REPORT: Watford 0 Ipswich Town 1
Richard Chaplow’s dramatic winner, deep into stoppage-time, earned Ipswich Town a 1-0 win at Watford and moved them back into the Championship play-off places.
After both teams cancelled each other out in a game of very few chances, Jay Tabb hooked away a long clearance, Freddie Sears harried the ball off Ben Watson and slipped in Chaplow, who produced the coolest of finishes.
The goal came in front of a packed away end, the travelling army of 2,200 Blues fans sent into delirium at what could prove to be a massive three points.
If any side had deserved to win it, it was arguably Ipswich seeing as a below-par Watford – who started the day top – failed to produce a single shot on target.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy made three changes to his starting XI following a 1-0 home win over Bolton in midweek.
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Jonathan Parr, Teddy Bishop (both injured) and Freddie Sears were replaced by Kevin Bru, Luke Varney and Chris Wood, McCarthy deciding to stick with the 4-3-3 system which nullified Bolton’s wing-back system so effectively in the second period.
Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic also made three changes to his team following their 2-0 win at Wigan on Tuesday night. Miguel Layan, Daniel Tozser and Odion Ighalo replaced Gabriele Angella, Gianni Munari and Matej Vydra, the Hornets – who usually operate with wing-backs - sticking with the 4-3-1-2 system that served them so well in the second half at the DW Stadium.
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Ipswich more than held their own in a goalless first half.
Varney had the ball in the net in the 10th minute, following a fine run and pass by Daryl Murphy, but – just like at Leeds – the Blackburn loanee was denied an early goal by the offside flag.
It had been an encouraging start by the visitors, but Watford gradually upped their tempo.
Adlene Guedioura beat Kevin Bru with a smart Cruyff turn and smashed a 25-yard shot just over the bar.
Then, after Tyrone Mings was caught on the ball in an advanced position, it required a crucial block by Tommy Smith in the area to keep out Ighalo’s crisp shot.
Hornets defender Joel Ekstrand – the man whose horror tackle ended Jonny Williams’ loan spell at Town in the reverse fixture – suffered a bad injury of his own on the half hour mark, going down in agony after twisting to clear the ball.
Clearly in some pain, Ekstrand was eventually stretchered off – surrounded by ambulance staff - and applauded from the field by both sets of fans.
Town finally produced the game’s first shot on target in the 41st minute, the impressive Varney skipping inside from the right and unleashing a shot that a diving Heurelho Gomes pushed around the post.
It then required a fine last-ditch sliding block from Luke Chambers at the other end, the Town skipper lunging in front of Guedioura’s shot following Ighalo’s through ball.
Following a forgettable opening 20 minutes to the second half, in which both teams cancelled each other out, the game began to open up.
Guedioura sliced an angled volley wide from close-range for the home side, then Gomes clawed the ball around the post following a driving run and shot from sub Sears.
Watford’s best chance arrived in the 80th minute, Ighalo steering a volley over the bar from six yards out following Deeney’s fine outside of the boot cross.
Town continued to play positively though and Tabb fired over from the edge of the box with Mings screaming for the ball to his left.
Chaplow – who was only introduced in the 86th minute due to Bru having taken a knock – was immediately involved when he produced a fine tackle on Matej Vydra in the box.
Then came the late drama, Chaplow keeping his cool to slide a finish past Homes and send the away end delirious.
WATFORD (4-3-1-2): Gomes; Motta, Ekstrand (Angella 34), Cathcart, Hoban; Layun (Vydra 78), Tozser (Anya 58), Watson; Guedioura; Ighalo, Deeney (cpt). Unused subs: Bond, Munari, Paredes, Pudil.
Booked: Angella (37).
IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Skuse, Bru (Chaplow 86), Tabb; Varney (Anderson 60), Murphy, Wood (Sears 74). Unused subs: Crowe, Clarke, Benyu, S.Hunt.
Booked: Murphy (29), Mings (53), Tabb (90+).
Attendance: 19,038 (2,177 away)
Referee: Andy D’Urso.