REPORT AND GALLERY: Crawley Town 1 Ipswich Town 0
Ipswich Town were dumped out of the League Cup by lower league opponents for the ninth time in 12 seasons after Crawley Town snatched a 1-0 win via a late extra-time goal at Broadfield Way on Tuesday evening.
Following a first period which lacked tempo and a second period which the Blues dominated without being able to break the deadlock, the League One hosts upped their game in the additional half an hour and found a 110th minute winner as Izale McLeod stabbed home following a fortunate ricochet in the box.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy has made no secret of his disdain for the League Cup in the past, viewing it as an unwelcome distraction in the packed schedule of the opening stages of the new season.
This time last year though, following a 2-0 loss at Stevenage, he revealed his regret at making sweeping changes to his starting XI, that result coming hot on the heels of an opening day loss at Reading.
On Tuesday it was sweeping changes to the starting XI again, following Saturday’s impressive 2-1 home win over Fulham, but this time they were largely enforced.
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The Blues had gone into the new campaign with four players in the treatment room – Cameron Stewart (jaw), Jonathan Parr (groin), Paul Anderson (hamstring) and Stephen Hunt (calf).
In addition a further six picked up knocks or niggles at the weekend – Tyrone Mings (back), Tommy Smith (groin), Cole Skuse (foot), Luke Hyam (cramp), David McGoldrick (groin) and Daryl Murphy (calf) – and it was decided they would not be risked with back-to-back trips to Reading (Saturday) and Birmingham (next Tuesday) in mind.
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As a result, McCarthy made eight changes to his team – only Luke Chambers, Christophe Berra, Elliot Hewitt keeping their places.
Summer signings Bartosz Bialkowski, Kevin Bru and Alex Henshall were handed their debuts, as was academy graduate Matt Clarke. It was also academy striker Jack Marriott’s first start for the club following two previous sub appearances.
The most exciting thing for Ipswich Town fans in the first half was seeing former loanee favourite Jonny Williams in the crowd.
The Welsh international was probably just taking the chance to nip down the road from London and see his former team mates in action, with Crystal Palace not in entering the competition until the next round.
However, his presence further demonstrates just how much he enjoyed his brief but impressive time at Portman Road and raises hope that the Blues may be able to negotiate another temporary switch – something that seemed highly unlikely just a few weeks ago.
With both teams having made several enforced changes, Crawley following their 1-0 win at Barnsley on Saturday, it came as no surprise that the game lacked tempo early on and had something of a pre-season feel.
The transfer-listed Paul Taylor showed flashes of his dribbling skills and close control and it was he who produced a clever chipped free-kick early on, however Frank Nouble badly overhit his cross into touch, to set the tone for what was to be a half to forget for him.
Ten minutes later, Nouble latched on to a long ball over the top from Chambers, produced a good touch in the box to set up a golden opportunity, but then made a mess of his attempt on goal – blazing well over the bar.
It got worse for the former Wolves man in the 21st minute. Again he found himself clear in the box, following a sumptuous through ball from Anthony Wordsworth, and again he failed to even hit the target – this time stabbing wide of the near post.
While Nouble had done his chances no good, the opposite was true of Wordsworth and Jack Marriott.
Wordsworth showed some classy touches and passes in the middle of the park, getting stuck in when required too, while Marriott’s link-up play was excellent, his back-to-goal touch and movement excellent.
In a 45 minutes of half chances, Crawley more than held their own without ever really threatening with Izale McLeod and Lanre Oyebanjo both firing wide from long-range.
When Nouble drove forwards and hit a difficult angled effort which veteran keeper Brian Jensen easily held in the 49th minute the game finally had its first shot on target.
Town began to grow into the match though, with Bru’s excellent vision at the heart of their best attacks.
Twice he set up good openings, Taylor jinking along the edge of the box before curling just wide in the 56th minute, before Hewitt’s low cross fizzed across the area.
Ipswich were beginning to build momentum and just a minute later, Taylor’s powerful shot from the edge of shot too hot to handle for Jensen. Neither Nouble and Hewitt could quite react quick enough though.
When Taylor was subbed in the 80th minute a number of the 823 away fans chanted ‘we want him to stay’.
Given McCarthy’s comments at the weekend about ‘the more people shout, the less I’m likely to do something’ the prospect of that appears unlikely.
Town continued to push, but Bajner’s curling effort was turned around the post before 18-year-old midfielder Bishop – on as a sub – rattled the crossbar in the final minute with a fine 30-yard effort.
Crawley then enjoyed the better of the first half of extra-time, Bialkowski quick off his line to deny McLeod, while Jimmy Smith’s free-kick went across goal.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski 6; Hewitt 6, Chambers (cpt) 6, Berra 7, Clarke 7; Taylor 8 (McQueen 80 - 6), Bru 7 (Bishop 77 - 7), Wordsworth 8, Henshall 5; Nouble 4, Marriott 6 (Bajner 63 – 5).
Unused Subs: Gerken, Wyatt, Lawrence, Hyam.