Match report: Ipswich Town 3 Blackburn Rovers 2 – Another Tom Lawrence wonder goal seals entertaining victory

Ipswich players rush to celebrate with goalscorer Tom Lawrence. Photo: James Ager

Ipswich players rush to celebrate with goalscorer Tom Lawrence. Photo: James Ager - Credit: James Ager

Tom Lawrence scored yet another wonder goal and was once again the star of the show as Ipswich Town produced a bold, brave and entertaining display under pressure to beat fellow Championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road this afternoon – even so they didn’t make life easy for themselves.

In-form Leicester City loanee Lawrence put the hosts ahead with a free-kick that skidded under a jumping wall and squirmed under the dive of keeper Jason Steele (38), but an error by Christophe Berra and slip by Adam Webster led to Hope Akpan sweeping home an equaliser less than five minutes later.

The Blues had played some neat football in the first half and established a two-goal lead after the break thanks to Berra’s close-range finish at a corner (53) and what was, incredibly, Lawrence’s third Championship goal-of-the-season contender.

His magic moment arrived in the 57th minute, a sensational 30-yard strike flying into the top corner to raise the roof. It was every bit as good as, if not better, than the individual goals he scored at Sheffield Wednesday and QPR.

Blackburn had created little after the restart but halved the deficit when Danny Graham converted a penalty awarded for a Webster foul on Akpan (74). Town’s fans, very much liking what they’d seen, really got behind their team though and Mick McCarthy’s men responded by digging deep to secure a vital three points.

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Town move up to 14th in the table, while Rovers remain in the relegation zone.

Blues boss McCarthy made three changes to his starting line-up following last weekend’s 2-2 home draw with Lincoln in the FA Cup. Fit-again senior duo Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse – who both sat out that match with swollen knees – returned, as did the rested Bartosz Bialkowski, with Dean Gerken, Grant Ward and the injured Brett Pitman (calf) dropping out.

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That meant a switch to a 3-5-2 system, as seen in the first half at QPR recently, with Josh Emmnauel and Jonas Knudsen playing as wing-backs.

Blackburn boss Owen Coyle made two changes to his team following their 2-1 win against QPR in the FA Cup. Keeper Jason Steele and defender Darragh Lenihan, the latter available again after suspension, replaced David Raya and Gordon Greer respectively.

Town started brightly and looked a real attacking threat in the opening exchanges. A rapid counter-attack led to keeper Steele racing off his line to beat Freddie Sears to a through ball in the sixth minute. Moments later, after a Lawrence free-kick delivery from the left was half-cleared, Sears poked an angled attempt just wide of the post inside the area.

The Blues remained on the front foot and, after a fine Cole Skuse interception and driving Lawrence run, the final pass to the on-running Emmanuel was just too strong. Then came some smart interplay between Andre Dozzell, Lawrence and Emmanuel, a slick move ending with Knudsen’s low shot going just wide of the near post.

Ipswich continued to press and, after Charlie Mulgrew made a hash of dealing with a ball over the top, Steele did well to save at the feet of the alert Sears.

Blackburn created two good openings of their own around the 15 minute mark though. First, former Town loanee Liam Feeney skipped past the challenge of Skuse on the halfway line, burst forwards and picked out Sam Gallagher with a through ball. The striker’s was saved by the legs of Bartosz Bialkowski. Two minutes later, Town’s keeper reacted well to tip over Gallagher’s header following a dinked ball into the box.

The game began to drift a little after an entertaining start and both teams gave the ball away cheaply. Emmanuel’s searching left-footed cross was not attacked by a home player in the six-yard box, while at the other end Knudsen got away with some jittery play in his own area.

Dozzell began to see more of the ball in the final third and his vision and subtle range of passing soon had the hosts back in charge. It was the teenager’s deft touch that led to Sears’ shot being pushed around the near post in the 37th minute.

