Match report: Ipswich Town 4 Barnsley 2 – Grant Ward scores hat-trick on a dream debut

Grant Ward (sitting) celebrates after putting Ipswich 1-0 ahead within seconds of coming on. Pictu

Grant Ward (sitting) celebrates after putting Ipswich 1-0 ahead within seconds of coming on. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Grant Ward stepped off the bench at half-time and scored a hat-trick on a dream debut as Ipswich Town opened their Championship campaign with a 4-2 win over Barnsley at Portman Road.

Ward – who only arrived from Tottenham in a £600k deal on Monday – replaced Teddy Bishop at the break and the 21-year-old took just 39 seconds to open his Blues account, arriving late in the box to rifle home with his first touch.

Ex-Town midfielder Conor Hourihane equalised less than three minutes later following some statuesque defending, but Ward netted again in the 61st minute when controlling and finding the top corner via a slight deflection.

David McGoldrick put the Blues 3-1 up from the penalty spot less than two minutes later, but newly-promoted Barnsley halved the deficit in the 74th minute when Marley Watkins headed home.

This was Ward’s day though and the speedy winger sealed all three points, and claimed the match ball, when rifling a left-footed grasscutter into the bottom corner in the 84th minute.

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This was far from the perfect display – Barnsley were the better team in a goalless first half and both goals Town conceded were sloppy – but there was, arguably, more entertainment value in the second half of this game than the entire second half of last season at Portman Road.

Following the first Saturday of the new Championship campaign, Norwich City – 4-1 winners at Blackburn – and Ipswich Town occupy the top two spots in the table.

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Blues boss Mick McCarthy started summer signing Adam Webster at centre-back and, in his biggest decision, chose Christophe Berra over Tommy Smith as his partner.

The other new boys, widemen Ward and Conor Grant, were both named on the bench. Ward has had a limited pre-season due to a calf strain, while Grant came from Everton on Thursday.

Instead, Bishop and Freddie Sears filled the wing slots in a narrow 4-4-2 system.

Barnsley – who were bottom of League One at the start of last December, but then went on a superb run to finish sixth and win the play-offs – had three debutants in their starting line-up. Right-back Andy Yiadom was once of Essex non-leaguers Braintree, winger Ryan Kent is on loan from Liverpool, while striker Tom Bradshaw scored 20 goals in the third-tier for Walsall last season.

The Tykes were dealt a major blow inside three minutes when striker Sam Winnall – their 24-goal topscorer of last season – limped off with a hamstring injury.

Ipswich started brightly enough and twice created decent openings. First, in the eighth minute, it required an inch-perfect sliding tackle from Marc Roberts to deny Daryl Murphy in the area following Kevin Bru’s through-the-eye-of-a-needle pass. Three minutes later, Bru dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box after Murphy had jinked inside from the right.

The Blues forced two corners, while twice Jonas Knudsen launched long throws into the box, but towering Barnsley centre-back Roberts was winning everything in the air.

Paul Heckingbottom’s side slowly grew in confidence and created a golden chance to break the deadlock in the 19th minute. Watkins’ cross dissected Town’s two centre-backs, but Bradshaw could only direct his header straight at Bartosz Bialkowski from close-range.

McCarthy wants his team to pass the ball out of the back more this season, but a frustrated Berra, after waiting for an age for an option, was forced to pump a long ball forwards after no-one showed for him. There was a subsequent exchange of words between him and skipper Luke Chambers.

Barnsley continued to threaten down the flanks with tricky left-winger Adam Hammill drifting inside and curling a fine effort just past the far post soon after the half hour.

Bru’s loose elbow had already left Josh Scowen with a cut above his eye and he went into referee Keith Stroud’s book for a late tackle in the 37th minute. Less than two minutes later he committed another clumsy foul and, after a long think, Stroud decided not to show him another yellow card.

Inbetween those two incidents, Town created a good chance on the counter-attack after Yiadom had gone down in the box. Penalty appeals were waved away, McGoldrick carried the ball forwards at pace and slipped a reverse pass to Sears. The latter, however, scuffed his angled shot and Adam Davies was able to save easily.

Barnsley again threatened just before half-time and it required a superb save by Bialkowski to keep the score level. A long diagonal ball into the box hit Berra on the thigh, spun free and suddenly Bradshaw had the whole goal to aim at from eight yards out. His reactions were good, but Bialkowski’s were better – the Pole somehow turning the ball around the post.

McCarthy is not known for making half-time changes, but there were two alterations at the break as new boys Ward and Grant replaced Bishop and Bru respectively. It meant a switch to a 4-3-3 system.

Incredibly, less than a minute later, Ward had scored with his first ever touch for Town. Knudsen’s throw up the line was headed inside by Murphy and the man who arrived late in the transfer window from Spurs arrived late in the box to sweep home a first-time shot into the bottom left corner.

Town’s lead lasted less than three minutes though as, just like so many times in pre-season, they switched off at the back. Cole Skuse could only half clear a cross with his header, then Barnsley duo Scowen and Watkins were both allowed to head the ball back into the danger zone – one from the edge of the box and the other around 12 yards out – leading to Hourihane netting from close-range. The Town defence had stood like statues.

A scrappy 10 minutes followed before Ipswich retook the lead in the 61st minute through that man Ward again. Murphy stood up a cross from the left, Alfie Mawson could only half clear with his header under pressure from McGoldrick and Ward, cool as you like, took a touch before drilling a shot high inside the near post with the aid of a slight deflection. For a man who had just scored twice on his debut, the celebrations were pretty understated too.

The dust had barely settled when the Blues were awarded a spot-kick in the 63rd minute. Murphy drove inside from the left with the ball and was felled by the combined efforts of Yiadom and Roberts in the area. It was a nailed on penalty and McGoldrick coolly sent Davies the wrong way from 12 yards out.

The Blues were well and truly in the box seat, but Barnsley refused to lie down and they halved the deficit in the 74th minute. Hourihane – released by Town without making a first team appearance at the age of 19 – provided a peach of a left-footed free-kick delivery from the right and Watkins climbed highest in a crowded box to head home. The visiting players rushed to snatch the ball from the back of the net and raced back to the halfway line for the restart.

Town, and Ward, weren’t to be denied though. Everton loanee Grant had looked a classy customer and, after his sumptuous corner delivery from the right was hacked clear, Ward struck a sweet left-footed grasscutter into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Keeper Davies made a hash of it but, frankly, who cares? This was Ward’s day.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra, Knudsen; Bishop (Ward 46), Bru (Grant 46), Skuse, Sears; McGoldrick (Pitman 81), Murphy.

Unused subs: Gerken, Digby, Smith, Douglas.

BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies; Yiadom, Roberts, Mawson, White; Hammill, Scowen, Hourihane (cpt), Kent (Payne 73); Bradshaw (Moncur 73), Winnall (Watkins 4).

Unused subs: Townsend, Nyatanga, Lee, Bree.

Attendance: 17,370 (1,117 away)

Referee: Keith Stroud.

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