Sunderland 2-1 Ipswich Town: Two contentious refereeing decisions turn the tide as Blues lose to promotion rivals
A pair of contentious refereeing decisions turned the game away from Ipswich Town as they lost 2-1 at Sunderland.
With the score at 1-1 midway through the second half, referee Peter Wright first sent off Andre Dozzell for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on former Blue Grant Leadbitter, before awarding the hosts a penalty when defender Mark McGuinness was adjudged to have handled inside the box after a combination of Toto Nsiala’s head and his foot hooked the ball back into his own body while trying to clear a cross into the box.
Leadbitter converted from the spot to ultimately win the game for the hosts, as the Blues once again failed to win against a side destined to be a promotion rival.
Town will feel aggrieved by this loss, though, particularly given their clear frustrations with the decisions and the way they clawed their way back into the contest inside the first half and pushed for a winner in the second.
In the end, a draw would have been a fair result.
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It looked like it was going to be a long night for Paul Lambert’s Blues, after they conceded a soft opener to Charlie Wyke after just eight minutes, but to their credit they eventually gained a foothold in the game and found an equaliser before the break, as Jack Lankester fired home following good work by Gwion Edwards.
In what was an even contest, lacking any real quality for long periods, the Blues looked to have done enough for a point before Wright’s two late decisions, meaning they return to Suffolk with nothing but remain second in the League One table.
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Town were dealt a blow prior to kick-off with the news Luke Woolfenden is required to self-isolate for 14 days due to a close contact testing positive for coronavirus, with Lambert bringing Toto Nsiala into the side in his place and also opting to bring in Kayden Jackson and Jack Lankester for starts.
Kick-off was delayed for 30 minutes due to issues with the iFollow streaming service, with Town struggling to get going once the action did kick-off as they found it hard to gain a foothold in Sunderland territory.
And it didn’t take long for the hosts to take the lead, with the opener a soft one as the Town defence was breached. A ball from deep began the move, with the pass into the Ipswich area tying Mark McGuinness in knots as the Arsenal man stumbled, giving Wyke a simple pick-up to finish past Tomas Holy as Stephen Ward struggled to get back into position.
Town struggled to find their feet, with a succession of passes and touches falling loose, while Sunderland controlled the ball a little better and fashioned an opening when Denver Hume’s cross from the left found Josh Scowen, eight yards out, but the midfielder was only able to head over the top.
The Blues’ first opening came when Scowen chopped down Teddy Bishop, 25-yards from goal, with Dozzell firing the following free-kick into the wall. That’s become a theme this season.
Much of the play was coming in Ipswich territory, with Town too slow to build their own attacks and their hosts enjoying possession in the final third, before Conor McLaughlin crossed for Wyke to head over the top after beating Nsiala to the ball easily.
Town were having plenty of possession without threatening in the final third but all that changed on 38 minutes when Edwards beat his man, got his head up and pulled a perfect pass back into the feet of Lankester. From there, the academy product took a touch and fizzed a shot back across goal and into the net off the far post.
Ipswich heads were up for the remainder of the half, with Jackson so nearly forcing an opening in the final seconds of the opening period when he robbed Hume on the byline and caused momentary panic in the Sunderland box before keeper Lee Burge was able to jump on the ball.
The Blues started the second period well, forcing the issue and winning the ball back in Sunderland territory on three occasions, with the last of those leading to penalty appeals when Lankester was chopped down by Bailey Wright as he looked to connect with Luke Chambers’ cross, only for referee Wright to wave away the Town cries.
Tom Flanagan headed over from a corner as Sunderland had their tales up, before Jackson caused a nervy moment as he chased down home keeper Lee Burge, forcing him to stumble and clear into touch as the Sunderland error-count increased.
Another of those saw Flanagan lose the ball easily into the path of Judge, with the Irishman crossing into the path of Lankester who, after controlling the ball well for himself, couldn’t quite get over the ball well enough to find the net as he then fired over the top.
That felt like a big moment, as did the dismissal of Dozzell following a tangle with Leadbitter, with the Ipswich midfielder, his team-mates and staff alike perplexed at the decision from referee Wright, who produced his first card of the game to send the Ipswich man off.
Sunderland burst into life after gaining their man advantage, with Wyke firing over the top when finding space on the edge of the box, before the most unfortunate of penalties, given against McGuinness as he appeared to play the ball into his own arm as he tried to clear, gave Leadbitter the opportunity to win it for his side.
Sunderland: Burge; McLaughlin, Wright, Flanagan; O’Nien, Leadbitter, Scowen (Power, 46), Gooch, Hume; Maguire (Graham, 68), Wyke.
Subs: Matthews, O’Brien, Diamond, Sanderson, Grigg
Ipswich Town: Holy; Chambers, Nsiala, McGuinness, Ward; Dozzell, Bishop, Judge; Lankester (Bennetts, 89), Edwards, Jackson (Hawkins, 75)
Subs: Cornell, Wilson, Kenlock, Huws, Sears