Town’s breakthrough came a minute later after the advanced Knudsen nipped in to win a free-kick on the edge of the box following a poor piece of control by Ben Marshall. The dead ball was rolled off and Lawrence’s low shot went under the jumping wall and squirmed under the dive of Steele.

The Blues deserved the lead, on the balance of play, but it lasted less than five minutes as they once again shot themselves in the foot defensively.

First, Berra gave the ball away cheaply by his own corner flag, then Webster slipped after Feeney crossed the ball into the box. That allowed Graham the space to lay the ball off and the late-arriving Akpan expertly swept the ball home on the run.

Ipswich were the team to finish the half on top though and it required two stoppage-time saves from Steele to ensure the scores stayed level at the break. Lawrence’s low shot from the edge of the box was pushed around the post by the ex-Middlesbrough man, then Knudsen’s sweetly struck 25-yard volley crashed into the custodian’s chest when a yard either side would have been a certain goal.

After a quiet start to the second half, the Blues regained the lead in the 52nd minute after Knudsen’s deep cross was headed behind. Lawrence’s dead ball delivery from the right was flicked on by the head of Skuse and the alert Berra stabbed home at the back post. It was the Scottish international’s first goal since last March.

Then came yet another magic moment, from the man-of-the-moment, that really settled any nerves.

Lawrence was a good 30 yards out when he knocked the ball out of his feet. A pass right to the unmarked Emmanuel looked the better option, but he unleashed a breathtaking strike that dipped into the top right-hand corner and left keeper Steele rooted to the spot.

It’s not out of the question that the Leicester loanee could now have three contenders for Championship goal of the season following his superb solo run and finish at Sheffield Wednesday and 25-yard strike at QPR.

Blues fans, optimistically perhaps, chanted ‘sign him up’. The 21-year-old is likely to see out his season-long loan, but the Premier League champions may well fancy giving him a chance next season. Keep up his current spectacular form and he will soon be rivalling Giovani Dos Santos’ reputation as Town’s greatest-ever loan player.

Town produced their ninth shot on target in the 72nd minute, with Lawrence again at the heart of things. Following some good footwork in the box he passed sideways to Skuse and, after a clever reverse ball, Sears’ shot was pushed around the near post by Steele.

Blackburn had created nothing since the restart, and Town looked comfortable at the back, but the visitors halved their deficit out of nowhere in the 74th minute.

After a straight race between Webster and Akpan to reach a loose ball in the box, a tangle of legs led to referee James Linington pointing to the spot. Graham sent Bialkowski the wrong way with his penalty.

Ipswich – both the fans and the players – responded superbly. The noise from the stands translated to energy on the pitch and the Blues refused to go into their shells. In the 83rd minute Sears’ dangerous low cross was hacked away.

Blackburn, predictably, launched some long balls forwards in the closing stages but Town stood up to the challenge. Webster readjusted his body well to block a low cross with his chest, although there were appeals for handball.

Town remained a threat on the counter. Lawrence had an opportunity to burst clear for a hat-trick effort but sensibly slowed up and won a free-kick to run down the clock. Then the hard-working but profligate Sears blazed a shot into row z at the end of another quick attack.

There was still time for a heart in mouth moment when Derrick Williams went down under the challenge of Emmanuel in the box, but the referee waved away the protests.

The full-time whistle brought hearty cheers from the stands. The traditional post-win Chambers fist-pump celebration in front of the fans returned. This could be the first step to reunification at Ipswich Town.

IPSWICH TOWN (3-5-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra; Emmanuel, Skuse, Dozzell (Ward 66), Bru (Digby 90), Knudsen; Lawrence, Sears.

Unused subs: Gerken, Webber, Douglas, Morris, Best.

Booked: Lawrence (42), Dozzell (65)

BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Steele; Marshall, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Williams; Feeney, Akpan, Lowe (cpt), Bennett (Emnes 60); Gallagher, Graham.

Unused subs: Raya, Greer, Nyambe, Brown, Tomlinson, Mahoney.

Attendance: 15,009 (295 away)

Referee: James Linington

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