Wigan Athletic 1-1 Ipswich Town: Former Blue Garner denies Lambert’s 10-men with heartbreaking late goal
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Ipswich Town’s hearts were broken as former Blue Joe Garner found a late equaliser to deny his former club a much-needed victory.
It looked as though the visitors, down to 10 men after Dane Jonas Knudsen was red-carded for dragging down Leon Clarke when he had a clean run to goal on 25 minutes, were going to leave with all three points following Will Keane’s first-half penalty.
But Garner connected with a Reece James cross in the early seconds of stoppage time to break Ipswich hearts.
Manager Paul Lambert, watching from the directors box as he served the first of his two-game touchline ban, looked on with a blank stare following the late goal as he contemplated what might have been.
He would have been proud of the way his players dug in and battled throughout the contest, controlling the game with 11 men and still offering a threat with 10,
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But there was a sad feeling of inevitability about the Wigan equaliser as the hosts threw forward wave after wave of attack.
Reading’s 1-1 draw with Rotherham means the situation at the bottom of the table remains unchanged, with the Blues nine points adrift of safety ahead of their meeting with the Royals next weekend.
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That gap could have been cut to seven had the Blues held on in what was another game where Lambert’s mean will leave thinking what might have been following a spirited display.
The Ipswich boss made just one change to his starting XI as captain Luke Chambers returned in place of the ill Teddy Bishop but it was the switch in formation that gave the Blues so much joy in the opening 20 minutes.
The visitors deployed three central defenders and wing backs, allowing James Bree in particular to maraude up and down the right hand side to link up with Alan Judge.
That axis was the route of all Ipswich’s good work early on, producing two chances for Keane which the striker couldn’t take as well as an opening for Jon Nolan which left the midfielder in two minds whether to head or strike with his left foot. He opted for a header which lacked conviction as he dropped wide.
All Ipswich’s good work was seemingly undone on 25 minutes when a long ball forward caught the Ipswich defence unaware, as Clarke got goal side of Knudsen and tore towards goal. The Dane stretched out an arm, tugged on Clarke’s shirt and was quickly shown a straight red.
The Blues switched to a compact 4-3-2 formation as they looked to regroup after going down to 10 men but were ahead seven minutes later after Quaner won the softest of penalties following a foul by Chey Dunkley as the Latics defender clipped the German’s heels inside the box.
Keane stepped up and found the net as his spot kick crept in off the inside of the post, prompting a one-fisted celebration from Lambert up in the directors box.
The Blues soaked up pressure and conceded the bulk of possession to lead at the break, with Wigan coming closest when former Ipswich target Josh Windass headed a Reece James cross over the top of the bar.
By that stage Lambert had already departed his lofty perch in order to speak with his side at half-time, with the whistle for the interval greeted by boos from three sides of the DW as the home support vented their frustrations.
Gwion Edwards replaced Quaner at the interval as Ipswich looked for width in midfield, with the Blues still maintaining an attacking threat despite their numerical disadvantage.
The hosts could and probably should have been level on 53 minutes, though, when a cross from the left looked destined for the head of Clarke, but the striker had the ball taken off of him by the fainted touch from team-mate Windass.
Judge curled an effort wide from outside the box following good work from Chalobah and then had a shot from range tipped over, as Ipswich maintained their threat, before Nick Powell’s introduction brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon from a frustrated home crowd.
The former Manchester United youth teamer brought a new a new purpose to his side and put the Blues further and further on the back foot, not helped by the departure of Keane with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Bartosz Bialkowski held a stinging Reece James free-kick well as the hosts tried their luck, with Ipswich riding theirs when Judge charged down a shot from Windass and survived penalty appeals for handball.
Pennington was the next to survive handball claims in the box as the Wigan pressure continued to come, but the Everton loanee and his team-mates continued to stand firm before Garner had the final say.
Bialkowski was required to stop a late Michael Jacobs strike as the visitors left with a point, but it was so very nearly three.
Wigan Athletic: Jones; James, Dunkley (Powell 62), Fox, Naismith; Morsy, Evans; Pilkington (McManaman 62), Windass (Garner 81), Jacobs; Clarke
Subs: Walton, Kipre, Gibson, Massey
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Bree, Pennington, Chambers, Knudsen, Kenlock; Chalobah, Nolan, Judge (Downes 78); Keane (Jackson 63), Quaner (Edwards 46)
Subs: Gerken, Nsiala, Skuse, Dozzell
Jonas Knudsen sent off (25)