MK Dons 0-1 Ipswich Town: Blues survive nervy moments as Nolan’s goal claims valuable three points
Jon Nolan’s first-half goal was enough to secure Ipswich Town three points at MK Dons this evening.
The midfielder, making his first league start of the season following a troublesome calf injury, opened his body superbly after 12 minutes to expertly turn Emyr Huws shot into the corner of the net.
Nolan's goal ultimately proved enough to claim the win but Paul Lambert's men, cheered on by more than 3,000 away fans, had to deal with some nervy moments and required goalkeeper Tomas Holy to make three superb saves to keep hold of the lead.
But hold on they did, with the victory extending the unbeaten league run to eight and securing a fourth-successive clean sheet in the process.
It looked as through Ipswich would be returning to the top of the table with victory in this game, prior to Coventry's stoppage time winner at home to Wimbledon, with the Blues now second, a point behind the Sky Blues with a game in hand.
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Next up is a trip to Gillingham on Saturday.
Much of the discussion since Saturday's 0-0 draw with Doncaster, in which the Blues' 4-4-2 at times struggled against Darren Moore's side, has focussed on the shape of Lambert's side. The Town boss responded with a change this evening.
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He opted to go with wing backs, with Kane Vincent-Young and Luke Garbutt flanking a back three of Luke Chambers, James Wilson and midfield convert Cole Skuse.
The switch included four changes, with Jon Nolan and Emyr Huws coming into the side for their first league starts of the season.
Skuse, who was making his 250th Ipswich appearance, started in the middle of a back three but, within minutes, had switched to a deep midfield role as the visitors reacted to the way Dons boss Paul Tisdale had set his side up.
The Blues were keeping the ball and working it through what was now a midfield diamond, with Flynn Downes having the first sight of goal as he took aim from the edge of the box before firing over.
The visitors were soon ahead, though. Norwood was freed down the right before sending in an excellent cross which Nolan couldn't meet with his head. He remained alive, though, and when Huws whipped an excellent low cross back into danger the former Shrewsbury man was able to open his body and guide the ball expertly into the far corner.
Ipswich continued to control the game without creating too many openings, before Jackson was the next to threaten as he was played through by Norwood, having his one-on-one saved by Lee Nicholls.
The visitors suffered a blow on 35 minutes as Norwood departed injured after taking a bang in midfield, with Will Keane taking his place, with a flowing team move moments later seeing Jackson slipped away to cross for charging full-back Vincent-Young, who could only divert the ball wide of the post.
A reminder was served just before half-time of the need to keep the back door closed, as Sam Nombe found himself free in the box but couldn't turn Conor McGrandles' effort towards goal.
The hosts responded at the break by bringing on Jordan Bowery and Callum Brittain and switching to a diamond of their own, which brought more joy for the hosts.
Ipswich were still having the lion's share of things, though, and when Keane bundled his way through three tackles to slide in Downes the youngster was presented with a good chance to double the lead but couldn't test the keeper enough.
Goalkeeper Tomas Holy's first real save of the night saw the big Czech goalkeeper superbly block Conor McGrandles' shot with his legs before James Wilson cleared up well as Bowery looked to pounce the rebound.
The Town goalkeeper was called upon again as he saved well from Bowery's low effort, pushing it away to his left, before Huws survived two penalty appeals before being replaced by Anthony Georgiou.
The Blues were looking a little nervy as they were pushed further and further back, but still hand moments of their own, with Gwion Edwards having an effort blocked behind following a good break involving Georgiou and Nolan.
Holy's best save of the night saw him get down quickly to turn Jordan Houghton's shot away after the ball had evaded Garbutt in the air, with the goalkeeper jumping to his feet to remind his defence that they needed to remain switched on.
Wilson, Chambers and Vincent-Young were all required to make big blocks in the closing minutes as MK threw men forward in search of a point.
Ipswich held on during seven minutes of added time to ensure all three will now head back to Suffolk.
MK Dons: Nicholls; Williams, Martin, Poole; Walsh (Brittain, 46), Boateng (Agard 85), Houghton, Kasumu, McGrandles, Dickenson (Bowery 46), Nombe
Subs: Moore, Lewington, Gilbey, Harley
Ipswich Town: Holy; Chambers, Skuse, Wilson, Vincent-Young, Garbutt; Downes, Huws (Georgiou 67), Nolan, Norwood (Keane 35), Jackson (Edwards 77)
Subs: Norris, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Judge
Att: 10.167 (3,360 Ipswich fans)