Match report: Ipswich Town 0 Fulham 2 – Portman Road atmosphere turns toxic as Blues out-fought and out-thought
- Credit: Mark Bullimore
The mood inside Portman Road turned toxic as Ipswich Town were out-fought and out-thought by impressive Fulham, losing 2-0 in an utterly one-sided match.
Chris Martin’s free-kick (36) and Ragnar Sigurdsson’s header from a corner (76) sealed a very comfortable away victory for the slick Cottagers.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men dominated possession throughout and could have scored more. Ipswich mustered just one ‘attempt’ on goal, Luke Chambers’ ambitious acrobatic attempt going high and wide in the 87th minute.
This was a golden opportunity to win back some stayaway fans or casual attendees, with a bumper festive crowd of 19,723, but the Blues’ non-performance – typical of their 2016 in general – left a sour taste in the mouth.
There were rousing chants of ‘Evans sort it out’ aimed at owner Marcus Evans, while a section of the Sir Bobby Robson stand chanted ‘we want McCarthy out’ as Blues boss Mick McCarthy’s stock took another major blow. Significant boos greeted the final whistle.
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Town fall to 16th in the Championship table – eight points above the relegation zone – ahead of Friday night’s visit of Bristol City (7.45pm). Fulham move to within a point of the play-off places.
McCarthy made one enforced change to his team following the 3-2 win at Wigan – Jonathan Douglas replacing the injured Jonathan Williams. That meant that 17-year-old Andre Dozzell was pushed into a more advanced midfield role.
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Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic made four changes to his team following a 2-2 home draw with Derby. Under-pressure keeper David Button kept his place, but three of the back four changed. Key centre-back Tomas Kalas dropped out through injury, while Ryan Fredericks and Ragnar Sigurdsson were relegated to the bench as Denis Odoi, Michael Madl and Tim Ream came into the side.
Top-scorer Martin returned to the starting XI, at the expense of Lucas Piazon, after being unable to face his parent club.
Fulham started on the front foot to set the tone for an utterly one-sided first half.
Christophe Berra had to hack a dangerous low Scott Malone cross behind in the fourth minute, then midfielder Tom Cairney fired well wide from acres of space on the edge of the box.
Ipswich were playing with the tactics of an away team trying to protect a one-goal lead with five minutes to go. They sat increasingly deeper and deeper and, as a result, the visitors dominated possession.
One decent home move, which ended with Tom Lawrence’s clever dummy almost lead to a Jonathan Douglas opening, was a real rarity.
Fulham’s players had the freedom of the pitch – midfield duo Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen particularly – and were able to pull the strings and stride forward under zero pressure.
Johansen’s driving run and through ball set Floyd Ayite scampering away in the 17th minute, but Berra did well to keep pace and make a last-ditch slide challenge.
There was ironic applause from the home crowd when Ipswich strung three passes together in the 19th minute. By the midway stage of the half Fulham’s share of possession had reached 75%.
It required a reaction save from Bartosz Bialkowski to prevent the West Londoners from breaking the deadlock in the 32nd minute. Johansen again was given acres of space in the middle, he found Malone on the over-lap and the latter’s searching low cross from the left was met by the out-stretched boot of Martin in the six-yard box. Bialkowski kept the ball out with his legs.
From the resultant corner, a deep Johansen delivery to the far post, Skuse did just enough to put off McDonald.
There was a rare Town attack when Pitman’s cross from the right was headed behind.
Fulham broke the deadlock in the 36th minute after another driving Johansen run drew a foul. Martin’s free-kick from a central position, around 25 yards out, wasn’t hit with much pace, but it squeezed through a fractured wall and curled into the bottom left corner. Bialkowski, perhaps unsighted until late, didn’t commit to his dive.
Disgruntled Blues fans finally found their voices for a rousing rendition of ‘we’re supposed to be at home’.
The first time the Fulham keeper was tested arrived in stoppage-time – and that was courtesy of a Cottagers player. Lawrence’s deep ball into the box was hopeful at best, Madl’s looping header was bound for the top corner but David Button clawed it behind.
The Town players left the field to significant boos at half-time.
McCarthy responded with a double change at the break – David McGoldrick and Leon Best replacing Dozzell and Pitman.
There was also a switch in formation – to 3-5-2 – with Lawrence operating at right wing-back, Jonas Knudsen left-wing-back and McGoldrick playing in behind strike duo Freddie Sears and Best.
Town were marginally improved offensively by the changes – and the crowd got behind them – but they began to look very edgy at the back.
Fulham created the first real opening of the second period when Webster’s attempted pass out the back was charged down by Aluko. The alert Ayite seized on the loose ball and skipped around Bialkowski, but could not find the net from the acutest of angles.
Jokanovic’s men then missed a golden opportunity to double their lead in the 69th minute after impressive left-back Malone set the equally impressive Johansen’s away down his side. The Norwegian’s low cross took out the entire home defence and picked out Ayite on the edge of the six-yard box, but he screwed his left-footed shot well wide. It was a major let-off.
Moments later, Webster, not for the first time, gave the ball away cheaply and Berra was forced to hack away a clearance.
Fulham continued to do all the attacking and finally netted a killer second. A slick move down the left led to Odoi’s turn and low cross taking out the entire home defence, only for an unmarked Ayite to shoot straight at Bialkowski from 10 yards out.
From the resultant corner, substitute Ragnar Sigurdsson headed down into the bottom corner at the near post.
The atmosphere inside Portman Road immediately turned toxic and there were rousing chants of ‘Evans sort it out’ from all sides of the ground. A section of the Sir Bobby Robson stand later chanted ‘we want McCarthy out’ as well as ‘Mick McCarthy, your football is s***’.
Ipswich finally produced their first ‘attempt’ on goal, of their own making, in the 87th minute when Luke Chambers’ ambitious acrobatic attempt went high and wide.
At the other end, Bialkowski had to make a smart near post stop from Martin.
There were prolonged chants from the Sir Bobby Robson stand of ‘we want our Ipswich back’ followed by boos at the final whistle.
Town now host Bristol City at Portman Road on Friday night.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra, Knudsen; Douglas, Skuse; Sears, Dozzell (McGoldrick 46), Lawrence; Pitman (Best 46).
Unused subs: Gerken, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Bru, Ward.
Booked: Lawrence (69), McGoldrick (76).
FULHAM (4-1-3-1-1): Button; Odoi, Madl, Ream, Malone; McDonald; Ayite (Piazon 83), Cairney, Johansen (Parker 90); Aluko (Sigurdsson 65); Martin.
Unused subs: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Kebano, Smith.
Booked: McDonald (64).
Attendance: 19,723 (907 away)
Referee: Oliver Langford