Match report: Cardiff City 1 Ipswich Town 0 – Blues lack ideas in defeat to top-six rivals
Ipswich Town looked devoid of ideas in a 1-0 defeat at Championship top-six rivals Cardiff City this afternoon.
Centre-back Bruno Manga headed home from a corner in the 19th minute, but the Welsh hosts were distinctly average and seemed there for the taking.
The Blues’ distinct lack of creativity meant you never really sensed they would force an equaliser though, even when they had four strikers on the field.
Mick McCarthy’s tactics and substitutions reflected the desperate nature of the performance, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles coming on the 88th minute only to play at right-back.
Town remain eighth in the table but they are now four points adrift of the play-off places. They do still have a game in hand on many of the teams around them though and now have two crucial home games against Blackburn and Rotherham next Tuesday and Saturday respectively.
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Both managers made three changes to their midweek starting line-ups, Ipswich having drawn 2-2 at Bolton, having led 2-0, and Cardiff having lost 2-0 at home to Leeds, despite dominating that game.
McCarthy replaced Kevin Foley (rib injury), Jonathan Douglas and Brett Pitman with Luke Hyam, Cole Skuse and Daryl Murphy – the latter duo returning after injuries. Sub keeper Dean Gerken (ill) was replaced on the bench by recent Braintree Town loanee Michael Crowe.
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Russell Slade had to replace keeper David Marshall (ill) with former Brentford man Simon Moore. Full-back Fabio Da Silva (suspended) was replaced by the fit-again lee Peltier, while Craig Noone came in for Tom Lawrence on the wing.
Ipswich created the game’s first opening when, in the fifth minute, Murphy flicked on a goalkick and, after taking a fine touch, Freddie Sears hit a low shot which was saved at the second attempt by keeper Moore.
It was Cardiff who broke the deadlock though when, in the 19th minute, centre-back Manga lost his marker with a diagonal run and headed home Peter Whittingham’s corner delivery at the near post. It was a goal very similar to the two Town conceded to the head of Aden Flint at Bristol City recently.
It may have been because both teams were jaded after their midweek efforts or the flat atmosphere inside a half-empty stadium, but the game just never really got going.
Ipswich forced five corners in the opening period by tossing balls into the channels but they were never able to make anything of them – something that has been a big difference between this season and last.
Cardiff lacked quality and intensity too, although Whittingham’s peach of a deep delivery did have to be well-defended by Christophe Berra in the 36th minute.
The second half, as a spectacle, didn’t improve much.
Ipswich did create two openings in quick succession around the 55th minute though. The first saw Pringle slice a shot high and wide at the end of a decent counter-attack, while the second saw Scott Malone scramble the ball clear after Sears had poked the ball beyond keeper Moore after the latter had misjudged a long kick upfield.
With Cardiff sitting increasingly deep, Town began to have more and more possession. Unfortunately they lacked creative spark in the final third.
It was the Bluebirds who created the game’s next opening when, in the 66th minute, a clever back-heel by Lex Immers allowed Malone to burst into the box, the marauding left-back sending a rising shot over the bar.
McCarthy had brought on Brett Pitman for Kevin Bru at the break and the replaced Pringle with Luke Varney in the 72nd minute meaning he had four strikers on the pitch. It did little to add any extra bite to the Blues’ attack though, with a distinct lack of creativity telling.
The hosts once again threatened from set-pieces in the 76th minute. Bialkowski had to be alert to tip Pilkington’s header over, following a Ralls corner delivery, then, from the next dead ball, Pilkington volleyed over inside the box.
McCarthy’s final change of the afternoon was replacing Tommy Smith with Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Bizarrely, the winger – who gave a penalty away in the latter stages at Bolton – went to right-back, with Berra moving up front for stoppage-time.
The latter’s desperate penalty appeals at the end, following a routine collision in the box, rather summed up Ipswich’s day. Their manager and players had simply lacked ideas in a crucial game.
CARDIFF CITY (4-4-1-1): Moore; Peltier, Connolly, Manga, Malone; Noone, O’Keefe, Whittingham (Gunnarsson 73), Ralls; Immers; Pilkington (cpt) (Dikgacoi 82).
Unused subs: Wilson, Morrison, Zohore, Lawrence, Ameobi.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith (Maitland-Niles 88), Berra, Knudsen; Bru (Pitman 46), Skuse, Hyam, Pringle (Varney 72); Sears, Murphy.
Unused subs: Crowe, Digby, Tabb, Douglas.
Attendance: 15,175 (860 away)
Referee: Andrew Madley