Ipswich Town 1-1 Sunderland: Entertaining draw as new boss McKenna watches on at packed Portman Road

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester.

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town and Sunderland played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at a packed-out Portman Road this afternoon. 

With more than 29,000 tickets sold, two of the club’s American owners in Town and new boss Kieran McKenna watching from the stands, the Blues came out all-guns-blazing and were deservedly ahead in first-half stoppage time, when James Norwood headed home to raise the roof off the Blues' famous old home. 

But they were pegged back within five minutes of the second half kicking off, as Nathan Broadhead scored his fifth goal in as many goals to bring Sunderland level and ultimately secure a point. 

James Norwood heads home.

James Norwood heads home. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

At their best, Town played with energy, desire and purpose, with McKenna surely liking what he saw as he sat with Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer in the directors box, particularly in an excellent first-half. But it was a pace the hosts weren’t able to keep up for the entirety of the 90 minutes. 

But they were able to maintain a point, which was the least they deserved, on an afternoon where the Blues will have served up a display the vast majority of the big Portman Road crowd will have enjoyed. The hope has to be that many of those more infrequent visitors return. 

The McKenna era begins in earnest on Monday morning, when the former Manchester United coach takes charge, with the Blues beginning his tenure 11th in the table. 

His first game is set to be at Gillingham on Boxing Day. 

Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay pictured either side of Ipswich chairman Mike OLeary ahead of the game.

Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay pictured either side of Ipswich chairman Mike O'Leary ahead of the game. New boss Kieran McKenna is on the right of the picture. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

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John McGreal, Rene Gilmartin and Kieron Dyer switched to a wing back system for the Black Cats’ visit, welcoming Wes Burns back into the side after the best part of a month on the sidelines. He and Matt Penney started in the wide positions, with a back three of Luke Woolfenden, George Edmundson and Janoi Donacien inside them. Sam Morsy and Lee Evans were the central midfield two, with one Aluko playing off a strike duo of James Norwood and Macauley Bonne. 

The players entered the field of play to a sea of blue and white flags and fire cannons as a packed out Portman Road welcomed the two sides, on an important day for the Blues. 

The hosts were on the front foot early, with Burns busy down the right flank and an attempt at a clever corner routine not coming off, before Norwood let fly with the first shot of the afternoon. He didn’t catch it right, though, as it flew out for a throw. 

Norwood combined with Burns for Town’s next opening, which saw a clever exchange between the two ended with the Welshman flash the ball wide, before the wing-back's rampaging run down the right brought Ipswich’s next chance. It fell to Penney, as Burns crossed over the top of Bonne, but the late-arriving left-back couldn’t finish as he angled his effort over the top of the bar. 

Wes Burns shoots.

Wes Burns shoots. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

The Blues kept the pressure on, looking to attack down the flacks while also threatening from a couple of corners, but not being able to take advantage of the upper hand their efforts had given them. 

An injury to Sunderland’s Leon Dajaku took the sting out of the game, as the Union Berlin man received plenty of treatment before ultimately leaving the contest on a stretcher. 

That led to seven minutes of stoppage time and it only took Ipswich a minute of it to take a lead their performance had deserved. 

Morsy made it, as he took the ball inside and popped a lovely pass through which allowed Bonne to cross, with a deflection helping Norwood out-fox his man and cleverly head home off the underside of the crossbar. After celebrating with his team-mates, the striker ran straight to celebrate with Town coach Dyer, before the Blues took their advantage in at the break. 

Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay celebrate James Norwoods first half goal.

Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay celebrate James Norwoods first half goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

They didn’t make it through the first five minutes of the second period with their lead intact, though, as Broadhead was slipped away by Dan Neil to finish well past Christian Walton. 

The Town keeper then had to make a smart stop to deny Ross Stewart, before Bonne headed wide from a Burns cross, as the two sides traded blows. 

McGreal then introduced Kane Vincent-Young, in place of Penney, before Norwood was withdrawn and replaced by Conor Chaplin, as Town looked to keep energy levels high as the contest headed into its final 20 minutes. 

Vincent-Young curled a shot wide, after Morsy’s rocket was stopped at source, before Chaplin angled a shot at goal which Thorben Hoffmann was able to pluck out of the air easily enough. 

New Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on from the directors box.

New Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on from the directors box during Town's game with Sunderland - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Town came on strong in the final few minutes, without testing the visiting keeper further, before referee Thomas Bramall blew for full-time. 

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson; Burns, Morsy, Evans, Penney (Vincent-Young, 63); Aluko, Norwood (Chaplin, 69), Bonne

Subs: Hladky, Burgess, Fraser, Carroll, Pigott

Sunderland (3-4-2-1): Hoffmann, Dajuku (Hume, 41), Wright, Flanagan, Doyle, Gooch, Winchester, Neil, Pritchard (Embleton, 63), Broadhead (O'Brien, 87), Stewart

Subs: Patterson, Alves, Younger, Kimpioka

Att: 29,005 (2,023 Sunderland fans)

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