Report: Blackburn Rovers 3 Ipswich Town 2 – Blues will face Norwich City in the play-off semi-finals after a nerve-shredding last day to the regular Championship season
Blackburn v Ipswich: Ipswich Town will face East Anglian rivals Norwich City in a two-legged play-off semi-final after a nerve-shredding last day to the regular Championship season saw them lose 3-2 at Blackburn but scrape into sixth spot courtesy of results elsewhere.
Brentford won 3-0 at home against Wigan to leapfrog Mick McCarthy’s men into fifth, but Derby lost 3-0 at home to Reading to ensure Mick McCarthy’s men clung on to sixth spot.
And with Norwich bettering Middlesbrough’s result to finish third, that means that the bitter rivals will meet at Portman Road this coming Saturday (9th) and then again at Carrow Road in the second leg the following Saturday (16th). Both games will kick-off at 12.15pm.
Town enjoyed a perfect start at Ewood Park, Daryl Murphy netting inside two minutes, but found themselves 2-1 down at the break after goals from Jordan Rhodes (36) and Craig Conway (42).
The Blues’ play-off place was hanging by a thread at the interval, only Darren Bent’s missed penalty for Derby keeping them in the top six, and things got worse when Rudy Gestede made it 3-1 Blackburn in the 58th minute.
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When Reading scored again at the iPro Stadium the 2,280 Ipswich fans at Ewood Park celebrated as if their own team had scored. The Blues then reduced the deficit to 3-2, when Murphy converted a penalty for his 27th league goal of the campaign, and minutes later news filtered through that Reading had scored again.
Such a nervy finish hadn’t seemed likely when Murphy broke the deadlock with little more than a minute played. Teddy Bishop’s quick feet forced a corner and Jay Tabb’s delivery from the left was met on the volley, the ball flying into the top corner from 10 yards out. The finish was sweet, but the marking was non-existent.
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Blackburn huffed and puffed in response, while Ipswich continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack. Two more corners were forced before Freddie Sears hit the face of the crossbar from an improbable angle following strong aerial play by Murphy.
At the 15 minute mark things were looking rosy, but then the Blues dropped their intensity, the game slowly drifted and, eventually, the tide began to turn.
The warning signs began around the half an hour mark. First, after Conway’s corner was flicked on, Lee Williamson’s shot was blocked by Tyrone Mings. Moments later it required an important near post intervention from Christophe Berra to deny Rhodes.
The latter was not be denied in the 36th minute though, meeting Conway’s free-kick delivery from the right and squeezing home a far post header. It was his fourth goal in five games against the club that let him go on the cheap.
Blackburn were suddenly on the front foot and it required a Bartosz Bialkowski punch, followed by a Mings block, to prevent the hosts taking the lead.
They did find a way through in the 42nd minute though, Gestede flicking on Tommy Spurr’s long throw from the right and Conway coolly side-footing across Bialkowski into the bottom right corner of the net.
The travelling fans had been singing ‘we are going up’ after their side’s early goal. The mood was rather more sombre come the interval as news filtered through that both Brentford and Wolves were leading 1-0. Crucially, however, Derby were 1-0 down at home to Reading, with former Blues man Darren Bent having missed a penalty kick in that match.
Town remained in fifth spot but their position was suddenly very precarious.
Mick McCarthy introduced Stephen Hunt for Tabb at half-time. Nine minutes into the second period he replaced Jonathan Parr with Paul Anderson.
Brentford going 2-0 up against Wigan meant that they leapfrogged Ipswich into fifth. Then Blackburn extended their lead, Gestede stabbing home from close-range after a mix-up at the back, Mings heading a cross straight into the back of Bishop under no pressure.
Ipswich did begin to create chances, Murphy producing an air-kick in the box and heading a difficult chance over, but most Town fans watching on TV will have switched over to the Derby v Reading match. When Reading doubled their lead at the iPro Stadium, Blues fans at Ewood Park celebrated as if their own team had scored.
Sears was guilty of a bad miss in the 74th minute when he stabbed the ball over the bar from close-range after keeper David Raya could only parry Mings’ powerful header, from a Bishop corner.
Blackburn then came within a whisker of making it 4-1 when sub Josh King spun and hit a wonderful rising effort that smashed the underside of the bar with Bialkowski well beaten.
Sears hit a rising shot over the bar in the 79th minute with Town reducing the deficit in the 81st minute, Murphy scoring from the penalty spot after Bishop was tripped by Spurr in the area.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-1-2-1-2): Raya; Henley, Lenihan, Spurr, Olsson; Williamson; Evans, Conway; Dunn (cpt) (Marshall 76); Gestede (King 72), Rhodes.
Unused subs: Eastwood, Brown, Cairney, O’Sullivan, Nyambe.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers, Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr (Anderson 54), Bishop (Bru 84), Skuse, Tabb (S.Hunt 46); Sears, Murphy.
Unused subs: Gerken, Fryers, Chaplow, N.Hunt.
Booked: Skuse (39), Tabb (42).
Attendance: 16,869 (2,280 away)
Referee: Graham Scott.