MATCH REPORT: Ipswich Town 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1
Ipswich v Sheffs Weds: Ipswich Town finished a season of solid progress on a high, beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Portman Road to secure a ninth place finish in the Championship table.
Tommy Smith’s tap-in put the Blues in front in the 37th minute and, after Kieran Lee levelled things up early in the second half (55), Paul Green headed home Stephen Hunt’s free-kick delivery (67) to secure Town’s 12th home win of the campaign.
A return of 68 points means it is Ipswich’s best total in six seasons and their second best tally from the last nine (eighth with 69 points in 2007/08), with manager Mick McCarthy having put down some solid foundations ahead of the club’s 13th successive campaign in the Championship.
The vast majority of the Portman Road faithful stayed behind for the traditional end-of-season lap of honour, warmly applauding their spirted and hard-working side’s efforts over the course of a fairly consistent campaign.
McCarthy may not have chosen to experiment with his personnel for this final day dead rubber, leaving youngsters Jack Marriott and Alex Henshall on the bench, but he did experiment with his formation by going with a wing-back system for the first time in his 18 month tenure.
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Town struggled to adapt to the new system though and, with Wednesday having threatened down the flanks in the opening exchanges, the Blues boss soon reverted to his favoured 4-4-1-1 formation.
The Blues gradually began to get a foothold in the game after that and, following a string of corners, broke the deadlock in the 37th minute with a fine goal.
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Jonny Williams’ cross from the left was half-cleared, Smith did well to lay the ball off the edge of the box, Paul Green slotted a well-weighted pass through a crowded box and, after Daryl Murphy’s shot was kept out by a diving Damian Martinez, Smith arrived at the back post to tap home.
It was the defender’s sixth goal of the season, the New Zealand international once again edging in front of his central defensive partner Christophe Berra, the pair having netted an impressive 11 between them.
A minute later it was almost 2-0. Following Green’s fine interception, Murphy cut inside Oguchi Onyewu and curled a shot against the left-hand post.
It took two super saves from Blues keeper Dean Gerken in first half stoppage-time to keep the scores level though. First he was at full-stretch to tip Caolan Lavery’s curling effort from the edge of the box around the post. Then, from the resultant corner, he made an excellent reaction stop to keep out Michail Antonio’s close-range volley.
Wednesday equalised 10 minutes after the restart thanks to a huge slice of good fortune. Ex-Town youngster Lavery produced a complete air-kick in the box, the ball hitting his standing leg and rolling perfectly into the path of Lee to sweep home.
Town fans chanted for teen striker Marriott to come on, but instead McCarthy introduced Stephen Hunt and Paul Taylor. And it was those two who played big parts in the winning goal, Taylor winning a free-kick down the right and Hunt whipping in the free-kick for Green to head home.
– Reaction to follow.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-1-1): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Berra, Smith (Hunt 63), Cresswell; Richardson, Green, Wordsworth, Nouble (Marriott 86); Williams (Taylor 63); Murphy.
Subs: Loach, Mings, Tabb, Henshall.
Booked: Smith (59)
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (4-4-1-1): Martinez; Lee, Onyewu, Loovens (cpt), Mattock; Antonio, Coke (Maghoma 80), Hutchinson, Lavery; Maguire (Helan 75); Nuhiu (Best 61).
Subs: Kirkland, McCabe, Llera, Stobbs.
Booked: Onyewu (36)
Attendance: 20,862 (2,080 away)
Referee: Carl Boyeson.