Ipswich Town 0-1 Wolves: Blues outclassed by leaders as Doherty header wins it

Matt Doherty (2) is congratulated by team-mate Helder Costa after giving Wolverhampton a 1-0 lead.

Matt Doherty (2) is congratulated by team-mate Helder Costa after giving Wolverhampton a 1-0 lead. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Wolves’ class told as Matt Doherty’s first-half header settled the clash at Portman Road but it could easily have been much worse for Ipswich Town.

Matt Doherty heads the visitors into a 1-0 lead. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Matt Doherty heads the visitors into a 1-0 lead. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The leaders extended their advantage at the top to 12 points with their win and, for all the Blues’ efforts and attempts at goal during a contest in which they played their part for an hour, they ran out comfortable winners and should really have done so by more.

The exciting and expensively assembled front-three of Diogo Jota, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa were ready to snap into action at any moment and sliced through the Ipswich back line time and again and could easily have added to their lead.

You felt as if the league leaders always had at least one more gear to find, just as they did in the reverse fixture at Molineux last month, while they as strong defensively as they are going forward due to their organised shape clearly-defined roles.

For the Blues, the intensity was their in an opening half when they out-shot their visitors, but as it dropped off in the second they looked less and less likely to create.

A day after agreeing a new deal with the club, Bartosz Bialkowski had to be at his best in the second half to keep out a flurry of Wolves efforts as the leaders threatened to run riot.

The warning signs were there early on, as Costa burned past Knudsen inside the opening 30 seconds, with the Dane only able to stick out a lazy leg and bring him down. The following free-kick came to nothing, but the visitors continued to press despite the Blues firing a pot shots from the edge of the box through Callum Connolly and Martyn Waghorn.

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But the visiting pressure soon told as, after a slick Wolves mood in the middle of midfield, Barry Douglas clipped a ball across the box which Matt Doherty headed into the ground and into the top corner of the net. Bersant Celina ducked under the wing header before it looped into the back of the net, while a puzzled-looking Bialkowski could only watch as the ball bounced into the net.

Ipswich responded, though, with Celina the most likely to make things happen through a succession of forward runs which brought about one good effort on goal which worried John Ruddy.

But Ipswich’s efforts, which also included shots from McGoldrick and Waghorn which ex-Norwich keeper Ruddy needed to turn over the top, were limited to speculative efforts before they went in at the break a goal down.

The hosts continued to battle away after the interval, Celina at the heart of it all, but time and again Wolves exciting front three burst forward to threaten.

It really should have been two when Jota eased past Luke Chambers to find himself clean through on goal, only for his pull-back to be behind Costa who had an open net to find.

Costa was the next to slice through, breaking between Chambers and Knudsen to force another good save from Bialkowski, before the Pole was needed to keep out efforts from substitutes Leo Bonatini and Bright Enobakhare.

As manager Mick McCarthy made a triple change with seven minutes remaining, introducing Luke Hyam, Freddie Sears and Grant Ward, Celina curled an effort into the hands of Ruddy in a rare threatening moment for the Blues.

There was the threat of a thrilling finish, as Ipswich lobbed the ball into the box in search of an equaliser, but Jordan Spence couldn’t make the most of their best chance as the visitors rightfully left with three point.

Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Spence, Chambers, Carter-Vickers, Knudsen; Connolly, Gleeson (83); Celina, McGoldrick (Ward 83), Waghorn, Garner (Sears 83).

Subs: Crowe, Webster, Kenlock, Bru

Wolves: Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Douglas; N’Diaye, Neves; Costa (Enobakhare 78) Cavaleiro (Bonatini 71), Jota

Subs: Norris, Batth, Gibbs-White, Miranda, Vinagre

Goal: Doherty 15