Ipswich Town edge breathless five-goal thriller with Swansea City to go level at top with Leicester City
Another breathless encounter at Portman Road saw Ipswich Town come from behind to edge a five-goal thriller against 10-man Swansea City in a result which saw them draw level at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table with Leicester City.
Town fell behind after a slow start to Jay Fulton’s seventh minute header but two goals in five minutes got them infront by half-time, with Jack Taylor’s 25-yard thunderbolt on 17 followed by a Conor Chaplin close-range finish.
A George Hirst penalty extended their advantage to two in the 53rd minute before the visitors’ Liam Cullen was dismissed in the 69th minute for a second yellow card.
With Town unable to get a fourth, despite more chances arriving for their substitutes, Jamal Lowe breathed life back into the contest with a fine 95th minute solo effort.
It saw the hosts come under some late pressure but they held out to get back to winning ways – following two 2-2 draws on the road – in a game which really should have been out of sight with their plethora of first-half chances.
It sends the Blues into the next international break – unbeaten in 12 league matches – still eight points ahead of third-placed Leeds United but now joint level on points with leaders Leicester who lost 1-0 away at Middlesbrough.
Kieran McKenna made four changes from the side that started Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Rotherham United.
Luke Woolfenden returned to the defence with Axel Tuanzebe dropping to the bench while Jack Taylor started ahead of Massimo Luongo. Nathan Broadhead returned from illness in place of Marcus Harness while Omari Hutchinson was preferred to Kayden Jackson in the other wide spot.
There was also a place on the bench for Welsh international Wes Burns following his shoulder injury sustained playing for his country.
Michael Duff’s Swans, who went into the game sat 14th in the table and having won their last three away matches, showed just one enforced change from the goalless home draw with Sunderland a week ago. Fulton started in central midfield in place of suspended Arsenal loanee Charlie Patino.
Kick-off was preceded by a minute’s silence as the club’s Remembrance match which included members of Three Regiment Army Air Corps, based at RAF Wattisham, laying wreaths on the pitch.
The Welsh visitors enjoyed an early period of play inside the Town half, forcing an early corner before a misplaced pass saw Jerry Yates send a half volleyed effort from the edge of the box into Cameron Burgess.
But they took an early lead in the seventh minute when Taylor conceded a soft free kick and McKenna’s side failed to head a Matt Grimes deep free kick away from danger. Jamal Lowe’s dinked cross from the far side was then nodded into the bottom left-hand corner by Fulton from close-range.
Looking for a quick response, Conor Chaplin lifted Davis’ cross over the crossbar before Omari Hutchinson’s dancing footwork outside the area earned space to shoot with his curling effort caught at the far post by Carl Rushworth.
Chaplin had the ball in the net in the 13th minute after being put through one-on-one but the offside flag had already been raised.
Town got back on terms in the 17th minute though when they worked the ball neatly down the left before Chaplin played inside for Taylor with the former Peterborough United player arrowing a shot into the top right-hand corner from 25 yards out.
The Blues’ intense pressure almost got them ahead soon after as the game continued its breathless pace. Burgess’ header was blocked at a corner with Hirst unable to get to the loose ball before Hutchinson then got in behind the defence only for Rushworth to make the initial save ahead of Chaplin firing over.
But Town did get it right to go ahead in the 22nd minute. Following a throw-in on the left, Hirst nodded on with Swansea unable to get it clear before Chaplin nipped in to provide a swivel finish from six yards out into the near post.
Chaplin and Hutchinson were continuing to cause plenty of problems for the visitors and it was the former who found Hirst on the edge of the area as he drilled a low effort wide.
A big chance for Town to extend their lead went begging in the 37th minute when Hutchinson got clear down the right again and pulled back a low cross for Hirst who was inches away from meeting it with a slide at the far post.
Sam Morsy put Hirst away in the area with a delightful pass in the final regulation minute of the half but Rushworth did well to push his fierce cross-goal effort away.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time there was a strong call for a Town penalty when Taylor’s driving run seemed to be impeded by Grimes after he had set Hirst away and followed up in the box, though referee Sunny Singh Gill was unmoved.
He soon brought to an end a half that could have seen go in with four or five goals to their name, following a flurry of chances created after the Swans’ early goal.
Town restarted on the front foot again and had the ball in the net within five minutes when Harry Clarke headed in a Davis corner after running free to the far post only to see it puzzlingly ruled out for a foul.
But within three minutes they were celebrating a two-goal advantage when Taylor was this time awarded a penalty after grappling with Harrison Ashby just inside the area at a free kick and Hirst fired it straight down the middle with Rushworth diving to his left.
Liam Cullen was put through just ahead of the hour mark but Davis executed a fantastic sliding challenge to dispossess him.
McKenna made a double substitution in the 63rd minute, with Harness and Burns replacing Broadhead and Hutchinson in the wide areas.
Town rode out some rare Swansea pressure ahead of the visitors being reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute when Davis burst in on goal only to be hacked down by Cullen on the edge of the area with the referee brandishing a second yellow card.
Chaplin went close from the free kick, sent it whizzing past the right angle of post and bar.
Hladky made his first save of the half when he got comfortably behind a Josh Tymon shot with 15 minutes remaining.
Up the other end Hirst and Dane Scarlett, on in another double sub which also saw Massimo Luongo enter the fray, had shots blocked in the area one after the other.
A Scarlett shot on the turn deflected out for a corner just ahead of Swansea boss Duff being shown a yellow card for his protestations in the 86th minute.
Burns fired a loose ball from outside the area over the bar as Town looked to extend their lead.
But the game had become more stretched following more substitutions and Haldky was required to come off his line to make a good stop to deny Lowe.
The referee signallled a minimum of nine added minutes and Burns got away down the right in the third of those before cutting back to Luongo. His shot hit substitute Ladapo whose swivel effort was straight at Rushworth.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the Swans had been looking threatening on the counter and it was from a breakway in the 95th minute that they reduced the defiict to one goal. Lowe danced his way down the left, cutting in from the touchline without a solid challenge before firing past Haldky.
It left a nervy final four minutes for the home crowd to endure with a late passage of play seeing the Welsh side go close to a dramatic equaliser with Lowe wriggling free again down the left but Hladky managed to get to his low cross ahead of Fulton.
The final whistle was therefore one of welcome relief with the celebrations in the stands going up a notch a it emerged the three points had come as Leicester had slipped up.
Ipswich: Hladky, Clarke, Davis, Morsy (cpt), Woolfenden, Chaplin (Scarlett 78’), Taylor (Luongo 78’), Burgess, Hutchinson (Burns 63’), Hirst (Ladapo 89’), Broadhead (Harness 63’).
Unused subs: Walton (gk), Jackson, Humphreys, Tuanzebe.
Booked: Chaplin (26’).
Swansea: Rushworth, Fulton, Darling, Grimes (cpt), Yates (Walsh 71’), Lowe, Paterson (Cooper 71’), Tymon, Cullen, Ashby (Naughton 89’), Humphreys.
Unused subs: Fisher (gk), Cabango, Tjoe-a-on, Parker, Congreve, Wilson.
Booked: Cullen 26’, 69’, Duff 86’
Attendance: 28,929 (674 away)
SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Jack Taylor. Came up with a moment of magic to draw Town level and provided an attacking thrust to the midfield throughout his time on the pitch.