MATCH REPORT: AFC Bournemouth 1 Ipswich Town 1
Bournemouth v Ipswich: Ipswich Town moved into the Championship play-off places with a 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth.
The Blues may have taken the lead through Daryl Murphy in the 59th minute, but they will undoubtedly be the happier with the point – secured through Brett Pitman’s finish in the 79th minute – having proved second best for large periods.
That’s now seven matches in a row without defeat and eight without a loss away from home, Mick McCarthy’s men leapfrogging Leeds into sixth place at the halfway stage of the season.
The style of football may not always be easy on the eye, but hard work, organisation and spirit is producing consistent performances and results. And consistency tends to be king in this ultra-competitive Championship.
Town started on the front foot at the Fitness First Stadium, forcing five corners inside the opening seven minutes of the match.
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The first three were defended superbly, but as the pressure mounted the home side looked more and more vulnerable under the barrage of set-piece deliveries.
The final two flag-kicks were unconvincingly scrambled clear though and Ipswich were unable to add to their impressive record of scoring inside the opening 10 minutes of matches.
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Having ridden the early storm, Bournemouth settled down and began to play the slick passing football that manager Eddie Howe is renowned for.
Blues boss McCarthy had named an unchanged starting line-up for the fifth successive match meaning a continuation of the 4-3-3 formation he has favoured of late.
It played into Bournemouth’s hands as the out-and-out wing duo of Matt Ritchie and Ryan Fraser caused no ends of problems down the flanks, dragging the Blues’ wide strike duo of Daryl Murphy and Frank Nouble into defensive duties.
Luke Chambers produced a vital touch in the box to divert Fraser’s shot around the post after Lewis Grabban had pulled the ball back from the by-line in the 14th minute.
Aaron Cresswell was then left breathing a heavy sigh of relief in the 23rd minute, Fraser blazing over from 12 yards out after the Town left-back had rolled a square ball across his box and straight into the path of the on-running left-winger.
A minute later and Gerken was forced to tip O’Kane’s dipping cross over the bar. Then, when the resultant corner was only half-cleared, the Blues keeper did well to fall onto Simon Francis’ slow shot through a crowded box.
Ipswich were struggling to keep the ball for any lengthy period of time, with one aimless Luke Hyam chip forwards dribbling out of play for a goalkick.
Wide duo Fraser and Ritchie combined once more in the 35th minute, the latter latching on to a crossfield pass, drifting inside and unleashing a shot which was blocked by Chambers.
Two minutes later and the Cherries created another golden goalscoring chance. Ritchie put Andrew Surman away down the right, his neat backheel back inside sent Grabban clear, but Gerken stayed big to block Grabban’s near post effort with his chest.
And it was another unforced Ipswich error which provided Bournemouth with a goalscoring chance just before half-time. This time Hyam dallied on the ball in the centre circle, Surman robbed him of possession and quickly sent Fraser scampering away down the left. This time it was Chambers to rescue as he got in a vital block on Grabban’s far post volley.
Ipswich started the second half much better and created a rare chance from open play in the 50th minute when Murphy hurdled a Francis challenge down the left and pulled the back for Hyam. The midfielder first touch was poor though and he was only able to hit a snatched shot tamely wide.
Bournemouth continued to look lively and it required a vital interception from Chambers to prevent Grabban’s pass finding one of numerous players streaming into the box on the counter-attack.
The first goal was always going to be crucial and it came the way of the visitors in the 59th minute. Chambers pumped a deep free-kick up the line, McGoldrick expertly chested it into the path of Nouble and his low, sweeping, first time ball across the six-yard box was rammed home by Murphy at the far post.
Bournemouth refused to cave in and valiantly stuck to their passing game, Fraser’s shot from the edge of the box pushed around the post by Gerken.
Home boss Eddie Howe brought on striker Brett Pitman and winger Marc Pugh in an attempt to chase the game, the duo’s arrivals off the bench providing a timely impetus.
Indeed, it was Pitman who levelled things up in the 78th minute. Ipswich had failed to deal with the initial cross to the back post, Ritchie nodded it back down into the danger area and, after Gerken had done well to save Surman’s low effort, Pitman rammed the loose ball high into the net.
Two minutes later and Bournemouth had a goal disallowed. Ritchie’s cross somehow crept over the line, but defender Tommy Elphick was adjudged to have pushed Gerken.
Blues boss McCarthy took off the unusually quiet McGoldrick and replaced him with full-back Tyrone Mings in the 87th minute.
If that wasn’t an indication of how pleased the Town manager was with a draw, his fist-pump celebration at the final whistle certainly was.
Next up for the Blues, Charlton at home on New Year’s Day…
AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4-1-4-1): Camp; Francis, Ward, Elphick (cpt), Daniels; O’Kane; Ritchie, McQuoid (Pitman 60), Surman, Fraser (Pugh 73); Grabban.
Unused Subs: Allsop, Harte, Addison, Thomas, Hughes.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Gerken, Chambers (cpt), Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Skuse, Hyam, Tunnicliffe; Nouble (Taylor 76), McGoldrick (Mings 87), Murphy.
Unused Subs: Loach, Tabb, Edwards, Anderson, Graham.
Attendance: 11,096 (1,412 away)
Referee: Philip Gibbs.