch. Wickham could not force home the rebound, but he was standing in an offside position anyway.

However, any thoughts of Town increasing their lead were dispelled in devastating fashion, as two goals in a minute from Halliday and McDonald, on 42 and 43 minutes, handed Mowbray a surprise half-time lead.

Town did have one chance to equalise in first-half stoppage time, when McAuley’s downward header rolled wide of target from Bullard’s free-kick.

Almost straight from the kick-off, at the start of the second-half, ‘Boro nearly netted a third. McDonald jumped with Lee-Barrett to contest a high ball, and Town’s keeper lost out. Fortunately, McDonald found the angle too narrow and his effort rolled wide.

But there was no escape for Town when Taylor beat Lee-Barrett with a crisp finish to put ‘Boro 3-1 up in the 51st minute.

The hosts thought they had reduced the deficit in the 55th minute. Keeper Smith could only push Bullard’s shot into the path of Wickham, who planted the rebound into the back of the net. But the teenager was standing in an offside position.

Yet Wickham did not take long to celebrate his seventh goal of the campaign, when heading home Bullard’s free-kick.

And he was desperately close to chalking up an equaliser in the 67th minute. This time his bullet header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by an agile Smith.

However, the goal-bonanza continued with Leadbitter converting a 77th minute penalty to make it 3-3.

Keeper Smith then pulled off two terrific saves, from Wickham’s close-range shot and Delaney’s close-range header, to keep the scores level.

There were goalmouth scrambles at the other end as well, with Lee-Barrett twice denying left-back Joe Bennett at his near post.

Town almost clinched a fourth successive win in the 89th minute, but Smith somehow managed to keep out Bullard’s ferocious free-kick, even though the shot knocked him off his feet!

It had been a real cracker.

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