Report: Ipswich Town 0 Brighton 0 – Second successive goalless draw at Portman Road

Town's Jonas Knudsen and Brighton's Anthony Knockaert battle for a high ball during the Ipswich Town

Town's Jonas Knudsen and Brighton's Anthony Knockaert battle for a high ball during the Ipswich Town v Brighton & HA (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 27 September 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town couldn’t capitalise on Brighton finishing the game with 10 men as they played out a second successive goalless draw at Portman Road in front of their lowest league attendance in almost four years.

The high-flying Seagulls had midfielder Dale Stephens dismissed for a second yellow card in the 82nd minute but a late onslaught never arrived from the hosts, who have now scored just four times in their last 10 games.

This was undoubtedly a much-improved display from the Blues, following Saturday’s poor 1-0 defeat at Leeds, but the concerns about a lack of creativity and goals remain, with all their efforts coming from long-range in front of a crowd of 15,228.

Mick McCarthy’s men remain unbeaten at home this season (two wins, three draws) and rise one place to 13th in the Championship table with this point.

Brighton, who have now kept seven clean sheets this season, missed out on the chance to break into the automatic promotion slots.

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Blues boss Mick McCarthy decided to drop Freddie Sears – who had gone 35 matches without a goal and reported a tight groin – to the bench and replace him with Kevin Bru. The other two changes were enforced – Josh Emmanuel and Leon Best coming in for Adam Webster (hamstring) and Brett Pitman (ankle/knee) respectively.

Seagulls manager Chris Hughton made two enforced changes to his team following a comprehensive 2-0 home win over Barnsley – ring-rusty West Brom loanee Sebastien Pocognoli in for suspended left-back Gaetan Bong and Oliver Norwood replacing the injured Beram Kayal in the middle.

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The first half finished goalless and, while it certainly wasn’t brilliant, it was far more encouraging for the Blues who were braver on the ball in tighter areas and far more willing to get shots off around the box.

Anthony Knockaert sent a cross just beyond Jiri Skalak, while Glenn Murray sent an ambitious 30-yard volley over the bar inside the opening 10 minutes but Brighton created nothing more before the break.

Tom Lawrence – playing on the left of a five-man midfield – always looked to be positive whenever he got the ball, even if the final pass or cross didn’t always come off.

The Leicester loanee’s direct run led to a free-kick which, after a tap off, he himself lashed wide from long-range. And it was Lawrence’s zipped pass into Leon Best’s feet that started Town’s best move of the half in the 15th minute.

Best, who produced some strong hold-up play as the lone front man, shifted the ball right and Josh Emmanuel cut inside before shooting with his weaker left foot. That deflected into the pass of Jonathan Douglas and the offside flag was long raised before he found the back of the net. Nevertheless, it was a move which drew warm applause from the home fans.

Teenage right-back Emmanuel, who had such a torrid time against Brighton at Portman Road last season, showed no signs of nerves on his seventh first team start. The broad-shouldered 19-year-old produced a good cross in the 27th minute, then delighted the crowd with a combination of strength and skill at the other end.

Town’s other full-back, Jonas Knudsen, also showed plenty of attacking intent down the left. He had three long-range attempts in the final 15 minutes of the half – the first was deflected wide for a corner, the second went into row z, while the third fizzed into the side-netting.

Having produced just three shots on target, on average, over the previous nine games, Town players had clearly been told to let rip when possible. Cole Skuse also took aim in the 41st minute, after space opened up for him to drive into, and ex-Blues loanee keeper David Stockdale had to parry.

Brighton’s first shot on target arrived four minutes after the restart when, after a cross from the left was allowed to bounce in the box, Knockaert’s angled far post shot was comfortably held by keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

More positive play by Lawrence down the left led to Town creating the next opening, but Knudsen’s cross was well defended by Lewis Dunk as Douglas lurked at the far post.

Brighton began to sit deeper and deeper, with the home crowd screaming at their side to get at them. Town, however, as so often is the case, seemed reluctant to turn the screw and go for the jugular.

McCarthy replaced Best with Sears just after the hour mark, but it was the Seagulls who soon created the game’s best chance. First, Emmanuel had to head a Bruno cross behind. Then, from the resultant corner, Douglas failed to get good distance on his clearing header and centre-back Shane Duffy fired over from 12 yards out.

Brighton then created two more half chances as substitute Jamie Murphy sent a cross-cum-shot beyond the far post and Dale Stephens hooked a difficult volley wide.

Just as it looked like the visitors could potentially start getting on top they were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Stephens, booked before the break for dissent, was shown a second yellow card for a late tackle on Douglas in the middle of the pitch.

Ipswich were unable to capitalise though and it wasn’t until stoppage-time that they created anything. Sub Teddy Bishop’s twinkle-toes won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but, after Skuse tapped it off, Lawrence’s shot was quickly charged down.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-5-1): Bialkowski; Emmanuel, Chambers (cpt), Berra, Knudsen; Ward (Bishop 79), Skuse, Bru (Grant 66), Douglas, Lawrence; Best (Sears 61).

Unused subs: Gerken, Kenlock, Digby, Dozzell.

Booked: Lawrence (24), Chambers (59), Douglas (61), Emmanuel (84)

BRIGHTON (4-4-2): Stockdale; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Pocognoli; Skalak (Murphy 72), Stephens, Norwood, Knockaert; Hemed (Sidwell 72), Murray.

Unused subs: Maenpaa, Hunt, Goldson, Baldock, Manu.

Booked: Norwood (37), Stephens (42, 82), Murray (90+)

Dismissed: Stephens (82)

Attendance: 15,228 (568 away)

Referee: Andy Davies

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