REPORT: Leeds United 2 Ipswich Town 1

Billy Sharp celebrates his winner against Ipswich at Elland Road last night

Billy Sharp celebrates his winner against Ipswich at Elland Road last night

Leeds v Ipswich: Daryl Murphy’s saved penalty proved crucial as Ipswich Town suffered a 2-1 defeat to Leeds United, at Elland Road, on Wednesday night.

The Championship’s 21-goal leading scorer – who alongside Freddie Sears started on the bench – saw his side-footed spot-kick well-saved by a full-stretch Marco Silvestri in the 84th minute.

Both sides defended superbly in the opening three quarters of the match only to then gift each other goals. First, poor defending by Tyrone Mings, followed by some suspect goalkeeping by Bartosz Bialkowski, led to Alex Mowatt’s free-kick finding the net in the 71st minute.

Three minutes later, Sears’ tame effort from outside the area somehow squirmed under Silvestri at the near post for 1-1.

A mad seven minute period was then completed when Billy Sharp – a player who turned down a loan move to Town earlier in the season – did brilliantly to guide a volley into the bottom corner.

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Coming hot-on-the-heels of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich City, this was the first time Town have suffered back-to-back league defeats all season – the last team in the division to have boasted that record.

With Brentford beating Huddersfield on Tuesday night to leapfrog the Blues into sixth spot, this is the first time since November that the Blues have been outside the play-off places following a full round of fixtures. Town now host Brentford on Saturday in a crunch clash.

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Blues boss Mick McCarthy made four changes to his starting XI following Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Carrow Road. Murphy and Sears were both dropped to the bench and were replaced up top by ex-Leeds striker Luke Varney and new Leicester loan signing Chris Wood.

Richard Chaplow and Kevin Bru were also relegated to the bench, replaced by Jonathan Parr and Paul Anderson respectively. Jay Tabb moved into a central midfield role.

Leeds had full-backs in both wide positions, while Town’s midfield was defence-minded. It was no surprise, therefore, that it was goalless for so long.

With Mings and Parr linking up well down the left, Town forced six corners in the opening period. Tabb failed to beat the first man with two and saw two average deliveries well-defended, while Anderson’s two efforts consisted of a clever short routine that was dealt with and a poor attempt.

Varney was booed by the home fans due to the fact that former boss Brian McDermott once claimed that the striker refused to play (against Ipswich) ahead of his move to Blackburn. The front man, it should be said, has denied that.

Clearly fired up, Varney put himself about and had a headed finish, following a Luke Chambers cross, ruled out for offside in the third minute. He and Wood fed off scraps for the most part.

Town’s only other real chance of note came just before half-time when Wood and Tommy Smith both had shots blocked in the area following Silvestri’s unconvincing punch.

Leeds created the first half’s best two openings. It required a Smith goalline clearance in the seventh minute, the Blues defender blocking Sharp’s shot after Lewis Cook’s low cross evaded several players in the box.

They had an even better chance in the 35th minute after Christophe Berra inexplicably tripped over his own feet trying to turn by the corner flag. Sam Byram’s low cross found Sharp inside the six-yard box but the front man headed wide under pressure from Smith inside the six-yard box. Indeed, the Leeds players felt there was a push and that they should had a penalty.

There was some superb body-on-the-line defending from both sides at the start of the second half.

If anyone was going to score, it looked like it would take a mistake. That proved to the case, some suicidal defending by Town allowing Leeds to break the deadlock.

After Bialkowski rolled the ball out to Mings the left-back tried to dribble forwards only to get caught on the ball and commit a foul, tugging back Sam Byram. Mowatt’s 25-yard free-kick was well-hit, but Bialkowski should have kept the ball out at his near post.

McCarthy immediately brought on Sears and the striker quickly levelled things up, his tame angled effort somehow squirming under Silvestri’s dive.

Leeds regained the lead in the 78th minute though, following a quick counter-attack, Cook’s cross from the right being guided into the bottom left corner by Sharp’s volley.

Four minutes later, Town were awarded a penalty after Bamba handled the ball as Sears tried to clip it past him in the box, following Parr’s long punt.

Murphy – on as a 72nd minute sub – side-footed the ball towards the bottom left corner, but Silvestri guessed correctly and got his fingertips to the ball at full stretch.

McCarthy stormed straight down the tunnel at the end instead of staying on the pitch to shake every players’ hand – as he normally does.

His terse post-match press conference showed just how frustrated he was at his side’s display.

The Blues players will have got back around 2.30am on Thursday morning. They now have to pick themselves up for a big game against sixth-placed Brentford on Saturday.

LEEDS UTD (4-5-1): Silvestri; Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, C Taylor (Antenucci 68); Byram, Cooper, Cook, Murphy, Mowatt; Sharp (Morison 86).

Unused subs: S Taylor, Berardi, Sloth, Doukara, Cani.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Anderson (Bru 61), Skuse, Tabb, Parr; Varney (Murphy 65), Wood (Sears 72).

Unused subs: Gerken, Clarke, Chaplow, Connolly.

Booked: Bru (66), Skuse (88).

Attendance: 19,730

Referee: Mark Brown.

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