Report: Ipswich Town fans get tantalising look of what could have been, after Derby County win

Adam McDonnell slides into an early challenge at Derby

Adam McDonnell slides into an early challenge at Derby

Ipswich Town fans got a taste of what might have been, as the Blues ended their campaign on a high at the i-Pro Stadium.

David McGoldrick wins a header at Derby on Saturday

David McGoldrick wins a header at Derby on Saturday

David McGoldrick’s second goal in two games, and fourth strike of an injury-hit season, saw Mick McCarthy’s men take all three points and leave supporters with a hint of optimism, ahead of the new season in August.

McGoldrick converted from the spot on 34 minutes, after another welcome returnee, Teddy Bishop, was fouled in the box, and held out against a below-par Rams side, who will face Hull City in a two-legged play-off semi-final this week.

Bartosz Bialkowski was again solid in goal, producing three or four good saves, but it was the impact of Bishop and McGoldrick that was most significant – the Blues producing some good, composed football, especially in the first half.

The only black spot of the day was a serious injury to George Thorne, the Rams’ midfielder suffering a suspected broken leg after facing the brunt of a fair, but hard tackle from Ipswich substitute, Jonathan Douglas.

Liam Feeney delivers a first half free-kick at Derby

Liam Feeney delivers a first half free-kick at Derby

The game

Mick McCarthy will have left the East Midlands with a spring in his step after watching his side end their season with a 1-0 victory at Derby County.

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Not only did Town leapfrog nearest rivals Cardiff City into seventh place, the Blues also produced one of their best performances of recent times.

Teddy Bishop and David McGoldrick, so sorely missed for the majority of the season, proved to be a breath of fresh air, revitalising a Town side – that had ultimately disappointed this season – with their skill, vision, guile and work-rate.

Myles Kenlock is closed down by Derby's Thomas Ince

Myles Kenlock is closed down by Derby's Thomas Ince

McGoldrick’s inclusion, just like last week against MK Dons, gave Town an outlet to play the ball short and to his feet, the classy striker often dropping deep to receive possession and bring his team-mates into the game.

So often this season, Town have been one-dimensional, playing percentage balls and utilising the work-rate and pace of Freddie Sears down the flanks and height of Daryl Murphy, but on Saturday, McGoldrick allowed them to change their style.

Then there was Bishop, who never stopped running and who was the starting point of several Town attacks, especially in the first half.

His tenacity won the Blues the penalty which ultimately sealed the game, the youngster pouncing on a loose ball before marauding his way through the Derby defence and forcing a clumsy challenge from the rash Richard Keogh.

McGoldrick picked the ball up and nonchalantly sent Scott Carson the wrong way from the spot.

The goal came in the 34th minute and Town were well deserving of their lead.

Manager McCarthy made three changes from the team that were impressive going forward in last Saturday’s victory against the Dons. Bartosz Bialkowski regained his place in goal at the expense of Dean Gerken; Fit again Luke Chambers replaced teenage right-back Josh Emmanuel, and former Shelbourne midfielder Adam McDonnell, at just 18, became the latest product of the Town production line to make his Football League debut, Kevin Bru making way from the squad all together.

McDonnell experienced a whirlwind start as Town were on the back foot from the off, and Bialkowski had to be alert at his near post to parry Craig Bryson’s shot to safety after the Scot had been fed by Cyrus Christie.

McDonnell made a couple of decent interceptions early on, but could only watch on five minutes as Tom Ince’s right-foot shot from range just cleared Bialkowski’s bar.

The Blues struggled to get out of their own half in the opening exchanges, but McGoldrick changed that with a forceful run that took him to the edge of the Derby box before he was crowded out.

That forward surge seemed to lift Town and Sears forced Scott Carson into his first save of the afternoon with a near-post stop after the ball had fell into the striker’s path down the left channel.

Town were looking comfortable, with McDonnell assured and Sears and Liam Feeney linking up well with McGoldrick.

However, it was Derby that had the next chance, George Thorne failing to get any power on his header from a right-wing corner, the ball going wide of Town’s left-hand post.

The hosts were looking slightly below-par and Town were capitalising offensively, McGoldrick flashing a snap-shot volley from 20 yards a couple of feet wide of Carson’s right-hand post. Chambers, in an advanced position at the other end, then set Sears away down the right and just failed to get on the end of the return ball, before Bishop was denied a certain goal when stood in the six-yard box.

Feeney did well to engineer space down the right and cut the ball back, but when Carson could only parry the ball into Bishop’s path, two Derby defenders got in front of him as quick as a flash to divert the danger away.

Chambers was in the thick of the action and was booked moments later for not retreating in a wall.

But he needn’t have worried as Chris Martin, who spent most of the afternoon arguing with the officials, fired the ball clear of the crossbar.

Town took the lead when Bishop took advantage of a loose ball and was scythed down in the area. McGoldrick made no mistake from 12 yards.

It was no more than Town deserved.

They had attacked with purpose when given the chance and defended stoutly, with McDonnell and Cole Skuse protecting the back four.

Ince was next to try his luck from a free-kick, but after getting his shot on target, Bialkowski punched his effort away to safety. Moments before the break, the Rams had strong appeals for a penalty of their own turned down when the lively Johnny Russell went down under a challenge from Myles Kenlock in the penalty box.

That was the last action of the half and when the teams emerged for the second period, Luke Hyam had replaced Skuse for Town, while Jake Buxton had replaced Keogh, who had been run ragged, booked and was in danger of missing the Rams’ first-leg game with Hull.

The second half was a more low-key affair, Ipswich happy to attack on the break when they could.

Derby’s best spell saw them spurn two chances in the 52nd minute.

First Bialkowski saved well from the on-rushing Bryson, at the expense of a corner, before Martin headed a difficult chance just wide of the target.

Russell then fluffed his lines, blasting high and wide from an acute angle as Derby huffed and puffed.

Feeney and Sears were providing a useful outlet on the flanks for Town and both players set up McGoldrick, who saw his shots saved by Carson, .

At the other end, Derby were peppering in shots from all angles, not many going on target though, Ince going closest to grabbing an equaliser, but his fierce shot whistled just over Bialkowski’s bar.

Town had a couple of half-chances blocked as the game became stretched, before Thorne’s injury brought with it eight minutes of stoppage time, but ultimately no goal, as the Blues ended the season with a smile and looking forward to the future.

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