Match report: Ipswich Town 2 Blackburn Rovers 0 – Murphy scores twice to secure vital but uninspiring win

Daryl Murphy (right) is congratulated by his team mates after putting Town into a 1-0 lead from the

Daryl Murphy (right) is congratulated by his team mates after putting Town into a 1-0 lead from the penalty spot. Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 15 March 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Birthday boy Daryl Murphy scored twice in the second half to secure Ipswich Town a vital but uninspiring 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road.

Daryl Murphy scores from the spot to take Town 1-0 in the Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers (Champions

Daryl Murphy scores from the spot to take Town 1-0 in the Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers (Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 15 March 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The Irishman – who had just turned 33 – ended a seven-game goal drought to coolly convert a 68th minute penalty and then found the bottom corner from the edge of the box to seal the victory with just three minutes to go.

In truth, it had been another lacklustre performance from the Blues in front of what was their lowest home league attendance of the season, but Mick McCarthy’s men dug out a result to move back to within a point of the Championship play-off places.

This was the first time that Ipswich have won by more than a single goal since the end of November, but the scoreline didn’t tell the tale.

Luke Varney’s excellent run and assist at the death was a rare bit of beauty on an ugly night of football. A win’s a win though, as they say. You certainly can’t knock the spirit in this Town camp. By hook or by crook, they always seem to pull a result out the bag when it’s most needed.

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Blues boss McCarthy made two changes to his starting line-up following Saturday’s limp 1-0 loss at top-six Cardiff – Brett Pitman and Jonathan Douglas replacing Kevin Bru and Ben Pringle. The fit-again Kevin Foley was also put on the bench.

The aforementioned trio are the team’s only players who look to pass the ball forwards, so it was clear before kick-off that the approach would be brawn over brain.

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Blackburn have produced a number of positive performances since Paul Lambert took over last November, with four straight home wins seeing any fears they would be dragged into a relegation fight dissipate. Their run to the fifth round of the FA Cup caused a fixture backlog though and there were signs that many of their players had hit a wall both mentally and physically in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Leeds.

As a result, Lambert made five changes to his team for what was a 10th game in 32 days. Influential striker Danny Graham missed out with a back injury, while key quartet Ben Marshall, Darragh Lenihan, Jordi Gomez and Tony Watt all dropped to the bench.

McCarthy admitted before the match that his team were approaching ‘must-win’ territory or their top-six hopes would fade away and there appeared to be a golden opportunity to really get at significantly weakened opposition. Instead, McCarthy’s obsession with matching up the opposition’s formation continued – he deployed a diamond system for the first time this season – and his players produced a first-half display that seemed more concerned with counter-acting the visitors rather than imposing their game.

A lengthy bout of head tennis between the two teams in the eighth minute drew ironic cheers from the crowd and really set the tone.

It then required yet another fine save from the in-form Bartosz Bialkowski to prevent Town falling behind, the Polish custodian reacting smartly to flip the ball over the bar after Shane Duffy got the slightest of touches on Elliott Bennett’s deep free-kick delivery from close-range.

Ipswich should have burst out of the blocks in a game of this magnitude, but there was imply no intensity. A lack of creative spark was expected, but a lack of energy was unforgiveable.

While the hosts continued to huff and puff, Blackburn’s second string grew in confidence. One slick interchange between Matt Grimes, Bennett and Chris Brown led to Hope Akpan sending a rising effort over the bar.

The best that came from Town’s huff and puff approach was a few half-hearted penalty shouts and half-chances. Pitman’s side-footed effort was pushed away dramatically by Jason Steele, then Freddie Sears made little of his collision with Akpan in the area. It was yet again a case of the crowd appealing more than the player when Sears went down under Shane Duffy’s challenge in the 38th minute.

The moment which rather summed up Ipswich’s fortunes of late came in the 35th minute though. First, there was Keystone Cops defending from Blackburn as centre-backs Duffy and Grant Hanley left each other on the deck when trying to head the same ball in the box. Murphy’s snap-shot from eight-yards out looked destined for the net but ended up flooring team-mate Sears. It felt like a sign that this was simply not to be Ipswich’s night.

There was some cause for encouragement five minutes after the restart when Murphy span and lashed a volley just past the post from the edge of the box.

The game soon fell back into its earlier general malaise though and it was another 10 minutes before anything noteworthy happened, Chris Brown firing an angled effort over for Blackburn.

Sears’ free-kick from a golden position went straight into the wall in the 66th minute, with Skuse’s follow-up effort was deflected over.

From the resultant corner the Blues were gifted a spot-kick when Akpan blocked Luke Chambers’ run in the box. The pressure was on, but Murphy dispatched the penalty with supreme confidence, finding the bottom corner with power.

Town may have been in front but the atmosphere inside Portman Road remained edgy and the quality of the game did not improve.

Christophe Berra did well to get his head on a deep free-kick delivery ahead of Duffy in the 79th minute, while Rovers sub Tony Watt dragged an effort wide from the edge of the box as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

The last-gasp equaliser conceded at Bolton a week earlier was undoubtedly on many supporters’ minds, but any nerves were put to bed with Murphy’s 87th minute clincher.

In what was the home side’s first real bit of quality all night, substitute Luke Varney picked up the ball in his own half and burst beyond two players before picking out Murphy on the edge of the area. The striker’s first touch was good and he found the bottom corner with his second.

The celebrations at the end had more than a hint of relief about them.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse (Foley 75), Douglas, Hyam; Sears, Myurphy, Pitman (Varney 63, Digby 90+).

Unused subs: Gerken, Bru, Pringle, Toure.

Booked: Hyam (63), Douglas (77)

BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Steele; Henley, Duffy, Hanley (cpt), Spurr; Evans (Lenihan 46), Akpan, Grimes (Gomez 75), Bennett; Jackson (Watt 75), Brown.

Unused subs: Raya, Marshall, Ward, Conway.

Booked: Evans (30)

Attendance: 16,488 (214 away)

Referee: Iain Williamson

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