Report: Wolves 1 Ipswich Town 1 - Gritty away draw sees Blues take another step towards securing play-off place

Tommy Smith celebrates after Wolves' defender Richard Stearman had headed in an own goal. Photo: PAG

Tommy Smith celebrates after Wolves' defender Richard Stearman had headed in an own goal. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Wolves v Ipswich: Ipswich Town maintained their three-point cushion over play-off rivals Wolves thanks to a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Molineux this lunch-time.

Richard Stearman’s 22nd minute own goal came massively against the run of play, with the dynamic hosts levelling the match up three minutes after the restart when Benik Afobe slid in to net at the far post.

Ipswich then had to dig deep, former Wolves centre-back Christophe Berra in outstanding form and Kenny Jackett’s men guilty of trying to force the issue.

It means Town will definitely be in the top six heading into their final two matches – Nottingham Forest at home and Blackburn away.

Town boss Mick McCarthy made just once change to his starting XI following Tuesday night’s 3-1 home win over Cardiff – Jay Tabb replacing ex Wolves man Stephen Hunt on the left of midfield.

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Wolves boss Kenny Jackett made two alterations to his line-up, following a 2-1 midweek loss at Middlesbrough, Scott Golbourne and Nouha Dicko coming in for Kortney Hause and Jack Price respectively.

Ipswich started positively, Daryl Murphy firing wide on the turn, but very quickly Wolves began to dominate.

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The athletic trio of Bakary Sako, Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko were proving a real handful for the visitors, with the home side’s dynamic play making Town look painfully sluggish by comparison.

And yet Jackett’s men, for all their possession and apparent threat, were unable to create any golden chance. Time-and-time again it was ex Wolves defender Berra – whose every touch was booed – who stepped in at just the right moment.

Ipswich broke the deadlock against the run of play in the 22nd minute, Jonathan Parr forcing a corner and Teddy Bishop’s delivery hitting the back of Stearman’s head before finding the top corner.

The ex Town loanee, who admitted pre-match that his time at Portman Road under McCarthy’s management had turned his career around, looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up.

The goal really took the sting out of the Wolves players and crowd, the latter having been in great voice in the opening exchanges.

When Blues assistant boss Terry Connor held on to the ball for a little too long and the then Luke Chambers took his time over a throw-in, the natives began to get restless.

Wolves did gradually begin to reassert themselves though and finished the half as they had started it, very much on top.

The closest they came to levelling the match up came when Dave Edwards struck the outside of the post from a central position, just inside the area, after Smith’s clearing header lacked power.

Wolves started the second half at 100 miles an hour and were aided by some sloppy play by Town.

Dicko nodded a golden chance wide at the far post, following Sako’s deep free-kick delivery, within seconds of the restart.

The equaliser arrived in the 50th minute after a series of unforced errors by Town, starting with Tyrone Mings passing the ball straight off the pitch under zero pressure, followed by a loose Murphy header inside his own area and the subsequent failure to close down Kevin McDonald in midfield.

McDonald picked out Rajiv van La Parra and his shot looped off the lunging Smith and kindly into the path of Afobe, who slid the ball home at the back post.

For a spell it seemed as though Wolves would push on but, despite Ipswich being unable to keep possession for any period of time, the game began to drift.

When Jackett’s men did threaten, the outstanding Berra was there to make a perfectly-timed challenge.

Mings’ foul on the edge of the box handed free-kick specialist a good chance in the 86th minute, but he poor effort hit the wall and Town counter-attacked quickly and substitute Chris Wood curled an effort just wide.

Wolves tried to provide one last push in the closing stages, but the closest they came was when McDonald’s mis-hit shot flashed across the area.

WOLVES (4-4-1-1): Ikeme; Iorfa, Stearman, Batth (cpt), Golbourne; La Parra (Henry 64), McDonald, Edwards, Sako; Afobe; Dicko.

Unused subs: McCarey, Doherty, Doyle, Price, Ebanks-Landell, Jacobs.

Booked: Dicko (88)

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr (Anderson 66), Bishop (S.Hunt 74), Skuse, Tabb; Sears (Wood 83), Murphy.

Unused subs: Gerken, Fryers, Chaplow, Williams.

Booked: Parr (36), Tabb (42).

Attendance: 23,409

Referee: Stuart Attwell

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