Match report: Ipswich Town 2 Bristol City 1 – Brett Pitman nets acrobatic late winner as Blues claim vital win
Brett Pitman’s acrobatic 86th minute goal secured Ipswich Town a gutsy, vital and ultimately deserved 2-1 home victory over fellow Championship strugglers Bristol City this evening.
The Blues took the lead through Kevin Bru’s deft near post finish not long before half-time, but then shot themselves in the foot seven minutes after the restart when Tammy Abraham poked home after keeper Bartosz Bialkowski and defender Christophe Berra collided.
Large periods of this game were understandably edgy, given how both teams were desperately in need of a result, but Ipswich stepped up a gear at the end of both halves and played some decent and patient football at times.
Teenager Andre Dozzell turned the game as a 72nd minute substitute, with his forward passing getting the hosts on the front foot at a crucial moment.
Pitman stole the headlines with a sublime over-head winner against his former club though, with Town moving up to 14th in the table – and two points behind free-falling rivals Norwich – ahead of today’s fixtures.
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This was only Ipswich’s third win in 10 outings at Portman Road and, following a toxic atmosphere during the limp 2-0 defeat to Fulham on Boxing Day, fans were finally given something to cheer as an insipid 2016 ended on a high ahead of Monday’s trip to lowly QPR.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy made four changes to his team following the comprehensive loss to Fulham. Jonathan Douglas dropped out of the squad completely, while Jonas Knudsen (cut foot), Andre Dozzell and Freddie Sears were all relegated to the bench. They were replaced by Myles Kenlock, Bru, Grant Ward and David McGoldrick. It meant a return to a 4-4-2 system.
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Bristol City boss Lee Johnson decided to return to the 4-4-2 system which had worked in the 2-0 home win over Ipswich at the start of December. Experienced striker Aaron Wilbraham was one of three players reinstated to the starting line-up as the Robins looked to end a run of seven defeats from eight.
Having quickly been forced onto the back foot by Fulham, Town tried to start this match with a greater intensity and tempo. The two wingers, Ward and Tom Lawrence, both ran at the defence in the early stages and, although both ran out of room at the vital moment, the intent drew warm applause from a home crowd clearly craving something positive to get behind.
The game quickly became very cagey though as two nervy, out-of-form teams struggled to gain any sort of foothold.
Pitman beat Hordur Magnusson with a clever drag turn out wide, but his low cross was cut-out by the alert Aden Flint. A minute later, McGoldrick sent a snap-shot just wide after Pitman had won an aerial challenge with Scott Golbourne in the area.
At the other end, Luke Chambers did superbly to keep pace with Abraham and out-muscle him at the vital moment.
The Robins lacked cutting edge, but there was a let-off for the hosts in the 20th minute when winger Luke Freeman produced an air-kick in a golden position after strikers Abraham and Wilbraham both won headed knock-downs.
Ipswich moved up a gear around the half hour mark and increasingly began to camp in the visitors’ half. The play was patient and thoughtful, but it never quite led to an opening as one Bru shot was charged down and a Chambers cross was claimed by keeper Frank Fielding.
The Blues were undoubtedly now the team on top though and their breakthrough came in the 39th minute after Bristol City failed to properly clear a corner. After the ball pinged off players from both teams around 30 yards out, Adam Webster passed left, Lawrence caressed in a cross and Bru, who timed his late run to perfection, converted with a deft near-post volley.
City boss Johnson changed both his full-backs at the break, switching to a wing-back system, and his team started the second half on the front foot.
After Kenlock dived into a challenge, Freeman cut inside before seeing his near post effort deflected behind by Berra.
The away side drew level in the 52nd minute when substitute left-back Joe Bryan beat Chambers to stand up a high cross and, after Berra collided unnecessarily with keeper Bialkowski inside the six-yard, Abraham poked home the loose ball. Town, not for the first time this season, had shot themselves in the foot.
Bristol City were now the team in the ascendancy, but it was Ipswich who almost re-claimed the lead just before the hour mark when Marlon Pack looped a header onto his own crossbar after Chambers had won a far post knock-down. Pitman’s acrobatic follow-up attempt was smothered by Fielding.
With the game starting to drift, McCarthy replaced the tiring Bru – who had made his first start since the middle of October – with Dozzell. The teenager made an immediate positive impact with his forward passing.
It was Dozzell’s pass which led to Lawrence’s dipping shot being beaten away by Fielding. Chambers and Pitman then both had near-post efforts blocked from corners as Town, just like in the first half, stepped up a gear.
Sears replaced Ward in the 78th minute and the front man came desperately close to scoring within seconds. Dozzell, once again, started the move with a fine forward pass, Pitman’s heeled flick was exquisite but Sears, after skipping around the keeper, couldn’t get his shot away quickly enough and Bryan managed to clear off the line on the stretch.
Dozzell’s short pass set McGoldrick off on a run as the game entered the final 10 minutes and his side-footed effort went just wide of the far post.
Ipswich were the team looking to win it – and by trying to play with the ball on the floor. Their breakthrough arrived in spectacular fashion with four minutes to go.
After Lawrence worked the ball right, Sears stood up a high cross and Pitman, after holding off his marker on the edge of the six-yard box, produced some brilliant technique to net with a sublime falling over-head kick finish.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra, Kenlock; Ward (Sears 78), Skuse, Bru (Dozzell 72), Lawrence; McGoldrick (Varney 89), Pitman.
Unused subs: Gerken, Emmanuel, Knudsen, Best.
Booked: Pitman (43), Lawrence (90+)
BRISTOL CITY (4-4-2): Fielding; Little (Moore 46), Flint, Magnusson (O’Dowda 65), Golbourne (Bryan 46); Freeman, Brownhill, Pack, Tomlin; Abraham, Wilbraham (cpt).
Unused subs: O’Donnell, Reid, Engvall, Paterson.
Booked: Magnusson (55), Brownhill (58)
Attendance: 15,640 (470 away)
Referee: David Coote