Match report: Ipswich Town 1 Brentford 3 – Play-off hopes now look officially dead after incident-filled loss

Luke Hyam leaves the pitch after being sent off for a second bookable offence in the Ipswich Town v

Luke Hyam leaves the pitch after being sent off for a second bookable offence in the Ipswich Town v Brentford (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 09 April 2016. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s fast-fading Championship play-off hopes took what looked like the final nail in the coffin this afternoon with a 3-1 home defeat to mid-table Brentford.

Luke Hyam was booked for a third-minute challenge which left Alan Judge’s leg badly broken and then, after being consistently targeted for revenge, he was shown a second yellow card in first-half stoppage-time for shoving Ryan Woods in the face.

Sam Saunders had given the Bees the lead with a cool finish in the 29th minute, with Lasse Vibe twice taking advantage of slack defending to kill the match off with goals in the 64th and 68th minutes. Liam Feeney netted a late consolation goal.

Town have now claimed just six points from a possible 21. They remain eighth in the table, but the gap to the play-off places is now eight points with just five games to go.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made four changes to his starting line-up following Tuesday night’s goalless home draw with Charlton. Out went Tommy Smith, Jonathan Douglas, Liam Feeney and Brett Pitman and in came Kevin Foley, Luke Hyam, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Luke Varney.


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That meant that skipper Luke Chambers reverted to his favoured central defensive position for the first time in the league since August, with Foley – who had been so impressive in central midfield only to lose his place – returning to the team in his natural role of right-back.

Maitland-Niles and Ben Pringle both played on the flanks in a 4-4-2 system, with Varney partnering Sears up top. It was the first time in a long time that Town had round pegs in round holes.

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Skipper Luke Chambers looked particularly fired up ahead of kick-off and Town’s players came bursting out of the traps in an attempt to win over the fans. Freddie Sears and Luke Varney chased down the keeper in tandem and the early tempo was good.

Then, in the third minute, came the incident which changed the entire mood. Judge controlled a high ball, turned and, before he knew it, Hyam connected with a crunching slide tackle from the side.

Brentford’s diminutive playmaker had not time to adjust. Hyam won the ball with his leading foot, but his momentum carried him through Judge and left his planted standing leg badly broken.

There was a near 10 minute delay while Judge received medical treatment on the pitch before being driven off on a stretcher. One of the stars of the Championship season – he’s scored 14 goals and provided 11 assists – covered his face with his hands. Having made his Republic of Ireland debut just a fortnight ago his European Championship dream was in tatters.

Nasty injuries can often kill the pace of a game, but it only served to liven this one up. Brentford’s players, looking for revenge for their stricken team-mate, targeted Hyam – winger Ryan Woods and Alan McCormack in particular.

Sears skipped into the box but saw his low cross blocked. At the other end, Brentford wasted a fine counter-attacking opportunity.

McCormack bumped his chest into the back of Hyam off the ball in one move of provocation. Moments later, when the ball spun loose, Woods flew himself into a 50/50 slide tackle with intent against Hyam and the latter pulled out.

Brentford broke the deadlock when football, not fighting, temporarily moved back to the top of the agenda.

Cole Skuse appeared to be fouled when he was dispossessed of the ball high up the field, but referee Philip Gibbs waved play on and Konstantin Kerschbaumer raced away before pulling the ball back for Saunders to coolly side-foot home.

Brentford continued to look the more threatening and Sergi Canos dragged a shot wide after skipping past the desperate slide challenge attempt of Skuse.

Ipswich finally produced their first attempt on gaol in the 43rd minute when Maitland-Niles shot straight at the keeper following Sears’ clever reverse pass.

You always felt that Hyam was walking red card and that proved to be the case deep into the nine minutes of added time. Woods again steamed into a tackle on him, Hyam stupidly reacted and shoved him in the face after the two squared up. Woods and team-mate McCormack actually high-fived as Hyam left the filed before booting the tunnel in frustration.

McCarthy replaced his two wingers, Pringle and Maitland-Niles, with Jonathan Douglas and David McGoldrick at the break.

And the 10 men of Town started on the front foot. Twice direct runs and crosses from Sears almost led to chances and lifted the home crowd.

The tide turned, however, when Ipswich were far too slow to close down at the other end. Knudsen, Skuse and Berra all backed off Sergi Canos and, after accepting the invitation to advance with the ball, hit a shot which cannoned off the underside of the crossbar.

Brentford doubled their advantage a minute later. Advanced right-back Maxime Colin was given acres of space to provide a searching cross from deep and Vibe simply positioned himself between static centre-backs Chambers and Berra to convert with a stooping close-range header.

Four minutes later and the Bees had struck again. Berra was guilty of dithering on the ball in a dangerous area, he was robbed of possession by Vibe and the Danish striker raced away before coolly finishing one-on-one.

The damage could have got greater in the 75th minute when Kerschbaumer spun Chambers far too easily in the box. Bialkowski spared his skipper’s blushes with a smart low stop.

Town’s players looked like they couldn’t wait to get off the field. When Skuse was seemingly fouled, but the ref waved play on, too many men in blue shirts simply jogged back. Vibe curled an effort just wide.

Ipswich’s best chance of the game arrived in the 84th minute. Knudsen, who had actually had a decent game, showed good footwork before slipping a pass to Sears. For a split second it looked like the Town striker just had a one-on-one finish, but out of nowhere Jake Bidwell produced a last-ditch tackle. Sears has now gone 21 games without a goal.

Town did pull a goal back in the 88th minute when substitute Feeney lashed a low shot under keeper David Button at the near post following good work by McGoldrick. Needless to say, the celebratory goal music was not played over the tannoy system.

The majority of those that had stayed to the end applauded their team’s efforts in difficult circumstances.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Foley, Chambers (cpt), Berra, Knudsen; Maitland-Niles (Douglas 46), Skuse, Hyam, Pringle (McGoldrick 46); Varney (Feeney 75), Sears.

Unused subs: Gerken, Smith, Bru, Pitman.

Booked: Hyam (3, 45+), Varney (57)

Sent-off: Hyam (45+)

BRENTFORD (4-4-1-1): Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; Woods, McCormack, Canos (Gogia 75), Saunders (Hogan 82); Judge (Kerschbaumer 3); Vibe.

Unused subs: Bonham, Clarke, Terry, O’Connell.

Attendance: 18,845 (559 away)

Referee: Philip Gibbs

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