Report: Plenty to like in first game of Lambert era but Blues only take a point from dramatic contest
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Paul Lambert’s Ipswich Town reign began in dramatic fashion but the Blues were only able to take a point in their 1-1 draw with Preston.
The new Blues boss will have been pleased with what he saw as his side produced the high-tempo, energetic and passion-filled display he promised, which for a long time looked like it would earn three points after Freddie Sears converted a penalty late in the first half.
Paul Gallagher’s free-kick goal silenced the home crowd momentarily as he fired past the wall with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. Moments later the forward would find himself in goal, after Preston stopper Chris Maxwell came charging out to bring down striker Kayden Jackson.
The Welshman had already been booked after bringing down Jordan Roberts for Sears’ penalty and, with Preston having used all three of their substitutes, Gallagher would end up keeping goal for 20 minutes.
Substitute Danny Rowe forced the only save from the forward as the Blues searched for a winner which ultimately didn’t arrive.
The Blues were cheered off at the end of an entertaining afternoon of football, but they remain bottom of the Championship on a day when rivals Norwich went top.
There was much intrigue as the team-sheets were delivered ahead of Lambert’s first game in charge of the Blues.
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The new boss named a balanced back four of Jordan Spence, Luke Chambers, Matthew Pennington and Jonas Knudsen, while Cole Skuse lined up in the achor role of a three-man midfield including Flynn Downes and Trevoh Chalobah while Gwion Edwards and Sears occupied the wide roles.
The major surprise was the inclusions of Roberts, who had just 23 minutes and two substitute appearances to his name prior to this afternoon, as the central striker.
And he was involved early, with the Blues looking for him in the air and allowing the former Crawley man to show his ability with his head.
A string of flick-ons threatened to unlock the door for the hosts, while the 24-year-old also let fly from a free-kick that was blocked in the wall before a foul was awarded from an infringement.
It was home goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski who was called into action first, though, as he was called upon to palm a Callum Robinson shot away as Preston served a reminder of just why they are among the division’s leading goalscorers.
Sears, back in a wide role, was the Blues’ greatest attacking outlet as he tested his man again and again, but found little to aim at in the middle of the box.
It was a similar story from the other side, although Edwards was able to beat his man and send in a teasing ball that Downes came close to turning home before a foul was given against him.
Roberts then struck wide but, minutes later, was lying inside the Preston penalty area seizing onto a loose Josh Earl backpass and being chopped down by goalkeeper Chris Maxwell.
In what seemed like a huge moment for Ipswich, Sears stuttered his run up from the resulting spot kick and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to send Portman Road wild before the half-time whistle blew.
The Blues came out in the same manner after the break, full of running, high in tempo and on the front foot, with Skuse firing wide and then Chalobah bursting towards the box and firing his own effort off target.
Pennington was the next to come close as his flying header from a Downes corner narrowly drifted wide, before a lengthy delay while Knudsen received treatment for a head injury.
The Dane was good to carry on, as the drama inside Portman Road was turned up a level.
Gallagher’s free-kick levelled matters and silenced the home crowd momentarily, but fever pitch was reached again when realisation dawned that Maxwell was on his way after bringing down a charging Jackson.
Gallagher took the gloves and saved well from Rowe’s dipping volley, which was as close as the Blues came to forcing a winner.
And they could have left with nothing, had Pennington not got back superbly to tackle Lukas Nmecha when the youngster was clean through late on.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Spence, Chambers, Pennington, Knudsen; Chalobah, Downes (Dozzell 84), Skuse; Edwards, Roberts (Jackson 73); Sears
Subs: Gerken, Donacien, Edun, Rowe, Lankester
Preston: Maxwell; Clarke, Huntington, Davies (Gallagher 71), Earl; Pearson, Johnson (Moult 62); Barkhuizen (Nmecha 72), Browne, Robinson; Maguire
Subs: Rudd, Fisher, Storey, Barker
Maxwell sent off 76
Att: 15,129 (404 Preston fans)