Match report: Huddersfield Town 0 Ipswich Town 1 – Pringle goal seals much-needed victory
Ipswich Town ground out a battling 1-0 away victory at Huddersfield, courtesy of Ben Pringle’s first half strike, to potentially get their faltering season back on track.
The Blues had to weather an almighty early storm at the John Smiths Stadium and then took the lead massively against the run of play when Fulham loanee Pringle rifled home a low shot in the 19th minute.
A tactical switch from Mick McCarthy – which saw Brett Pitman move to the wing – helped stem the tide and Town were supremely organised, and defended with aplomb, from that point onwards.
Skipper Luke Chambers delivered his usual impassioned fist-pump celebration in front of the 936 travelling fans at the end, but the over-riding feeling was one of relief as Ipswich registered only their third win of a dismal 2016.
With top-six rivals Derby, Preston and Birmingham all losing, Town are back up to ninth in the Championship table and just four points adrift of the play-off places with 13 games to go.
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Huddersfield have been lauded for the attractive football they are playing under former Borussia Dortmund coach David Wagner and they threatened to overwhelm Ipswich in an utterly one-sided start to the match.
With the full-backs constantly bombing on and the midfield always on the move, the Terriers looked fluid and flexible. By contrast, Ipswich were their usual rigid and one-dimensional selves.
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Huddersfield’s missed a golden chance to break the deadlock in the fifth minute when advanced left-back Jason Davidson whipped in a cross and midfielder Kyle Dempsey, arriving late in the box, sent a thumping header inches wide.
Five minutes later, Nahki Wells latched onto a direct pass over the top, raced away from the flat-footed Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra but, faced with a one-on-one, he scuffed his shot and Bartosz Bialkowski saved with his legs.
The one-way traffic continued and both Wells and Harry Bunn produced mis-kicks in the box at the crucial moment.
Ipswich’s opener therefore came massively against the run of play. Pringle started the move with a chip over the top, Daryl Murphy showed great strength to muscle Davidson off the ball on the by-line and then showed great composure to pick out the on-running Pringle with his low pull-back. The Fulham loanee took a touch and then rifled a low shot into the bottom corner, defender Joel Lynch unable to keep the ball out.
The Terriers immediately got back on the front foot and threatened to score a quickfire equaliser. Wells’ low shot from the edge of the box was pushed around the post by Bialkowski and a corner was scrambled clear. Moments later, Wells seized on a poor Luke Chambers pass, drive forwards and sent a low 30-yard shot skidding past the post.
Blues boss McCarthy recognised that his team were getting overrun and made a tactical switch. Kevin Foley dropped into a deeper midfield role, striker Brett Pitman moved to the left Pringle joined Jonathan Douglas in the centre of the park. It was a change which immediately made Town harder to play through.
Battling for every ball, Ipswich dragged their hosts into a scrap and could easily have snatched a killer second goal moments before the break.
First, in the 40th minute, Murphy climbed highest in the box and headed a Pringle free-kick delivery over the bar.
Then, in virtually the last piece of action of the half, a flowing Ipswich move from right to left ended with Jonas Knudsen’s low cross stabbed just the wrong side of the near post by Murphy.
Ipswich continued to frustrate the hosts after the break and the hosts soon resorted to taking pot-shots from long-range.
They did have a golden chance to level things up on the hour mark though when Tommy Smith’s shot from outside the box deflected kindly into the path of fellow full-back Davidson, who, unable to adjust in time, stabbed the ball wide.
Town continued to defend superbly, Jonas Knudsen showing a cool head on numerous occasions and Christophe Berra getting his body in the way time-and-time again.
Indeed, Ipswich could have doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Daryl Murphy smartly turned Mark Hudson high up the pitch, drive forwards and sent a low shot inches past the post.
It wasn’t until the 78th minute that Huddersfield really created a really good chance. Substitute Elvis Manu chipped the ball over the top, Wells nodded the ball down and the on-rushing Jonathan Hogg’s volley was beaten away by Bialkowski.
The Terriers were forced to finish the game with 10 men after Hogg limped off. Wagner had already used all three of his changes.
There was a heart in mouth moment for Ipswich in the 83rd minute when Wells twisted in the box and his deflected shot was punched away, but it was hardly a home onslaught.
Huddersfield keeper Jed Steer twice joined the attack in the closing stages, once for and once for a deep free-kick, but Ipswich defended the set-pieces well and held out.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-2-3-1): Steer; Smith, Hudson (cpt), Lynch (Cranie 58), Davidson; Whitehead, Hogg; Matmour (Paterson 58), Dempsey (Manu 68), Bunn; Wells.
Unused subs: Murphy, Husband, Holmes, Bojaj.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Sears (Digby 90), Foley (Maitland-Niles 81), Douglas, Pringle (Bru 61); Pitman, Murphy.
Unused subs: Gerken, Tabb, Toure, Varney.
Attendance: 12,644 (936 away)
Referee: Darren Bond