Stoke City 2-0 Ipswich Town: A goal in either half costs Lambert’s men as gap to safety grows further
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Ipswich Town were undone by a goal in either half at Stoke as the gap to safety grew following their fourth-straight defeat.
Tom Ince and Joe Allen scored the goals for the Potters, on an afternoon where the Blues gave as good as they got for long spells and tested a Stoke side made up of internationals and players with vast Premier League experience.
Jack Lankester was the pick of the Ipswich players, creating from open play and offering a real threat from set pieces, but the gap in class ultimately told despite the Blues having more shots and more efforts on goal than their expensively-assembled hosts.
The draw between Millwall and Hull means the gap to safety is now eight points, heading into next weekend’s home clash with Wigan, but despite the loss, the 1,000-strong travelling continued to sing Lambert’s name and backed their side as they left the pitch.
Lambert, who had kept the same starting XI for the first four games as Ipswich boss, made five changes to his side with the headline coming between the sticks where Dean Gerken replaced Bartosz Bialkowski.
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In truth, the Ipswich goalkeeper saw little action during regulation time in the first half despite spells of home pressure which saw the Potters play neat balls around the edge of the Town area and work space for their array of attacking talent.
The hammer blow would come before the break, when Ince slid the ball past Gerken, but before then the Blues were able to grow into the game and made chances of their own as the Potters began to make mistakes.
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The hosts could have been ahead early, had Benik Afobe kept playing after the ball broke to the striker in the area following a collision between Gerken and Matthew Pennington.
Saido Berahino was the next to take him but his effort flew wide, from which point the Blues began to find their feet.
Much of the threat came down the flanks, through Freddie Sears and Jack Lankester, and it was the latter who threatened first as he cut in from the right and let off a shot which flew wide off a combination of Jack Butland and the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
The teenager’s delivery was causing problems from set-pieces, with Pennington’s flick-on from a corner just evading a flying Luke Chambers as the captain hurled himself at the ball.
Sears and Jordan Roberts just missed the target with efforts from outside the box before Lankester did the same, with a gap in play following as referee Geoff Eltringham replaced by fourth official Anthony Backhouse due to injury.
Then, the low blow as a slick Stoke move saw Ryan Woods thread the ball through for Ince, who tucked the ball past Gerken.
Ipswich were on the front foot at the start of the second period, with Lankester again the creator in chief as the teenager threatened from open play and from set pieces, but for all their good work the Blues were soon undone by another slick home move.
It was Allen, once a £15million signing by Liverpool, who applied a beautiful finish to sweep home Erik Pieters’ cross, as the Potters flexed their muscles.
Roberts fired wide as Ipswich looked to respond before being replaced by Ellis Harrison, but that was as good as it got as Gary Rowett’s men saw the game out.
Stoke: Butland, Martina, Shawcross, Williams, Pieters; Woods, Allen, Clucas (Fletcher 88); Ince (McClean 70), Afobe (Crouch, 88), Berahino
Subs: Federici, Martins Indi, Diouf, Sorenson
Ipswich: Gerken; Spence, Chambers, Pennington, Knudsen; Chalobah, Downes, Nolan (Dozzell 72); Lankester (Edwards, 65), Sears; Roberts (Harrison, 80)
Subs: Bialkowski, Nsiala, Bishop, Rowe
Att: 24, 694 (1,011 away fans)