MATCH REPORT: Ipswich Town 1 Barnsley 1
Ipswich v Barnsley: Ipswich Town were left clinging on for a point against lowly Barnsley at Portman Road.
The Blues had just about edged a dull first half and led at the break courtesy of Daryl Murphy’s headed finish from a corner.
Barnsley took charge after the restart though, with former Colchester United midfielder David Perkins pulling the strings.
Their equaliser arrived in the 70th minute when substitute Jim O’Brien side-footed home at the back post.
The Tykes – who had lost all six of their previous away matches – were the ones pushing for a winner at the death, former Blues front man Jason Scotland missing a gilt-edged chance.
A disappointing night was then capped off when Aaron Cresswell was red carded after the final whistle for foul and abusive language towards referee Andy D’Urso.
The left-back was protesting for the non award of a penalty deep into stoppage-time, Frank Nouble and Jean Yves Mvoto seemingly pulling each others’ shirts in the box. He’ll now be suspended for Saturday’s game at Blackpool.
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Blues boss Mick McCarthy named the same starting XI for the seventh game in a row. The last time that happened was in the 1991/92 promotion season when John Lyall played the same team for 12 matches in succession.
It meant that Paul Taylor – recalled prematurely from his loan spell at Peterborough on Wednesday – had to make do with a place on the bench, replacing the injured Jack Marriott (ankle) in the squad.
With 15 minutes played, most of the neutrals watching on television will have been reaching for the remote. Zero shots, zero goalmouth action and just one foul was the sum of the play.
The first attempt on goal finally arrived in the 23rd minute when Tommy Smith – head heavily bandaged after Chris O’Grady’s stray elbow had left him with a cut near the eye earlier on – rose bravely to contest a high ball with keeper Jack Butland. The effort may have looped over the bar, but at least it sparked some life into the match.
Within the next 60 seconds, both sides had decent chances to break the deadlock. First, after Dean Gerken had raced off his line to half clear, McCourt’s crisp side-footed effort from 40 yards was heading for the back of the unguarded net. Thankfully for Ipswich, Cresswell had read the situation and raced back to make an important interception.
Town responded superbly by going straight up the other end and forging a good opening of their own. Luke Chambers’ cross was neatly chested off by David McGoldrick, Paul Anderson volleying over from the edge of the box.
The hosts began to get on top of the game from here on, patiently passing the ball and waiting for their opening.
Either side of the half an hour mark Cresswell was on the end of two slick moves. His first cut-back from the by-line was deflected towards goal by defender Martin Cranie and forced a reaction stop out of Butland at the near post. The second time his low cross fizzed across the face of goal.
The Blues broke the deadlock in the 41st minute when Murphy headed home Cresswell’s corner from the left. The Irishman may have been left unmarked, and Barnsley may have failed to leave a man on the post, but nevertheless it was a good leap and good execution.
The match was firmly in Ipswich’s hands, but they started the second half sluggishly and suddenly it was Barnsley who were dictating possession.
Gerken dived to his right to claw an O’Grady shot out the top corner in the 50th minute, strike partner Marcus Pedersen having brilliantly laid off a long kick from the keeper.
You could sense the nerves around Portman Road as the home players began to chase shadows.
And it was no surprise when the equaliser arrived in the 70th minute, O’Brien – who had replaced the injured Jacob Mellis just before the break – side-footing home at the back post after McCourt’s clipped cross had skimmed the heads of Smith and O’Grady.
Barnsley sensed an opportunity, manager David Flitcroft bringing on striker Scotland – back at Portman Road for the first time since he was released back in January – for Pedersen.
The Trinidadian received a warm applause upon his entry to the play. Moments later he was denied an excellent goalscoring chance, Christophe Berra producing a fantastic last-ditch tackle in the box.
Barnsley pushed for the winner in the closing moments, missing two gilt-edged chances.
First Scotland fired into the side-netting after Tom Kennedy’s deep free-kick evaded everyone and fell to his feet perfectly at the far post.
The Blues just about emerged unscathed following an almighty goalmouth scramble soon afterwards.
And there were yet more sighs of relief when another deep Kennedy free-kick caught the home side napping, O’Brien allowed to drift onto the delivery and fire straight at Gerken.
Ipswich did hit back as the game entered stoppage-time, with lively substitute Nouble convinced he should have had a penalty following contact with Mvoto in the box.
However, replays showed both players were tugging each others’ shirts with McCarthy admitting afterwards that the referee got it right.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Anderson (Tabb 69), Hyam, Skuse, Tunnicliffe (Taylor 82); Murphy, McGoldrick (Nouble 82).
Subs: Loach, Hewitt, Mings, Edwards.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Butland; Kennedy, Cranie (cpt), Mvoto, Wiseman; Mellis (O’Brien 43), Perkins, Fox, McCourt (Etuhu 81); Pedersen (Scotland 74), O’Grady.
Subs: Dibble, Hassell, Jennings, Cywka.
Referee: Andy D’Urso.