REPORT AND GALLERY: Middlesbrough 4 Ipswich Town 1
- Credit: PA
Middlesbrough v Ipswich: Ipswich Town’s promotion hopes are fading fast, the Blues suffering a potentially confidence-shattering 4-1 defeat at rivals Middlesbrough yesterday lunchtime.
Boro played nowhere near their best but were still able to score four times – and it could easily have been more – thanks to Town’s worrying habit of conceding sloppy goals in 2015.
Ipswich played well at times, forcing 13 corners and producing plenty of shots on goal, but their lack of ruthlessness in both boxes is proving very costly at present.
Two short corners were badly dealt with by the visitors in the first half, Daniel Ayala and Albert Adomah profiting in the fourth and 30th minutes respectively, Daryl Murphy having levelled the match up with his 23rd goal of the campaign.
Town’s defence was then at sixes and sevens after the restart, Patrick Bamford beating a high offside trap to score the third (64) and cleverly leaving Tommy Smith in his wake ahead of the fourth (79). He then missed a golden chance for his hat-trick.
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Ipswich, who were second at the end of December, have claimed 14 points from a possible 39 this year and are now eight points behind Middlesbrough.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy made one change to his starting XI following the 1-1 home draw with Brentford a week earlier, the fully-fit Teddy Bishop replacing Richard Chaplow. That meant a midfield reshuffle, Jay Tabb – excellent in the centre versus the Bees – moving back out to the left, Jonathan Parr switching from left midfield to right midfield and Bishop taking on the central creative responsibilities alongside water carrier Cole Skuse.
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Boro boss Aitor Karanka made three changes to his team following their 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest. Centre-back Daniel Ayala returned to action following a seven-game injury absence. He replaced injured right-back Ryan Fredericks, with Tomas Kalas moving to full-back. A mis-firing front line was also freshened up, Adam Reach and Jelle Vossen coming in for Lee Tomlin and Kike.
Town produced a good away display in the opening half but found themselves 2-1 down at the half-time whistle thanks to two pieces of slack set-piece defending, the latter a worryingly recurring theme in 2015.
Boro’s opener came in the fourth minute, a short corner worked to edge of the box, chipped in to the area and powerfully headed home by the leaping Ayala. Tyrone Mings was guilty of not tracking his man, keeper Dean Gerken was slow to react and, as a result, clattered into team-mate Christophe Berra.
It then required six minutes of on-field treatment to Gerken, who – having been knocked unconscious – was eventually stretchered off receiving oxygen.
Gerken was still being carried around the side of the pitch when Town netted their quickfire equaliser less than a minute after the restart.
Parr received the ball with his back to goal just inside the Boro half, span and drove forwards before unleashing a shot that proved too hot to handle for keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos. The alert Murphy pounced, stabbing the loose ball over the line from close-range for his 23rd league goal of the season.
With the home crowd edgy, Town hit the post in the 23rd minute. A good move down the left involving Bishop and Tabb ended with Murphy shooting powerfully into a crowded area, the ball deflecting on to the left post before being scrambled clear.
Boro had created little but restored their lead on the half hour mark, the goal again coming from a poorly defended short corner. This time, Adam Clayton exchanged passes with Grant Leadbitter before dribbling to the angle of the box. He was half-tackled and the ball rolling kindly into the path of Adomah to rifle home low under replacement keeper Bartosz Bialkowksi.
Adam Reach tripped over his own feet in the box just as the chance looked to have opened up, then Adomah fired narrowly over from long-range. It was Ipswich. however, who continued to have more possession and attacking intent.
Jonathan Woodgate – who replaced injured goalsvcorer Ayala in the 24th minute – had to produce a fine last-ditch tackle just as Bishop looked like he was going to dance his way to goal, Ipswich finishing the first half with triple the number of corners and double the number of attempts on goal.
And yet it could so easily have been 3-1 at the break, referee Michael Jones waving away strong penalty appeals after Berra appeared to catch Bamford late in the box following Jelle Vossen’s headed flick-on.
Town’s defence – consistently rock-solid in the first half of the campaign – continued to always look moments away from a costly error after the restart, nerves undoubtedly playing a part at the business end of the season. There was certainly a collective sigh of relief among the 444 away fans when Reach was just unable to capitalise after skipper Luke Chambers had mis-read Clayton’s chip over the top in the 53rd minute.
Boro did get a killer two-goal advantage in the 64th minute, Bamford springing a high offside trap, latching on to Vossen’s hooked through ball and racing forwards before coolly rounding Bialkowski with a clever shimmy to roll a shot into an unguarded net.
McCarthy replaced Tabb with Chris Wood, switching to a 4-3-3 system, but the third goal had knocked the stuffing out of the visitors.
The home side looked the far more likely to score and duly did in the 79th minute. Tommy Smith was fooled by Bamford’s clever dummy following a long ball over the top, the Chelsea loanee racing clear to fire a low shot beyond Bialkowski.
Bamford then passed up a golden opportunity for his hat-trick in the 85th minute, firing over with time and space after Adomah had run at the back four, with sub Emilio Nsue heading an equally good chance wide, from inside the six-yard box, with his first touch.
– Reaction to follow.
MIDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Kalas, Ayala (Woodgate 24), Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (Nsue 88), Clayton; Adomah, Vossen (Forshaw 68), Reach; Bamford.
Unused subs: Ripley, Whitehead, Tomlin, Kike.
Booked: Gibson (55), Reach (73), Adomah (78).
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken (Bialkowski 10); Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr, Bishop (Varney 84), Skuse, Tabb (Wood 69); Murphy, Sears.
Unused subs: Clarke, Bru, Chaplow, Anderson.
Booked: Smith (28), Bishop (45+).
Attendance: 18,909 (444 away)
Referee: Mr Michael Jones