Match report: Ipswich Town 0 Middlesbrough 2 - Blues nemesis David Nugent strikes again
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town nemesis David Nugent scored his customary goal at Portman Road tonight as Middlesbrough won 2-0 to temporarily move top of the Championship table.
The Blues were arguably the better team in the first half, but Boro stepped up a gear after the break and were always in control following Christian Stuani’s 54th minute opener.
It was hard enough watching the composed and organised visitors squeeze the life out of the game, but then salt was then added in the wounds when Nugent’s shot took a big deflection off Tommy Smith to go in via the base of the post in the 74th minute.
Remarkably, it was the Liverpudlian’s 15th goal in 14 club appearances against Town – previous efforts coming for Preston, Portsmouth and Leicester.
And it meant he has scored on all eight of his appearances at Portman Road – including one for England Under-21s.
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The Liverpudlian, who always plays up to the pantomime villain tag in these parts, celebrated in front of the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand and then shrugged his shoulders almost apologetically. It was as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself.
This was Ipswich’s first defeat in seven matches, Boro winning at Portman Road for the first time since 1993.
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The atmosphere at the end was understandably flat, but Town players had left the field to warm applause at half-time after playing with vim and vigour in the first 45 minutes.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles needed lengthy treatment after taking a bang to his head in only the second minute of the match, but he suffered no ill affects and played a big part as the Blues constantly looked to get on the front foot.
Adam Clayton made an important intervention in the box to deny Freddie Sears in the fifth minute, Boro’s midfield general seemingly everywhere in the opening exchanges.
The visitors’ first chance of the game came after a rare mistake by Cole Skuse, the Town midfielder’s blind backwards pass in the middle of the pitch sending Stewart Downing racing away. Thankfully for Skuse, his team-mate Luke Chambers was there to deflect the shot wide.
Just like in recent weeks, Town’s front duo of Brett Pitman and Daryl Murphy combined well.
In the ninth minute, Murphy’s cheeky flick with the instep set Pitman away but his subsequent long-range shot lacked power.
In the 23rd minute, Pitman lobbed the ball over the top, Murphy beat the offside trap, pulled the ball back and Pitman’s shot was beaten away by keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Sandwiched inbetween those chances, Boro threatened on the counter-attack and Dean Gerken had to be alert to keep out Christian Stuani’s far post volley following Albert Adomah’s fine switch.
Ipswich created the one clear cut goalscoring opening of the first period just before the half hour mark, with Pitman’s clever movement once again to the fore.
His cross from the left deflected off a defender and looped beyond several players in the box, the alert Chambers did well to adjust and stab a shot on target from inside the six-yard box, but keeper Konstanopoulos also reacted well to fling his hands above his head and make the save.
Boro were defending well and did have the odd forward foray, one crossed free-kick by ex-Town captain Grant Leadbitter created panic in the home box and keeper Gerken fortunate to win a free-kick.
Ipswich didn’t allow them to get any kind of rhythm going though, crunching slide tackles by Jonas Knudsen and Skuse in quick succession summing up their efforts.
Both keepers made super stops at the start of the second half as the scores remained level.
First, in the 47th minute, away custodian Konstantopoulos flung himself to his left to keep out Pitman’s stooping header inside the six-yard box. The chance had come after Ben Gibson had given the ball away cheaply and Daniel Ayala had misjudged the flight of Maitland-Niles’ cross.
Then, less than a minute later, home stopper Gerken made an even better reaction save to keep out Leadbitter’s well-hit shot from 12 yards. That chance had come after Albert Adomah had nodded Downing’s cross back across goal, Christophe Berra subsequently failing to properly clear the loose ball.
Boro, who conceded the least number of Championship goals in 2014/15, continued to look well-organised at the back. Going forwards they stepped it up a gear too.
The result was the Teesiders breaking the deadlock in the 54th minute, though they were aided by some slack defending.
A flat-footed Smith allowed Adomah to cut inside from the left far too easily and Stuani outmuscled Knudsen at the far post to force home a header from inside the six-yard box.
Boro then proceeded to really control the game, keeping possession well, quieting the crowd and leaving Town players chasing shadows.
Mick McCarthy responded by replacing Maitland-Niles with Giles Coke and switching to a 4-3-3 formation, Sears moving into a more advanced position.
The tactical change did little to turn the tide though and composed Boro, who were winning the individual battles all over the pitch, added a second in the 74th minute – Nugent getting his customary goal at Portman Road.
Following Stuani’s low pass from the right, Nugent ran at Smith, his shot taking a big deflection off the back-tracking defender and finding the back of the net via the base of the left post.
The damage could have ended up greater, with Chambers clearing an Adomah shot off the line and Gerken making a fine stop from Downing.
At the other end, Konstantopoulos showed good reactions to keep out Knudsen’s close-range header. This just wasn’t Town’s night.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Maitland-Niles (Coke 63), Skuse, Douglas, Sears; Pitman (McGoldrick 86), Sears. Unused subs: Bialkowski, Parr, Malarczyk, Tabb, McDonnell.
Booked: Berra (58)
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (cpt), Clayton; Stuani (Forshaw 85), Downing, Adomah; Nugent.
Unused subs: Mejias, Amorebieta, Kike, Kalas, Fabbrini, Zuculini.
Booked: Gibson (41)
Attendance: 17,662 (491 away)
Referee: Tim Robinson