Portsmouth 2-1 Ipswich Town: Defeat for Blues as Cook's men fade at Fratton Park
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Ipswich Town let a lead slip as they fell away during their eventual 2-1 loss at Portsmouth.
Things were looking good after 40 minutes, with an excellent James Norwood strike putting Paul Cook’s men ahead as a solid first-half was coming to an end.
The Blues had implemented Cook’s tactics well, pushing high, playing with energy and working the ball well, but it sadly didn’t last.
Pompey captain Tom Naylor equalised with an excellent header from a corner, pegging the visitors back before the break, with Danny Cowley’s men finding their second midway through the second period as Marcus Harness lashed home from inside the box.
The hosts had much the better of the second period, with Town dropping deeper after conceding the equaliser and struggling to maintain a real attacking threat during the second 45-minutes.
The return of Kance Vincent-Young, from the bench for the final 10 minutes, was a positive for Town, on an afternoon where Cook suffered his third defeat in five games in charge of the Blues.
Defeat sees Town drop to eighth in the League One table, with Portsmouth jumping above them and into the final play-off place ahead of the 3pm kick-offs.
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Next up for Town is a trip to Wigan next weekend.
Cook made four changes to his side ahead of his return to a club where he won the League Two title in 2017, starting at left-back where Stephen Ward came in for a first start under the new boss as Myles Kenlock dropping out of the 18.
The midfield engine room saw Teddy Bishop come in for Cole Skuse, who dropped to the bench, while Keanan Bennetts replaced Troy Parrott, allowing Alan Judge to play centrally behind James Norwood, who replaced Kayden Jackson.
The start was frenetic, with both managers bouncing around their technical areas, driving their sides, before Portsmouth had the first effort on goal as Ronan Curtis drove a free-kick straight at Tomas Holy in the Town goal.
Clean possession was tough for either side to come by as the ball pinged around the middle of the pitch, with a rare Town foray forward seeing Norwood win an aerial ball before slipping an excellent pass through for Edwards to scamper onto. Sadly, though, the Welshman was out-battled as full-back Lee Brown came round to cover.
Town were carrying out Cook’s instructions well, pressing high and battling away, without being able to gain a true attacking platform, with a rare opening seeing Bishop drive through the middle, feed Norwood down the right of the box to cross for Bennetts, who lunged for the ball but saw his effort blocked away.
Soon after, the Blues were ahead. The combination of Edwards and Norwood looked the most-likely combination to make things happen for the Blues and so it proved, with the winger slipping a delightful ball through for his striker, who produced an unstoppable finish from a tough angle. He’s the only striker at the club you would back to score from there.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as a dangerous corner into the box just evaded Toto Nsiala and saw Naylor get the run on Town captain Luke Chambers, before angling an excellent header back across goal and into the far corner of the net.
The equaliser energised Portsmouth before the break, with Ronan Curtis flashing a shot wide, before Edwards opened the second period for the visitors with a skidding shot which Craig MacGillvray saved easily enough.
Tomas Holy was called into action as he made a good double-save from another dangerous Pompey set-piece, before Marcus Harness was given far too much space to waltz into Town territory, before laying a pass off for Ryan Williams to fire just wide.
Armando Dobra was summoned from the bench on the hour, replacing Bennetts, but Town continued to sink back as the hosts gained control of the contest, before ultimately taking the lead.
It came down the right flank, as Curtis got in behind Chambers to cut the ball back into danger, where Judge threw himself in front of Marcus Harness’s shot well, only for the ball to fall back to the feet of the Pompey attacker who lashed past Holy, Nsiala and James Wilson on the line.
Kayden Jackson and Vincent-Young were introduced as Cook desperately looked to gain an attacking foothold in the contest, but it never came as they slumped to defeat.
Portsmouth: MacGillvray; Bolton, Whatmough, Raggett, Brown; Williams, Naylor, Cannon (Close, 58), Curtis, Harness, Hiwula (Jacobs)
Subs: Ward, Nicolaisen, Daniels, Mnoga, Byers
Ipswich Town: Holy; Chambers, Nsiala, Wilson (Vincent-Young, 79), Ward; Bishop (Parrott, 89), Dozzell; Edwards, Judge (Jackson, 79), Bennetts (Dobra, 59); Norwood
Subs: Cornell, McGuinness, Skuse