Match report: Ipswich Town 1 Birmingham City 1 – Grant Ward’s fluke goal rescues a draw
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Grant Ward’s fluke goal rescued Ipswich Town a point against fellow Championship strugglers Birmingham City at Portman Road this afternoon.
Following a scrappy first half, Jonathan Grounds’ rebound finish – which had a hint of offside about it – put the defence-minded visitors ahead less than three minutes after the restart.
The atmosphere turned toxic, as disgruntled fans went through a full rendition of angry chants aimed at manager Mick McCarthy and owner Marcus Evans, before Ward’s intended cross found the net in the 72nd minute.
Town once again had keeper Bartosz Bialkowski to thank as the Polish custodian made three vital stops in the game – the best when he prevented a potential David McGoldrick own goal at the death when clawing the ball out from under the crossbar.
A share of the spoils was probably about right, with both out-of-form teams looking devoid of confidence.
Blackburn’s 1-0 defeat at Brighton means Ipswich and Birmingham are now six points clear of the relegation zone with seven games to play. Elsewhere, Burton snatched a last-gasp winner at Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest drew at Preston, while Bristol City lost 2-0 at Brentford.
Town now host second-bottom Wigan on Tuesday night.
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McCarthy spoke in the build-up about supporters leaving any of their frustrations at the turnstiles and getting behind the team for a high-stakes match. His decision to recall veteran midfielder Jonathan Douglas to the starting line-up, for the first time since that ignominious FA Cup defeat at Lincoln City, did little to inspire though.
Birmingham boss Gianfranco Zola stuck with his ultra-defensive 5-4-1 system and all fears that a scrappy, dull, edgy affair would follow unfortunately proved founded.
A typically forgettable first half on Suffolk soil contained few highlights. Ipswich had a lot of the ball, but lacked invention. The hosts had a decent five minute spell around the half-hour mark, but Freddie Sears put his shot too close to Tomasz Kuszczak from a golden position. Less than 60 seconds later Sears had the ball in the net, but Ward had just run the ball out of play before the pull-back.
Cole Skuse had to be replaced by Kevin Bru just before half-time after suffering concussion following David Davis’ late challenge.
Birmingham broke the deadlock after a long ball and some good hold-up play led to Lukas Jutkiewicz’s shot being beaten away by Bialkowski. Advanced left wing-back Grounds gobbled up the rebound in acres of space and, even with replays, it was difficult to tell if Jonas Knudsen had played him onside.
Town’s players seemed to shrink at the set-back and the atmosphere soon turned toxic. Fans in the North Stand chanted ‘Mick McCarthy, your football is s***’, ‘Marcus Evans, you’re killing our club’ and ‘we want our Ipswich back’.
McCarthy brought on striker Dominic Samuel for his debut and the Reading loan striker’s neat touch led to the leveller. Ward ran at his marker, attempted to whip the ball in and succeeded in looping the ball over keeper Kuszczak and into the far side of the net.
It was Birmingham who came closest to winning the match though as Bialkowski twice came to the rescue at the end. First, he did well to turn Jutkiewicz’s close-range shot around the post following Craig Gardner’s brilliant disguised pass. Then, from the subsequent corner, he clawed McGoldrick’s header out from under the bar.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-1-2): Bialkowski; Spence, Chambers (cpt), Bera, Knudsen; Ward, Skuse (Bru 44), Douglas; McGoldrick; Pitman (Samuel 70), McGoldrick.
Unused subs: Gerken, Taylor, Kenlock, Diagourgaga, Rowe.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (5-4-1): Kuszczak; Nsue, Bielik, Shotton, Robinson, Grounds; Tesche; Kieftenbeld (Gleeson 86), Davis (Donaldson 83); Gardner; Jutkiewicz.
Unused subs: Legzdins, Keita, Cogley, Frei, Adams.
Booked: Bielik (69)
Attendance: 16,7667 (952 away)
Referee: Andrew Madley