MATCH COMMENT: Ipswich Town 1 Birmingham City 0
- Credit: Ashley Pickering
Ipswich v Birmingham: Daryl Murphy’s first half goal proved enough for Ipswich Town to secure a vital victory over Birmingham City at Portman Road on Saturday. STUART WATSON looks back on the game.
Daryl Murphy’s first half goal proved enough for Ipswich Town to secure a vital victory over Birmingham City at Portman Road on Saturday.
The Irishman was left with a simple finish at the far post in the 38th minute after Frank Nouble’s low cross somehow evaded a host of visiting defenders.
Birmingham – described as ‘toothless’ by manager Lee Clark – never really mustered a response and, though Lee Novak missed a gilt-edged chance to level things up in the second period, Town always looked the more likely to add to the scoresheet.
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Mick McCarthy’s side have now kept four successive clean sheets on Suffolk soil. A third win in four home games lifted them back up to ninth in the Championship table and reduced the gap to sixth-spot (now occupied by Wigan) to four points.
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In the build-up to this game, Blues boss Mick McCarthy made no apologies for his side’s ‘stubborn and belligerent’ football.
When you work on a small budget that has to be the case in the Championship, he argued. Making sure you are hard-to-beat comes first, then you hope that a piece of luck or moment of magic can swing tight matches in your favour.
Saturday’s win was the perfect justification for such a philosophy.
Birmingham arrived at Portman Road with one of the best away records in the division, with only table-toppers Leicester and third-place Derby having won more on their travels.
They never once looked like adding to that tally of seven away day victories at the weekend though.
Ipswich’s ability to keep a fourth successive clean sheet on Suffolk soil had not been in question though. The concern was where the goals were going to come from now that topscorer David McGoldrick is sidelined for the remainder of the campaign.
It was a worry only exacerbated when the news filtered through pre kick-off that new signing Jonny Williams – hailed as the creative spark which has so-often been lacking – had been withdrawn from the starting XI, and indeed squad, due to an injury sustained in training.
And a dire opening half an hour in which neither side managed to muster a noteworthy attempt on goal did little to quell fears that another forgettable goalless draw – just like the one against Blackpool – was on the cards.
Step forward Paul Taylor. The Liverpudlian, only handed his third league start of the campaign due to Williams’ mis-fortune, grew more-and-more into the game and began to remind everyone just why Paul Jewell paid £1.5m for his signature 18 months ago.
It was his strength, close control and awareness which started the move which led to the opening goal, the livewire forward backing into his marker, killing a long bouncing ball dead and spinning to release Frank Nouble down the right.
The latter – who is finally showing signs of using his height and power to good effect – produced a low cross which somehow evaded three Birmingham defenders, Murphy left with a simple far post finish.
It was the Irishman’s ninth goal of the season.
Birmingham, whose two half-chances in the first half were snuffed out by brilliant Christophe Berra saving tackles, never really mustered a response.
Town fans were willing Taylor to get the ball as his influence grew, the front man twice cutting in from the left and bending sublime side-foot efforts towards goal soon after the restart. The first attempt was saved by a full-stretch Darren Randolph, while the second went just past the post with the keeper beaten.
Then came Novak’s gilt-edged miss, the left-midfielder ballooning the ball over from close-range after substitute Chris Burke had out-muscled Tommy Smith prior to delivering a low cross.
It turned out to be the only time in the game they really threatened Dean Gerken’s goal, with Town again denied a killer second when Randolph kept out Paul Anderson’s near post effort after the substitute had intercepted Jonathan Spector’s poor back pass.
