Report: Leeds United 1 Ipswich Town 0 – Wood scores only goal as Blues lack punch
Chris Wood’s first half goal was enough to secure Leeds United a fully-deserved 1-0 home victory over Ipswich Town this afternoon with Mick McCarthy’s men lacking an attacking edge.
Wood – who failed to make an impact at Portman Road during an eight-game loan spell in 2015 – headed home from close-range in the 35th minute.
After that it always looked the hosts who would score the game’s next goal, with Ipswich finally producing their first shot on target in the 89th minute.
It was a performance much like the one at Derby last week, the only difference being that the home side scored when on top and Ipswich weren’t able to snatch anything against the run of play.
The Blues may have conceded only eight goals in their nine Championship games, but they’ve only scored eight too. They drop to 14th in the table and are replaced in the top half by Leeds, who have now won four games in succession across all competitions.
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To add to Town’s misery they had three players all limp off with injuries – Brett Pitman, Adam Webster and Grant Ward – with the squad suddenly looking a little thin on the ground and no loan window available.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy named an unchanged team following last weekend’s goalless home draw with Aston Villa, though Luke Varney (hamstring) and Teddy Bishop (broken nose) were bench by Josh Emmanuel and Andre Dozzell.
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Leeds manager Garry Monk had made seven changes to his team for the midweek EFL Cup win over Blackburn. He reverted largely to the team that started the 2-0 league win at Cardiff last weekend, the only exception being Kalvin Phillips for Ronaldo Vieira.
During a cagey start to the match short on penalty box action, Leeds created a half-chance when pacey winger Hadi Sacko sliced a shot badly wide following a direct run down the right.
Then, out of nowhere, the hosts hit the post in the 10th minute. Towering Swedish centre-back Pontus Jansson showed remarkable composure to twist and turn his way out of trouble at the back and then delivered an inch-perfect raking pass over the top. Wood controlled the ball well in the channel and struck a fine angled shot which came back off the inside of the far post with keeper Bartosz Bialkowski well beaten.
Two minutes later Jansson, on loan from Italian club Torino, executed a perfectly-timed crunching slide tackle on Brett Pitman that left the Blues man in a heap. The Leeds defender instantly turned and delivered a fist-pump in the direction of the home fans.
Ipswich were the team to get on the front foot for the next five minutes though and, after a deep free-kick was only half-cleared, Grant Ward’s volley from the edge of the box deflected inches wide of the post. From the resultant corner, Town’s third of the game, Christophe Berra glanced a header just over the bar.
Pitman had been struggling since that Jansson challenge and had to be replaced by Leon Best in the 25th minute. Almost immediately, Best looked more suited to the lone striker role as he provided some added physicality up top.
Within minutes, a fine Adam Webster pass out of the back set up a Ward cross but Jonathan Douglas couldn’t get a good connection on a volley inside the area.
The momentum gradually swung back in Leeds’ favour though with Wood running the channels well and the impish Sacko running at the heart of the Blues’ defence whenever he could.
Monk’s men broke the deadlock in the 35th minute through a well-worked goal. Some clever one-touch play got over-lapping left-back Charlie Taylor in behind the away defence, he stood up a cross from the by-line and Wood, timing his run to perfection, climbed above Berra to nod home from close-range.
It was the ex-Town loanee’s seventh goal of the season and the big Kiwi, who made little impact uring an eight-game spell at Portman Road in 2015, had the same air of confidence about him as Daryl Murphy oozed during his 27-goal season for the Blues.
Lawrence badly over-hit a free-kick from a golden position towards the end of the half and then the Leicester loanee got away with dallying on the ball in his own box during stoppage-time, Berra flinging himself in the way of Wood’s shot.
After a quiet start to the second half, Town created a golden counter-attacking chance after a back-tracking Sears over-turned possession. Ward over-hit the final pass to Best though and was berated by his team-mate.
Leeds created an even better opening four minutes later after Eunan O’Kane’s vision sent Wood racing away clear on goal. Fortunately for Town, his first-time effort was straight at Bialkowski.
Blues boss McCarthy was forced to substitute centre-back Webster, who went off clutching his hamstring in the 56th minute. That meant a reshuffle, with Josh Emmanuel coming on at right-back and skipper Luke Chambers moving inside to his favourite role of centre-back.
There was a huge let-off for Town just after the hour mark. Sears lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, a quick pass sent Wood running into the box and, after Chambers’ block tackle sent the ball spinning free, Sacko blazed a shot over an open net.
Leeds continued to look the more likely to add to the scoreboard next and it required some desperate defending from the Blues in the 66th minute. After a corner was only half-cleared, Ward trod on the ball, rolling his ankle in the process, and Pablo Hernandez’s cross was hacked behind by Berra.
The Yorkshire side continued to try and turn the screw and, in the 70th minute, Kalvin Phillips’ fine free-kick effort was pushed around the post by Bialkowski.
Ipswich’s miserable luck regarding injuries continued when a third player limped off in the 75th minute – Ward hurting himself making a tackle in the middle of the park and replaced by Kevin Bru.
Town had created nothing going forwards but there was a sense of nervousness among the Elland Road crowd when they forced a corner with 10 minutes to go. As the delivery was cleared, Berra went down dramatically in the box running away from goal and was subsequently booked for simulation. The Scot was incensed and appeared to show the referee a mark on his leg.
Leeds had been dominant, but while the score stayed at 1-0 the Elland Road crowd became increasingly edgy. However, when Lawrence won a free-kick on the edge of the box, Sears sent his dead ball effort high and wide to ironic cheers.
When Lawrence’s mis-hit shot flicked off the head of Douglas and trickled through to keeper Rob Green, in the 89th minute, Town finally had their first ‘shot on target’.
Leeds then missed a golden chance to wrap up the points in stoppage-time when, on a counter-attack, Wood over-hit a pass when sub Matt Grimes was running clear through the middle.
– Reaction to follow.
LEEDS UTD (4-2-3-1): Green; Ayling, Jansson, Bartley (cpt), Taylor; Phillips, O’Kane; Sacko (Roofe 77), Hernandez (Mowatt 82), Dallas (Grimes 86); Wood.
Unused subs: Silvestri, Coyle, Cooper, Antonsson.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-1-1): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster (Emmanuel 56), Berra, Knudsen; Ward (Bru 75), Skuse, Douglas, Sears; Lawrence; Pitman (Best 25).
Unused subs: Gerken, Kenlock, Grant, Dozzell.
Booked: Bru (76), Berra (81)
Attendance: 22,554 (902 away)
Referee: Stephen Martin