Ipswich Town 1-0 Gillingham: Below-par Blues sneak home victory
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town found a way to win as Kieran McKenna’s below-par Blues beat Gillingham 1-0 this afternoon.
Conor Chaplin scored the only goal of this game on 74 minutes, as he collected George Edmundson’s pass to the edge of the box and lashed the ball into the back of the net, much to the relief of another big home crowd.
The goal ultimately came out of nothing, on an afternoon where Town lacked ideas, drive, precision and threat for long spells and never really looked like scoring until the winner did ultimately come.
Thankfully it did because, had it not, Town would have slipped further away from the top six and suffered a major blow in their bid to crash back into the promotion race.
The gap to the play-off places remains eight, heading into Tuesday night’s visit to a Doncaster side who won at Sunderland this afternoon.
Better is needed from the Blues if they are to end their season as anything approaching contenders but, ultimately, they just about managed to do what was needed this afternoon.
The three points could prove to be vitally important.
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McKenna made four changes to his side for a clash against a team beaten 4-0 less than a month ago, with the most notable being a rare start for Joe Pigott as the former AFC Wimbledon man came in for Macauley Bonne.
James Norwood replaced Bersant Celina, who dropped to the bench, while Lee Evans and Tom Carroll formed a fresh midfield in place of Idris El Mizouni and Tyreeq Bakinson. The latter made the bench.
Ipswich keeper Christian Walton was called into early action, as he dropped to his right to push Danny Lloyd’s free-kick away for a corner, which Town were ultimately able to clear.
Town responded with two set-piece chances of their own, as George Edmundson touched a wicked Lee Evans cross wide of goal before Pigott could only guide his header over the top of the bar as he latched onto Luke Woolfenden’s knock-down.
Neither side were able to truly get the ball under control and string passages of possession together, though Town made a better fist of things and forced another opening when Gills keeper Aaron Chapman could only push Wes Burns’ long-range strike back into danger. It came to Dominic Thompson quickly, though, and the Brentford loanee could only turn the rebound over the top.
Edmundson header Carroll’s out-swinging corner over the top of the bar, before Ben Thompson worried Walton with an effort from outside the box during what was becoming a scrappy affair.
The Portman Road faithful were frustrated at the break and were nearly deflated after it, when Vadaine Oliver chested down a dinked through-ball and sent an accurate shot back across goal and off the outside of Walton’s post.
Burns’ hobbled off and was replaced by Kyle Edwards, as Town suffered a blow, before Walton needed to come to his team’s rescue again as he and his right-hand post helped Danny Lloyd’s scrambled shot fly wide.
Lloyd had been the hosts’ best player before he was stretchered off, having fallen awkwardly in the middle of the pitch, forcing a lengthy stoppage as he received treatment.
The game was drifting. Ipswich were struggling to get anything going. Then, out of nothing, they were ahead.
The Blues moved the ball into Gillingham territory, with Edmundson pushed up on the left side, allowing the centre-half to firmly hit a pass into the path of Chaplin, who took a touch before thumping the ball past Chapman in the visitors’ goal.
It injected life which had previously been sucked out of the 20,000-strong home crowd, which included Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran, on an afternoon where Town simply needed to win to keep up their hopes of gate-crashing the promotion party.
The goal lifted the crowd but there were still some nervy moments to see out, with Town inviting pressure during the final stages of a game which included eight minutes of stoppage time, following the nasty injury to Lloyd.
Ipswich Town (3-4-3): Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson; Burns (Edwards, 53), Evans, Carroll, Thompson; Chaplin (Bakinson, 85); Norwood, Pigott (Bonne, 79)
Subs: Hladky; Burgess, Celina, Jackson
Gillingham (3-5-2): Chapman; Tucker, Ehmer (Phillips, 90), Masterson; McKenzie, Lee, O'Keefe, Tutonda; Lloyd (Kelman, 67), Thompson (Dickson-Peters, 80), Oliver
Subs: Dahlberg, Jackson, Dickson-Peters, Phillips, Sithole, Maghoma
Att: 20.698 (486 away fans)