22 Dean Gerken
Barely had a save to make 6
4 Luke Chambers (cpt)
Some decent crosses 7
6 Christophe Berra
Two super saving tackles 9
5 Tommy Smith
Generally solid, but nearly cost goal 7
3 Aaron Cresswell
Got forward, won several free-kicks 7
16 Paul Green
Quietly effective. Reads game well 7
8 Cole Skuse
Improved after slow start 6
18 Jay Tab
Buzzed about, but faded 6
35 Frank Nouble
Finally using his size. Good assist 7
26 Paul Taylor
Strong, clever, direct. Superb 9
9 Daryl Murphy
Worked socks off. Nine goals now 7
1 Scott Loach (not used)
24 Frazer Richardson (not used)
15 Tyrone Mings (not used)
14 Anthony Wordsworth (not used)
12 Stephen Hunt 7 (Tabb 69)
11 Paul Anderson 8 (Nouble 52)
27 S Ebanks-Blake (not used)
1 Darren Randolph
Smart stops from Taylor/Anderson 8
23 Jonathan Spector
All over the place at times 4
14 Will Packwood
USA international battled 6
6 Aaron Martin
Air-kick ahead of goal 5
4 Paul Robinson (cpt)
Skipper typically committed 6
31 Paul Caddis
Anonymous. Subbed at break 5
36 Emyr Huws
Man City loanee below-par 6
20 Olly Lee
Gave the ball away too often 5
12 Lee Novak
Bad miss proved costly 5
9 Federico Macheda
Man Utd loanee kept quiet 5
19 Nikola Zigic
Towering striker frustrated figure 5
13 Colin Doyle (not used)
37 Tyler Blackett (not used)
22 Andrew Shinnie (not used)
24 Tom Adeyemi (not used)
7 Chris Burke 6 (Macheda 58)
8 Jordan Ibe 5 (Caddis 46)
10 Brian Howard (Novak 79)
MAN OF THE MATCH
Livewire striker really took his chance with both hands after being elevated to the starting line-up at the expense of the injured Jonny Williams. Strong, direct-running, clever movement, worked hard off the ball and twice went close to scoring.
Bookings: Skuse (88)
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 6
Shots off target 4
Hit woodwork 0
Bookings: Zigic (39), Spector (60)
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 1
Shots off target 2
Hit woodwork 0
Mick McCarthy, Ipswich Town manager
“I’d say we just about deserved it. I don’t think we dominated Birmingham by any stretch of the imagination though we had some decent chances in the second half.
“It’s an important win because it comes at the start of a really tough period in terms of the amount of games we’ve got (seven in March) and the quality of opposition we’ve got to face. Away games against Middlesbrough (Saturday) and Yeovil (next Tuesday) in the same week will be tough because we’re geographically challenged.”
Lee Clark, Birmingham City manager
“Defensively we were quite solid, but we didn’t do enough when we had possession of the ball. Our lack of quality in possession of the ball made that result happen today.
“Lee Novak had a great chance and he’s been putting them in, but unfortunately today he put it over the bar. When you have a chance like that way from home when you’re not creating much it can cost you.
“The word was ‘toothless’ really. We had to work extremely hard against a big, physical Ipswich team who play the game really well. They’ve got good players in the vital areas. You have to stand up to that and I thought my players did. They did the ugly side of things, but what we did on the ball wasn’t enough to warrant anything from the game.”
Paul Green, Ipswich Town midfielder
“All the lads are great in the dressing room. There is a great team spirit and they are a tight knit group.
“I didn’t know what to expect (after arriving on loan from Leeds). I have been to a few clubs but this is one of the best dressing rooms I have come to. Everyone is close and everyone has the same goal.
“I was accepted straight away. We have been out to the cinema and out for meals as a group, it has been great.”
Jonathan Spector, Birmingham City defender
“The pitch was very bobbly and that chance was probably harder than it looked,” he said. “He will probably will be disappointed but it wasn’t our day. Lapses of concentration have cost us but these things happen. The bobbly pitch makes things difficult and when you are up against a team like Ipswich, that thrive on that, then it is difficult.
“We knew we had to match them in the physical aspect, which we did, but we didn’t have the quality to go on and win the game. We do have the players to win games but we didn’t do that.
“Inconsistency has cost us. Why? I’m not entirely certain but it has been a difficult season for us. We have the players who are capable of taking us higher in the table.
“We are looking up as opposed to down. We are aware we are in a bit of a precarious position but we don’t feel we will get sucked into the relegation battle.”