Match report: Ipswich Town 3 Queens Park Rangers 0 – Much improved Town record biggest win of season

Luke Varney celebrates his goal to take Town 2-0 up in the Ipswich Town v Queens Park Rangers (Sky B

Luke Varney celebrates his goal to take Town 2-0 up in the Ipswich Town v Queens Park Rangers (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 26 November 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Grant Ward, Luke Varney and Tom Lawrence were all on target as Ipswich Town swept aside Queens Park Rangers 3-0 thanks to a superb second half display at Portman Road this afternoon.

Ward scuffed an effort into the far corner of the net after some neat footwork in the box after 13 minutes, then keeper Alex Smithies’ howler gave Varney the chance to roll the ball into an empty net nine minutes after the restart.

Lawrence’s crisp finish, which came after Cole Skuse’s attempt fell at his feet in the box, sealed what was only a second win in seven outings at Portman Road.

There was an element of fortune about all three goals scored, but this was undoubtedly a much-improved display from Mick McCarthy’s under-pressure team following the previous weekend’s dire 2-0 loss to Nottingham Forest on Suffolk soil.

The Blues produced energy and fight to win the early battles and then had a clinical edge. Indeed, they could have ended up winning by a far bigger margin as QPR – who had beaten Norwich in Ian Holloway’s first game in charge – folded in a one-sided finish.

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Instead, they had to settle for their biggest margin of victory at Portman Road since Charlton were beaten by the same scoreline almost two years ago.

Town rise to 14th in the Championship table and are now four points adrift of the play-off places. They are only three points behind Norwich City after the Canaries lost for the fifth game in succession.

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McCarthy made three changes to his starting line-up following last Saturday’s dire 2-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest.

The fit-again Adam Webster replaced Josh Emmanuel in defence. More controversially, the experienced duo of Jonathan Douglas and Luke Varney replaced Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears in midfield and attack respectively.

Town’s boss clearly wanted to add some physicality and strength to the spine of his team and, with a more expansive approach having not worked in the last two home outings, he reverted to a more pragmatic and direct tactical approach.

The Blues kicked off and immediately launched the ball forwards and into touch. When the clock reached 17 seconds – the time a goal was conceded the previous weekend – there were some ironic cheers from home fans.

It was clear in the opening exchanges that Town’s approach was to hit the ball long to target man Varney and, to be fair, the 34-year-old did a fine job of winning aerial challenges pressing the away defence.

Following a fairly scrappy start to proceedings, Ipswich broke the deadlock withy the game’s first real opening in the 13th minute. Tom Lawrence’s whipped free-kick delivery from the left led to keeper Alex Smithies failing to get good contact on a punch clear inside a crowded six-yard box. Ward’s right-footed shot was blocked and then the winger, after some swift footwork in the box, scuffed his left-footed follow-up effort across the keeper, the ball somehow bobbling inside the far post. They all count, as they say.

Ipswich were certainly playing with a lot more fight and desire than the previous weekend, with Skuse and Douglas disruptive presences in the middle of the park. Indeed, when QPR counter-attacked rapidly, Skuse raced back and did superbly to snuff out the danger as Conor Washington looked to pounce.

QPR, playing an unconventional 5-2-3 system, did have a spell of pressure midway through the half as Town’s passing became increasingly ragged. One poor pass across the back by Luke Chambers put the Blues in danger, keeper Bartosz Bialkowski eventually collected and then was taken out by a very late and reckless James Perch challenge. The right wing-back was booked.

Ipswich were working hard without really creating much. David McGoldrick provided plenty of energy, and even made a couple of tackles near his own box, but he was unusually sloppy in possession.

Town should have doubled their lead in the 32nd minute following another fine Lawrence free-kick delivery from the touchline. This time, after he whipped in a dead ball from the right, Berra put a stooping header wide from six yards out after getting across his marker. It was a gilt-edged chance.

QPR’s best and only real chance of the half arrived in the 35th minute. Berra’s poor pass out the back led to a quick through pass which deflected kindly into the path of Washington. The Northern Ireland striker held off Chambers, but Bialkowski was quick off his line to block the shot at his feet.

The half then ended with some major controversy when Perch somehow escaped a sending off. The wing-back left Jonas Knudsen in a heap with late challenge just off the pitch, but referee Andy Woolmer refused to show him a second yellow card much to the understandable ire of the home fans.

The quality of the spectacle did not improve after the restart and, with the game drifting, fans resorting to waving their lit-up mobile phones in the dark.

Then the Blues were gifted a second goal, in the 54th minute, thanks to a terrible error of judgement by keeper Smithies. Jonathan Douglas’ lofted ball over the top looked a little heavy, but Smithies raced off his line only to see the ball bounce comically over his head and prevent Varney with an open goal to roll the ball into.

The mood was transformed and suddenly Town fans were roaring their team on. McCarthy’s men responded by upping their attacking intent and a third goal duly arrived in the 61st minute.

After Varney’s cross was only half-cleared the crowd enthusiastically urged the goal-shy Skuse to ‘shoot’ and he duly obliged from 30 yards out. The ambitious effort fell nicely to the feet of Lawrence in the box and, after a smart piece of control and turn, the winger emphatically found the bottom corner with his crisp shot.

Bialkowski made a smart stop when he held onto Chery’s volley from the edge of the box in the 66th minute, then substitute Sandro thumped a header against the near post after meeting Chery’s corner kick in the 76th minute.

Town were comfortably in charge though and came close to adding to their goal tally on several occasions. First, another wicked Lawrence free-kick delivery from wide and deep bounced in the box and went just over the bar. Then, a driving run and reverse pass by Lawrence set up McGoldrick in the box but he scuffed his attempt to bend the ball into the far corner of the net.

Ipswich continued to look the far more likely to add to the scoreline and forced two good saves out of Smithies. McGoldrick’s ambitious angled effort was well-hit and turned around the post in the 83rd minute, while the away keeper did brilliantly to get a hand to Ward’s toe-poked effort after the Blues winger had been sent racing clear by substitute Freddie Sears.

Town created three more chances in the last few minutes. Leon Best’s clever ball around the corner put McGoldrick away one-one-one, but he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and an attempted chip was saved.

Either side of that chance, fine work by Skuse twice sent Sears scampering away but his angled attempts were saved.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra, Knudsen; Ward, Douglas, Skuse, Lawrence (Best 80); Varney (Sears 69), McGoldrick.

Unused subs: Gerken, Emmanuel, Bru, Bishop, Williams.

Booked: Lawrence (71), Onuoha (80)

QPR (3-5-2): Smithies; Onuoha (cpt), Hall, Lynch (Ngbakoto 66); Perch (Sandro 59), Henry, Chery, Cousins, Bidwell; Washingto, Polter (Sylla 59).

Unused subs: Ingram, Wszolek, Shodipo, El Khayati.

Booked: Perch (25), Chery (71)

Attendance: 16,510 (1,225 away)

Referee: Andy Woolmer

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