Match report: Birmingham City 3 Ipswich Town 0 – Two fine strikes kill off 10-man Blues
Two fine Birmingham City strikes killed off 10-man Ipswich Town as they lost 3-0 at St Andrew’s this afternoon.
Town gave as good as they got in the first half of this clash between two Championship top-six rivals, but Will Buckley finished off a scrappy goal in the 23rd minute and the Blues were left facing an uphill battle following Jonathan Douglas’ straight red card for a lunging tackle in added time.
Arsenal loanee Jon Toral fired home a sumptuous 25-yard volley in the 54th minute and, after Town showed fighting spirit, Maikel Kieftenbeld sealed the home victory with an equally fine volley from the edge of the box with 20 minutes to go.
Birmingham – who won 3-0 at Derby last weekend and who have now won four successive home league matches – leapfrog Town into seventh spot. Just five points separates third to eighth. This was Town’s first away league defeat in three months.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy reverted to the starting XI that had lined up against Leeds and Preston before being controversially left behind in Suffolk for the FA Cup defeat at Portsmouth.
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There was just one enforced change for Birmingham, following their impressive 3-0 win at Derby last weekend, Gary Rowatt replacing the in-form but ill Jacques Maghoma with recent loan recruit Will Buckley.
Two teams well set-up for the counter-attack traded chances in an even opening 20 minutes.
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Buckley dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box, then Daryl Murphy headed just over from a Ryan Fraser cross.
Jon Toral had a well-struck effort beaten away by Dean Gerken, then Freddie Sears’ had a flicked near post header caught by Tomasz Kuszczak.
Birmingham’s breakthrough came in the 23rd minute and, like so many goals that Town have conceded this season, it arrived after a series of sloppy mistakes.
First, a cross from the left was only half-cleared by Tommy Smith, then the ball pinged around in the area. Gerken pulled off a fine reaction stop after Clayton Donaldon stabbed a close-range shot on target before Buckley tucked home the rebound.
Birmingham midfielder Stephen Gleeson was booked for a late challenge on Fraser just before the half hour mark.
The home side then came close to doubling their advantage when, after some fine back-to-goal link-up play by Clayton Donaldson, Maikel Kieftenbeld saw a rifled effort deflected just wide.
Ipswich continued to give as good as they got and it required two smart near post stops from Kuszczak to deny Fraser and Sears in quick succession in the 42nd minute.
Moments later, Murphy timed his run to perfection to meet Fraser’s dinked cross but his header lacked conviction.
There would have been positives for McCarthy to focus on in his half-time team talk, but then all those plans went out the widow when Douglas was dismissed in the second and final added on minute.
The Blues midfielder was late with a lunging tackle on Buckley right in front of the dugouts and referee Michael Bull had no hesitation in brandishing the red card.
McCarthy’s head was bowed as his player trudged towards the tunnel. He was forced into sacrificing Kevin Bru and replacing him with Luke Hyam at the break.
Ipswich had just one red card in the whole of last season – and that was Christophe Berra’s dismissal in the play-off semi-finals. Now they have had two red cards in two games following Piotr Malarczyk’s two yellow cards at Portsmouth in the FA Cup.
Birmingham defender Paul Robinson was booked for taking down Fraser in full-flight not long after the restart, much to the ire of the 1,887 travelling fans.
It was the home supporters who were making all the noise in the 54th minute though after a fine strike by Toral doubled their team’s lead.
After a long ball was helped on it sat up nicely for the Arsenal loanee and he sent a sumptuous volley into the top corner from 25 yards out.
Birmingham’s tails were up and not long afterwards there were appeals for a penalty turned down when Buckley’s cross cannoned into Knudsen’s arm in the box from close-range.
With the away supporters in fine voice behind the goal they were now attacking, Town looked to soak up pressure and break quickly on the counter.
One such moment ended saw Fraser scamper clear down the left before guiding a low side-footed shot inches beyond the far post. Another ended with Fraser firing over after some fine hold-up play by Murphy.
That period of play led to Blues fans chanting ‘we’re going to score in a minute’, but Birmingham offered a reminder of their threat in the 68th minute when Gleeson’s well-struck shot was blocked by a lunging Luke Chambers. The ball appeared to hit the Town defender’s arms but, again, it was deemed unintentional.
Two minutes later Birmingham scored their third to effectively make it game, set and match. An attempted pass inside deflected up off the unfortunate Chambers and when the ball dropped Kieftenbeld expertly volleyed into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. It was another fine strike.
Ipswich still just refused to just roll over though and they felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick in the 84th minute when Michael Morrison clattered into Fraser inside the area. McCarthy and his players appealed vehemently to no avail.
And there was still time for Fraser to shoot just over from long-range at the death.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-3-3): Kuszczak; Caddis, Robinson (cpt), Morrison, Grounds; Kieftenbeld (Soloman-Otabor 74), Gleeson, Davis (Adams 90+); Toral, Donaldson, Buckley (Vaughan 80).
Unused subs: Legzdins, Spector, Lowry, Brock-Madsen.
Booked: Gleeson (29), Robinson (49)
IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse, Douglas; Sears (Pitman 78), Bru (Hyam 46), Fraser; Murphy (Varney 78).
Unused subs: Bialkowski; Foley, Digby, Maitland-Niles.
Booked: Smith (76)
Sent-off: Douglas (45+2)
Attendance: 18,272 (1,887 away)
Referee: Michael Bull