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Jeremy Sarmiento’s late strike earns Ipswich Town a point at leaders Leicester City to reclaim automatic promotion spot from Southampton

Jeremy Sarmiento’s late equaliser sent Ipswich Town back into the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion places with a 1-1 draw against league leaders Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Sarmiento’s first goal for the club on 89 minutes was enough to ensure the Blues went a point clear of third-placed Southampton and remained seven points behind the Foxes after an own-goal from Leif Davis looked as though the Blues were heading for their fourth league defeat of the campaign.

Town manager Kieran McKenna made two changes to the side that beat Sunderland last weekend. Marcus Harness replaced Nathan Broadhead while Massimo Luongo overcame an ankle problem to return to the side in place of Jack Taylor for his 50th league appearance for the club.

Jeremy Sarmiento, who signed on loan this month from Brighton & Hove Albion, came up with a late equaliser at the King Power Stadium Picture: ITFC/Matchday Images
Jeremy Sarmiento, who signed on loan this month from Brighton & Hove Albion, came up with a late equaliser at the King Power Stadium Picture: ITFC/Matchday Images

While Sam Morsy served the second of his two-game ban, top scorer Conor Chaplin kept the captain’s armband on what was his 100th Ipswich start.

Leicester boss Enzo Maresca, who was serving a touchline ban, also made two changes to the side that were beaten by local rivals Coventry last time out, with the suspended Abdul Fatawu and recalled Cesare Casadei dropping out of the side.

They were replaced by Kasey McAteer and Hamza Choudhury, while Foxes icon Jamie Vardy returned to the bench following a knee injury.

Leicester were the first to threaten following a loose moment from Lewis Travis, but Harry Clarke and Luongo both defended well to prevent Tom Cannon and McAteer bursting into Town’s penalty area.

The game settled but the hosts were still looking the more dangerous, Harry Winks’ strike deflected comfortably for Vaclav Hladky after Stephy Mavididi danced his way into the box.

The Blues were struggling to get a foothold in the game and were camped in their own half. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s lack of decision-making and Luke Woolfenden’s block from Cannon were the latest opportunities that Town escaped from.

Choudhury was denied the chance to put Leicester in front on 26 minutes by Hladky. The Leicester midfielder curled an effort from outside the box towards the top corner, but was expertly tipped round the post by the Town goalkeeper.

Two minutes later, the Blues, who knew opportunities would be at a premium, saw a chance go begging when Kayden Jackson’s lay-off for Chaplin was struck over the top of the bar by the Town skipper.

The Foxes then took a deserved lead, albeit in fortunate circumstances. Mavididi, after a neat one-two with Ricardo Pereira, fired across the face of goal where Davis turned the ball into his own net for the second time this season.

The hosts’ dominance continued after the opener, Jannik Vestergaard heading at Hladky from a corner before Ricardo and McAteer saw half-chances miss the target.

Hladky parried a Cannon strike just before half-time to Wout Faes, who sliced the rebound but was offside in any case.

There was still time for Wes Burns to shoot high and wide as a difficult opening period for the Blues was brought to a close.

Town started the second half with their best spell of the game and came close to equalising through Burns. The Welshman latched onto the end of Clarke’s header back into danger and saw his strike tipped over the bar by Mads Hermansen.

James Justin met a Leicester corner but, after Hladky was beaten, Travis cleared the danger before McAteer saw a shot blocked as the hosts regained the attacking impetus.

Moments later, Travis became the first man into the book for tripping Ricardo.

That proved to be the Blackburn Rovers loanee’s final contribution as he and Harness were replaced by Taylor and Sarmiento.

Luongo became the next man to receive a yellow card from referee Josh Smith when he was adjudged to have caught Faes with a flailing arm, before Clarke joined him in the book for a lunge on Dewsbury-Hall.

The chances continued to fall to Leicester, Mavididi seeing a low shot saved by Hladky then Cannon firing an overhead kick over the bar on the rebound.

With 20 minutes to go, McKenna turned to his bench once more to replace Jackson and Chaplin with Broadhead and Omari Hutchinson.

With the hosts searching for a killer second, Hladky again denied Cannon from the edge of the area by palming a fierce strike away to his left.

The Blues sensed they were still in the game, though. Hutchinson’s bursting run through the middle afforded Broadhead the opportunity to shoot, but it was blocked by Justin.

Town were adamant Justin’s clearance from a Clarke cross hit Vestergaard on the arm from close range, but the appeals from numerous Blues players for a penalty were to no avail.

At the other end, McAteer looked to react to a loose ball in the penalty area but Hladky smothered the danger bravely, then Ricardo was booked for pulling back Davis as the Blues looked to counter with six minutes remaining.

But, just as time was running out, Town levelled the contest. Luongo’s effort from the edge of the area took a slight deflection and was parried by Hermansen. The loose ball fell to Sarmiento to bundle home beyond the Danish goalkeeper and send the 3,300 away supporters into raptures.

Four minutes of stoppage time were negotiated as it ended all square between Town and Leicester for the second time this season.

Attention turns back to the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday when non-league Maidstone United are the visitors to Portman Road.

Leicester City (4-2-3-1): Hermansen; Justin, Vestergaard, Faes, Ricardo (c); Choudhury, Winks; Mavididi, Dewsbury-Hall (Akgun 81), McAteer (Albrighton 90); Cannon (Vardy 81). Subs: Stolarczyk, Coady, Doyle, Praet, Marcal, Nelson.

Booked: Ricardo.

Ipswich Town (4-2-3-1): Hladky; Davis, Edmundson, Woolfenden, Clarke; Luongo, Travis (Taylor 61); Harness (Sarmiento 61), Chaplin (c) (Hutchinson 71), Burns; Jackson (Broadhead 71). Subs: Walton, Ball, Aluko, Humphreys, Tuanzebe.

Booked: Travis, Luongo, Clarke.

Referee: Josh Smith (Lincolnshire).

Attendance: 31,794.

SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Wes Burns.The Welshman was again used as the Blues’ main outlet in this game and got into some good positions to cross from deep. Also had one of Town’s biggest chances when he was denied by Hermansen early in the second half before Sarmiento earned the Blues a point.