Report: Ipswich Town 3 Cardiff City 1 – Cole Skuse ends his goal drought in a pulsating night at Portman Road

Ipswich Town FC v Cardiff FC.
Sky Bet Championship.
Freddie Sears scores for Town.

Ipswich Town FC v Cardiff FC. Sky Bet Championship. Freddie Sears scores for Town. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Ipswich v Cardiff: Cole Skuse ended his three-year goal drought as Ipswich Town beat Cardiff City 3-1 in a pulsating night at Portman Road.

After Freddie Sears’ early opener was quickly cancelled out by Eoin Doyle’s header, midfielder Skuse rifled home from 25 yards out to raise the roof. And following an incident-filled second period, Daryl Murphy coolly netted his 24th goal of the campaign deep into stoppage-time to seal the win.

Victory, coupled with the fact that both Wolves and Brentford lost, means Mick McCarthy’s men are now three points clear of the aforementioned duo in sixth-spot heading into Saturday lunchtime’s televised match at Molineux.

Cardiff, unbeaten in their previous seven away matches, never made life easy for Town and fully played their part in a game that kept everyone on the edge of their seats from the first to the last whistle. Visiting keeper David Marshall made two fine stops in the second period, while referee Gavin Ward’s decision not to send off Fabio da Silva left the home fans incensed.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made two changes to his starting line-up following Saturday’s 3-2 home win over Blackpool, widemen Luke Varney (hamstring) and Jay Tabb (dropped to the bench) replaced by Jonathan Parr and Stephen Hunt respectively. It was the latter’s first start since the 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday on February 10.

Cardiff boss Russell Slade also made two changes to his starting line-up following a 2-1 win at Leeds, Eoin Doyle replacing injured front man Conor McAleny and Fabio Da Silva coming in for winger Craig Noone.

Ipswich started on the front foot; Luke Chambers heading over and Murphy glancing a header wide – from Teddy Bishop corner and free-kick deliveries respectively – inside the opening six minutes.

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That early positive play encouraged the home fans inside Portman Road, the roof raised when the deadlock was broken in the eighth minute.

Centre-back Christophe Berra stepped in and won the ball cleanly off the full-flow Doyle inside Town’s box, took one look up and sent a perfectly weighted raking ball over the top for Sears to chase.

Sears still had plenty to do but, waspish as ever on the last shoulder, managed to hassle the ball away from defender Bruno Manga and rifle a low shot, with the aid of a heavy deflection, across keeper Marshall and into the far corner of the net.

Town’s lead lasted less than five minutes, however, Cardiff scoring with their first real opening of the match.

Skuse was guilty of a needless shirt pull out on the right side, Cardiff played the free-kick short, Scott Malone whipped in a wonderful cross and Doyle stooped to head home inside the six-yard box.

Berra joined Skuse in the book, for a foul on the lively Doyle, with neither side able to find much rhythm to their play.

Then came the moment that Town fans had been waiting for – a Skuse goal. And boy was it worth the wait.

Tyrone Mings took a short throw, got the ball back and attempted a low pass into the area. Manga lunged to intercept, half-cleared and Skuse, from 25 yards out, rifled a crisp shot across Marshall and into the far corner of the net.

It was the 29-year-old’s first goal for the Blues in what was his 82nd appearance for the club. It was only his 10th goal in a career which has included more than 350 appearances.

Indeed, there is a Twitter account called ‘Has Skuse Scored Yet?’ While one fan proclaimed on the social networking site before kick-off that they would shave their eyebrows off if the former Bristol City man netted.

Needless to say, the popular midfielder celebrated wildly, running towards delirious staff on the home bench.

It continued to be a game of fine margins up until the interval.

Parr was tackled by Joe Ralls in the box just when he was about to pull the trigger, while Tommy Smith headed over from a Bishop corner.

Cardiff had created little, but there was a warning sign just before the break following Malone’s fine pass up the line and Joe Mason’s clever cut-back. Fabio had plenty of time to control the ball at the back post but, caught in two minds whether to shoot or cross, ended up dragging the ball well wide.

It required a fine save by Marshall to prevent Ipswich doubling their lead five minutes after the restart, the former Norwich keeper arching backwards to tip over Murphy’s super glancing near post header following good work by Parr out on the right.

Still, neither team was able to find any real momentum, but referee Gavin Ward’s highly inconsistent decision making incensed the home fans around the hour mark.

First, he failed to book Whittingham for a wild lunge from behind on Sears in the centre circle. Then, moments later, there was a major flash point between Mings and Fabio.

Fabio fouled Mings, a free-kick was given and Mings appeared to say something in the former Manchester United player’s ear as they walked off. The Brazilian completely lost his head, his arms flailed wildly, and he had to be restrained by several team-mates. When everything had died down, Ward decided to book both players. Considering Fabio was seemingly going to be booked for the initial foul, he really should have been dismissed.

With the game continuing to lack quality, Town continued to defend comfortably and create the odd chance of their own.

It required another super Marshall stop in the 77th minute, the keeper showing great reactions to keep out Smith’s powerful header from sub Paul Anderson’s corner. Berra’s close-range rebound chance clipped the top of the bar.

Cardiff continued to battle away, never making life easy for the hosts, and they passed up a golden opportunity to equalise in the 85th minute. Sub Craig Noone glided past Mings to get into the box and picked out Aron Gunnarsson on the penalty box with his cut-back. There were huge sighs of relief when the Icelander stabbed his shot wide.

When the fourth official held up his board to indicate four minutes of stoppage-time there were groans around Portman Road. They needed have worried, the result sealed when two Cardiff players got in each others’ way, Skuse quickly supplied a through ball and Murphy, on the angle, brilliantly steered the ball beyond Marshall with the outside of his boot for his 24th goal of the campaign.

Skipper Chambers’ customary fist-pump celebrations in front of the North Stand at the end were greeted with hearty cheers. This felt like a very significant victory.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr (Anderson 74), Bishop (Fryers 87), Skuse, S.Hunt (Tabb 58); Sears, Murphy.

Unused subs: Gerken, Chaplow, Williams, Wood.

Booked: Skuse (13), Berra (27), Mings (61).

CARDIFF CITY (4-4-1-1): Marshall; Peltier, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Malone; Fabio (Noone 68), Gunnarsson, Ralls (Pilkington 74), Whittingham; Mason, Doyle (Harris 85).

Unused subs: Moore, Adeyemi, O’Keefe, Kennedy.

Booked: Fabio (61), Malone (67).

Attendance: 17,722 (197 away)

Referee: Gavin Ward

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