Match report: Ipswich Town 1 Nottingham Forest 0 – Pringle nets again as Blues move to within point of play-off places

Town players congratulate Ben Pringle after he had put Ipswich 1-0 up in the Ipswich Town v Nottingh

Town players congratulate Ben Pringle after he had put Ipswich 1-0 up in the Ipswich Town v Nottingham Forest (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 05 March 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ben Pringle scored the only goal of the game for the second week running as Ipswich Town beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 to move to within one point of the Championship play-off places.

Following on from his winner at Huddersfield, Pringle produced another smart finish in the box, his low shot going in off the inside of the post in the 63rd minute.

Town played some of their most aesthetically pleasing football of the season and dominated possession in a goalless first half, but Forest spurned four golden chances to break the deadlock. It was a less open affair after the restart and Ipswich got the goal from a well-worked move, then defended well when required to see out another vital victory.

A dismal start to 2016 had led to plenty of doom and gloom surrounding the club, with debates about spending, style of play, progress and ambition. And despite a lengthy injury list – Daryl Murphy and Jonathan Douglas now joining Ryan Fraser, Cole Skuse, Teddy Bishop and David McGoldrick on the sidelines – the Blues have shown great character and resolve to get their season back on track. Forest remain in 15th but have now lost four games in a row.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made two enforced changes to his starting XI following the 1-0 win at Huddersfield, the injured duo of Jonathan Douglas and Daryl Murphy replaced by Luke Hyam and Kevin Bru. On the bench for the first time was 16-year-old academy midfielder Andre Dozzell, his father Jason having memorably made his Town debut aged just 16 in 1984.

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Forest boss Dougie Freedman insisted pre-match that his team had nothing to lose, following three straight defeats, and insisted they would go on the attack. He made three changes to the team which lost 2-1 at home to Bristol City, Dexter Blackstock, Gary Gardner and Ryan Mendes replacing Jamie Ward (hamstring), Robert Tesche and Chris Cohen.

The week leading up to this game had been dominated by debate surrounding Town’s decision to raise season ticket prices – albeit by just 1.5% – and the subsequent talk about whether football at Portman Road has provided ‘entertainment value’.

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Whether it was that, or the fact that Murphy was unavailable, it is not clear, but Town certainly played with an entirely different footballing philosophy. In fact, it was like watching a different team.

The full-backs played passes short instead of lumping it up the line, makeshift central midfielder Kevin Foley was always on the move, making angles and demanding the ball, while Freddie Sears, back in his favoured striker role, was a menace with his direct running and neat footwork.

And yet, for all the neat triangles and patient build-up from the hosts, it was Forest who created the first half’s best goalscoring chances – four of them in fact.

In the third minute, Blues keeper Bartosz Bialkowski got down smartly to keep out Nelson Oliveira’s 10-yard header with a strong wrist.

Ipswich then enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and one decent move ended with Sears’ near post effort turned around the post.

Forest’s second good opening arrived in the 19th minute when, after Brett Pitman had given the ball away high up the pitch, Dexter Blackstock ran forwards before finding Nelson Oliveira with a pass into the box. The Benfica loanee’s low, curling side-footed effort on the angle was turned around the post by a full-stretch Bialkowski.

The livewire Sears seized on a loose ball and drive forwards before stinging the palms of De Vries with a swerving 20-yard effort as Town continued to play some easy-on-the-eye football.

The visitors once again went close in the 25th minute though, centre-back Matt Mills losing his marker at a corner and clipping the top of the crossbar with a close-range header.

De Vries had to be quick off his line to punch a fine Bru deep delivery off the head off Pitman, while Michael Mancienne scrambled a low cross from Jonas Knudsen behind at the end of another free-flowing Blues move.

There was still time for Freedman’s men to go close again though. This time, in the 45th minute, Ben Osborn’s delivery from the left was inch-perfect and the late-arriving Gary Gardner headed just over from the edge of the six-yard box.

Mccarthy replaced Bru with Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the break. The football that followed was far less open.

In the 55th minute, the impressive Foley played the ball wide to Luke Chambers, carried on his run, got the ball back, but couldn’t quite adjust his feet inside the box.

Forest looked short of ideas going forwards, but they did create an opening just after the hour mark when Oliveira lashed a shot across the face of goal.

Ipswich were organised and hard to break down. Pitman’s rasping drive from 25 yards out stung the palms of De Vries, then Luke Hyam and Oliveira were booked following a tussle in the middle of the pitch.

When Freedman made a triple substitution in the 78th minute, a section of the 1,080 away fans chanted ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’. Forest continued to huff and puff, Berra continued to defend superbly and Ipswich saw the match out.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Bru (Maitland-Niles 46), Foley, Hyam, Pringle (Digby 90); Sears, Pitman (Varney 90).

Unused subs: Gerken, Tabb, Dozzell, Toure.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-4-2): De Vries; Lichaj, Mancienne (cpt), Mills, Jokic (Cohen 78); Mendes (Petravicius 78), Gardner, Vaughan, Osborn; Blackstock, Oliveira (Grant 78).

Unused subs: Evtimov, Wilson, O’Grady, Tesvhe.

Attendance: 20,658 (1,088 away)

Referee: Andy Woolmer.

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