Match report: Preston 1 Ipswich Town 1 – Transfer target Jordan Hugill breaks Blues’ hearts
Ipswich Town had to make do with a point at Preston as transfer target Jordan Hugill scored a late equaliser to cancel out another Tom Lawrence wonder strike.
Leicester loanee Lawrence added to his growing collection of goal of the season contenders when he found the top corner with a breathtaking strike in the 16th minute, but Hugill – reportedly the subject of a rejected £2m bid from Blues boss Mick McCarthy recently – smashed home from close-range at the death.
There was little between the sides in a game of few chances, and a draw was probably the fair result, but Mick McCarthy and his under-pressure players will be bitterly disappointed not to have secured a much-needed three points having defended bravely and looked a threat on the counter-attack at times.
Blues boss McCarthy made five changes to his team following the previous weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield. Toumani Diagourgaga, recently signed on loan from Leeds, was handed his full debut, while Bartosz Bialkowski, Josh Emmanuel, Grant Ward and Brett Pitman were promoted to the starting line-up at the expense of Dean Gerken, Jordan Spence, Paul Digby, Andre Dozzell and Kevin Bru.
Preston started brightly. Daniel Johnson volleyed over after a corner was half-cleared, then Hugill headed an excellent Aiden McGeady cross narrowly over the bar.
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The opening exchanges were all about the battle between tricky Irish winger McGeady and recalled Town right-back Emmanuel, but Town settled and soon the focus shifted to Blues left-winger Lawrence versus home right-back Marnick Vermijl.
The latter, on a booking, couldn’t commit to a challenge when Lawrence burst between two players before lashing an angled shot across the keeper and into the top corner. It was another fine individual goal to add to his growing collection. With their flagging confidence levels given a much-needed shot in the arm, Town very much looked up for it. Skipper Luke Chambers made a thumping last-ditch tackle on Callum Robinson, then Christophe Berra took a whack to the face when making a brave headed challenge.
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There was little between the teams in terms of ball retention and chances created. Sears had a low shot deflected wide at one end, then Ben Pearson’s well-struck volley hit his team-mate Hugill at the other.
After an even start to the second period, Emmanuel did just enough to prevent Robinson striking the ball cleanly in a golden position following Paul Gallagher’s lofted pass.
Diagouraga – who had played well but tired in his first senior start in six months – was replaced by Bru just before the hour mark.
Both teams continued to cancel each other out and it wasn’t until the 73rd minute that another goalscoring chance arrived, Pitman firing over after a corner was half-cleared.
The second-half’s defining moment arrived a minute later when Bialkowski produced a breathtaking stop to keep the Blues in front. McGeady burst into the box, following a slip by Jonas Knudsen, and struck a powerful goalbound shot but Town’s Polish custodian stuck out an instinctive strong arm to somehow keep the ball out.
Preston piled on the pressure, but Town survived three corners in succession. McCarthy responded by bringing on Kieffer Moore and the big striker recently signed from Forest Green did brilliantly to hold the ball up and take the sting out of the game.
Ipswich continued to look organised and defended bravely as Berra threw his body on the line to block a well-struck McGeady shot.
Preston grabbed a late leveller though and, predictably, it was Hugill got it. The strong forward gambled on a deep Daryl Horgan cross being flicked on and, beating the offside trap, smashed home from close-range.
PRESTON NORTH END (4-4-2): Maxwell; Vermijl (Makienok 78), Clarke (cpt), Huntington, Spurr; Gallagher (Beckford 65), Pearson, Johnson, McGeady; Robinson (Horgan 58), Hugill.
Unused subs: Lindegaard, Boyle, Browne, May.
Booked: Vermijl (14), McGeady (90)
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Emmanuel, Chambers (cpt), Berra, Knudsen; Ward, Skuse, Diagouraga (Bru 58), Lawrence; Sears (Moore 80), Pitman (McGoldrick 74).
Unused subs: Gerken, Spence, Digby, Bishop.
Referee: Mr S Martin