Match report: Portsmouth 2 Ipswich Town 1 – Young Blues knocked out of FA Cup at League Two Portsmouth
An Ipswich Town team full of youth and fringe players were comfortably beaten 2-1 by League Two side Portsmouth in an FA Cup third round replay at Fratton Park tonight.
Gary Roberts’ penalty and Marc McNulty’s header had the home side 2-0 up at the break. The Blues pulled a goal back through Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ superb long-range effort, but that proved to be their only shot on target in a one-sided match.
Ipswich finished the game with 10 men after Polish defender Piotr Malarczyk was dismissed for a second yellow card in the 77th minute.
Portsmouth will now host Bournemouth in the fourth round a week on Saturday, while Town will have a blank weekend due to Reading having progressed in the competition last night.
Mick McCarthy is still to register an FA Cup victory since taking over at Portman Road in November 2012, while Town haven’t progressed past the third round since 2010.
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With Saturday’s Championship game at top-six rivals Birmingham very much in mind, McCarthy left the majority of his first teamers behind in Suffolk and instead travelled to the south coast with a team full of youth teamers and fringe players.
There were eight players aged 20 or younger in the 18-man squad – four of them started (Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock, Paul Digby and Ainsley Maitland-Niles), while four were on the bench (Joe Robinson, Kyle Hammond, Adam McDonnell, Shane McLoughlin).
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Take Brett Pitman and Maitland-Niles out of the equation and the other nine of Town’s starts had just 22 starts between them this season.
Full-backs Emmanuel and Kenlock did have a taste of first-team action during the mini League Cup run which ended at Old Trafford back last September, but the quartet of kids on the bench are very much considered Under-21 players.
Irish striker McLoughlin is one name that many Blues fans may not recognise given that he has never even been an unused sub for the first team.
Luke Hyam was made skipper for the evening.
Portsmouth, by contrast, named a near full-strength line-up. Manager Paul Cook had planned on resting a few ahead of his team’s big League Two clash against promotion rivals Oxford this coming Saturday but changed his mind after last weekend’s game at Accrington Stanley was postponed. His players needed some game-time having not played since the two teams’ first meeting 10 days earlier.
It was no wonder McCarthy had labelled his team the underdogs.
Town started off okay and went toe-to-toe with their hosts in a frantic opening quarter of an hour.
Pompey had the game’s first sniff at goal when Elliott Bennett raced onto Enda Stevens’ super ball up the line and sent a low cross-cum-shot just wide of the far post.
Ipswich responded and Pitman looped a header onto the roof of the net following Adam Webster’s poor back header.
Portsmouth had dominated possession at Portman Road and they soon started to show that they would be employing the same patient passing approach. And when they didn’t have the ball they pressed high and quickly to panic Town’s inexperienced back four.
Kenlock was guilty of trying to dribble the ball in a dangerous area of the field and, after being dispossessed, Piotr Malarczyk had to commit a clumsy foul and pick up a booking.
Moments later, Emmanuel had to fling himself in the way of the ball to prevent Gareth Evans getting his head on a cross inside the six-yard box.
Hyam had been getting about the pitch and making tackles, while Pitman was given a long talking to by the referee after tangling with Adam Webster after the two had chased a ball out of play.
Portsmouth were just that little bit sharper though. Their players were on the same wavelength, Ipswich’s were understandably not.
It seemed only a matter of time before the hosts made a breakthrough. That moment arrived in the 32nd minute via a spot-kick.
In the first phase of play, Blues boss McCarthy was left screaming for a foul on Maitland-Niles in the middle of the pitch. Nothing was given, Adam Barton supplied a raking pass over the top and Bartosz Bialkowski had to be quick off his line to save McNulty’s shot with his legs.
The ball was quickly put back into the area, Roberts took a touch with his back to goal and then, as he went to spin, had his legs swept away from under him by Malarczyk.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and, although Bialkowski got a firm hand on the ball, he couldn’t prevent Roberts’ penalty finding the back of the net.
Five minutes later the hosts scored again in simple fashion. Evans was given too much time and space to cross from the right and McNulty got between two defenders at the far post to head home from close-range.
Fratton Park was rocking. The Pompey fans first chanted ‘Championship, you’re having a laugh’ before they broke into a rendition of ‘Up the Football League we go’.
Ipswich’s young team looked shell-shocked and they were thankful when the half-time whistle blew.
Full of confidence, Portsmouth started the second half on the front foot and it required a smart one-on-one stop from Bialkowski to deny McNulty soon after the restart.
Then, in the 51st minute, Michael Doyle fizzed a shot just wide of the post following a cleverly worked free-kick routine by the hosts.
Never had a Championship team looked less likely to stage a comeback against lower league opposition in the FA Cup. The writing was on the wall and, with a good 40 minutes still to go, it was quite clearly damage limitation.
And then, out of nowhere, the Blues halved the deficit with a fine goal. Maitland-Niles cut inside from the right and curled a sublime left-footed shot into the top left corner of the goal. It was their first shot on target all game.
Portsmouth quickly got back on the front foot and McNulty’s low cross from the by-line flew across the goalmouth.
Ipswich had created next to nothing all game and when they did get a sniff at goal, Pitman lashed a shot well over following Luke Varney’s header back into his path.
Already facing an uphill battle, Town’s task was made all the more difficult when Malarczyk was dismissed in the 77th minute for a second booking.
His first yellow card had been collected in the 14th minute for clattering into the back of McNulty and his second was for a similarly unnecessary challenge on Roberts. The big Polish defender, who also gave away a sloppy penalty, had not had a good night.
The game rather drifted towards its inevitable conclusion from that point onwards and McCarthy decided to give teenage centre-back Joe Robinson his first team debut in the closing stages, bringing him on for Maitland-Niles.
PORTSMOUTH (4-2-3-1): Murphy; Davies, Webster, Burgess (Close 86), Stevens; Doyle (cpt), Barton; Evans, Roberts (Chaplin 81), Bennett; McNulty.
Unused subs: Bass, McGurk, Naismith, Tollitt, May.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski, Emmanuel, Malarczyk, Digby, Kenlock; Maitland-Niles (Robinson 89), Tabb (Coke 71), Hyam, Oar, Pitman, Varney (Toure 76).
Unused subs: Gerken, McDonnell, Hammond, McLoughlin.
Attendance: 15,179 (796 away)
Referee: Andy Woolmer