Match report: Ipswich Town 0 Derby County 1 – Tom Ince scores winner as Blues fall short against a leading side again

Thomas Ince celebrates his goal in the Ipswich Town v Derby County (Championship) match at Portman R

Thomas Ince celebrates his goal in the Ipswich Town v Derby County (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 19 December 2015. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Tom Ince scored the only goal of the game as Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at home to Derby County this afternoon.

The alert winger latched onto a loose ball, after it had spun free from a 50/50 tackle, and fired into the bottom corner five minutes before the interval. The Blues then huffed and puffed after the break and weren’t able to break down a Rams defence that defended well.

Jonathan Douglas’ header was cleared off the line in the 81st minute, but that was one of just two shots on target for Mick McCarthy’s men.

Ipswich, who remain sixth in the Championship table, have now won just one of their last nine matches at Portman Road. They have lost to all of the top four, while 24 of their 34 points have come against teams in the bottom 10.

Derby move into the automatic promotion places following Brighton’s 3-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough earlier in the day.

Blues boss McCarthy named the same starting XI for the fifth game in a row, with the fit-again Luke Varney – who has just signed a deal until end of the season – replacing Jonathan Parr (calf strain) on the bench. The latter provided a much-needed forward option among the subs with David McGoldrick set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines (torn hamstring).

Derby head coach Paul Clements made three changes to his team following their 4-0 home win over Bristol City on Tuesday night. George Thorne, Jacob Butterfield and Chris Martin all returned to the starting XI, with Jeff Hendrick, Andreas Weimann and Darren Bent dropping to the bench.

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Having scored after just 16 seconds in the midweek win at Fulham, Freddie Sears once again started like a man possessed. Three times in the opening 15 minutes he set off on driving forward runs with the ball at his feet to get the crowd off their feet. Twice he was eventually crowded out, while on the other occasion his dipping long-range shot was held at the second attempt by keeper Lee Grant.

Pressing high up the field, Town began to force Derby into a few mistakes and one – a slip by Stephen Warnock – led to Brett Pitman’s cross just evading Daryl Murphy at the far post.

The Blues were not making the ball stuck in the final third though and, as a result, Derby continually looked a threat on the counter-attack – particularly through the pace of Ince.

The first warning sign came in the 12th minute when former Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson powered a shot inches over the bar following good work by Ince and Johnny Russell. Had the effort found the top corner then it would have been a virtual carbon copy of Johnson’s strike in the East Anglian league derby at Carrow Road last season.

There was another good Derby chance in the 21st minute. Johnson’s raking pass set Ince racing into space, he found Martin with a sideways pass and it required a fine last-ditch tackle by Tommy Smith to block the shot.

Ipswich continued to produce some good build-up, but time-and-time again their final ball let them down. Sears’ cross was cut-out just as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Luke Chambers were steaming in at the far post unmarked. The flying left-winger also had a thunderous long-range shot closed down by George Thorne.

Derby countered once more in the 38th minute after Richard Keogh powerfully headed away Jonas Knudsen’s long throw into the box. That led to a corner for the away side and keeper Dean Gerken, who missed his attempt at a flying punch, was relieved to see a free-kick given his way.

The Rams broke the deadlock two minutes later thaks to a combination of good play and a slice of fortune. Martin’s chest, turn and pass was impressive. Then Christophe Berra challenged Russell for the loose ball high up the pitch. The ball could have gone anywhere, but it spun kindly into the path of Ince and, after steadying himself, the in-form winger’s low shot took a slight deflection off Knudsen to beat Gerken at the near post.

Town started the second half on the front foot and almost created a good opening following a smart one-two between Sears and Maitland-Niles on the edge of the box.

Then, in the 51st minute, Murphy put a looping header just over the bar after Sears had helped Knudsen’s short throw into the area.

The two teams then increasingly began to cancel each other out.

McCarthy brought on Fraser and Kevin Bru in attempt to add some attacking impetus and the Blues finally enjoyed a period of genuine pressure as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

First, Jonathan Douglas’ header, from a Fraser corner, was cleared off the line by man on the post Jacob Butterfield. Moments later, Ince caught Fraser with a high boot inches outside the box. Shortly afterwards, Sears’ rasping angled shot flew just past the far post.

All that action came in the space of two minutes. Ipswich hadn’t looked like scoring up until then and they didn’t look like scoring afterwards either as Derby shut the match down.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Maitland-Niles (Bru 62), Skuse, Douglas (Varney 84), Sears; Pitman (Fraser 58), Murphy.

Unused subs: Bialkowski, Malarczyk, Coke, Oar.

Booked: Berra (26), Douglas (68)

DERBY COUNTY (4-3-3): Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Warnock; Butterfield (Hendrick 84), Thorne, Johnson; Ince (Baird 90+), Martin (cpt), Russell.

Unused subs: Mitchell, Pearce, Shotton, Weimann, Bent.

Booked: Butterfield (76)

Attendance: 20,161 (1,313 away)

Referee: Keith Hill

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