Date: 30th October 2010 at 4:58pm
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Jason Scotland continued his excellent scoring record at Portman Road with a first half goal that set Ipswich Town on their way to a much-needed 2-0 win over Millwall.

After the Carling Cup 4th Round victory against Northampton in midweek, Roy Keane decided to keep two men up front in the shape of Jason Scotland and Tamas Priskin, with Connor Wickham making a surprise recovery to be named on the bench. Two changes were made elsewhere on the field, Marton Fulop again replacing Brian Murphy in goal while Jack Colback was named in favour of Andros Townsend having been ineligible for the cup tie. As they had done in Town’s 3rd Round Cup match at The Den, Liam Trotter and Scott Barron both started for Kenny Jackett’s side.

Both sides got off to a quick start. Almost straight from the kickoff, Millwall’s Theo Robinson struck wide of the right post from midway in the Town half, then at the other end, Scotland found Priskin in the left of the visitors’ box only for the Hungarian to strike into the side netting.

Priskin was however to make amends within five minutes, playing his part in the buildup to the opening goal. The former Watford man did well to keep the ball near the right corner before rolling back for Carlos Edwards on the wing. Edwards crossed into the box where Paul Robinson looked set to clear for the Lions, but the defender mistimed his clearance and simply ended up kicking thin air, allowing the ball to fall to Jason Scotland in the middle. The Trinidad striker has yet to find the net away from home, but his goalscoring record at Portman Road has been astonishing. Sure enough, he neatly touched down the delivery from his international team-mate before thumping home past Millwall keeper David Forde from 10 yards for his fifth goal in six home matches. With Keane’s side having previously found the net just once in the first half of any league match this campaign, it was a much-needed boost for Ipswich to take the lead after just 5 minutes, especially having fallen behind in their last 3 Championship games.

Millwall looked to respond quickly and were threatening within five minutes of the goal. Alan Dunne crossed from the right towards Theo Robinson but Gareth McAuley was able to get the ball out of play. Steve Morison then attempted an attacking run only to be halted by Tom Eastman.

Jackett’s team kept pressing for an equaliser as the half ticked on, James Henry’s shot denied by Fulop and Colback able to help his goalkeeper get rid of the danger from a corner before a good challenge by Eastman stopped Theo Robinson turning in a cross from Barron. The ex-Town man continued to cause trouble for his former employers with another cross which McAuley was able to clear away from Morison. The visitors also had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Kevin Friend on the half hour mark when a bouncing ball struck Grant Leadbitter’s arm.

The Blues began to regain control of the game in the later stages of the first period, Damien Delaney having a great chance to add to his goal against Northampton on Tuesday night with a free header from near the penalty spot, but he nodded well off target. Soon after, Leadbitter linked up well with Colback from a free kick just outside the box before striking towards goal, Dunne deflecting the shot over for a corner. Colback then delivered the subsequent set-piece which Tommy Smith headed goalwards only to see his effort blocked on the line by Henry. It was a lucky escape for Millwall who managed one more effort of their own before the break, Robinson nodding over from Jimmy Abdou’s cross as the first half drew to a close with the teams separated by just the one goal.

Millwall had the first chance of the second period, Danny Schofield shooting from long range with Fulop making the save. However, it was Ipswich who really should have been 2-0 up within two minutes of the restart. With Town getting the ball away from danger, Scotland then released the ball to Edwards who charged forward down the right wing on the counter-attack before slipping a pass perfectly into the path of Colback shrugging off Henry as he ran into the middle. With just the keeper to beat however, the 21-year-old slipped his shot just wide of the left-hand post. It was the kind of wasted chance that Blues fans have bemoaned for much of this season, and could potentially have been a significant miss.

Thankfully though, the home crowd were able heave a sigh of relief a few minutes later. After Jackett had sent on Darren Carter and John Marquis in place of Abdou and Theo Robinson, Priskin came forward for the Blues and tried to cut into the Millwall box before being brought down by Danny Shittu. Having denied a penalty appeal against Leadbitter in the first half, referee Friend showed no such hesitation in handing the Blues the chance to extend their lead from the spot, with Grant Leadbitter the man stepping up. The midfielder drove the spot-kick low into the bottom-right corner, Forde guessing right but unable to reach the shot as the Blues celebrated taking a 2-0 lead in the league for the first time since the home win over Cardiff City in September.

Having gotten a cushion, Ipswich looked to make the scoreline more comfortable. With Henry striking well off-target for the visitors, Scotland then saw his effort saved by Forde before the Millwall keeper managed to hold a long-range strike from Leadbitter as the game reached the hour mark. Substitute Marquis was denied by McAuley at the other end before Keane decided to make two changes in quick succession, Wickham making his return and Murray coming on in place of Priskin and Scotland – the contribution of both men being rewarded with a round of applause from the Portman Road faithful.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Delaney had another chance from Edwards’ long throw from the right, but his header struck the bar and went out of play. It was another missed opportunity for Town which was then followed by the most intense spell of pressure from the visitors. With the Lions on the attack, a long ball forward was nodded on to Henry who managed to get ahead of the defenders into the Town box before rolling towards goal through the legs of Fulop, only for Smith to get it clear off the line. The danger had by no means gone however, a cross from the left sending the ball straight back into the Town box for Marquis to nod goalwards with Fulop beaten, but McAuley denied him with a brilliant last-ditch clearance, somehow managing to backheel the ball away on the volley before Town were finally able to come away with possession.

That was as close as Millwall came with the Blues then coming closer to grabbing a third in the last few minutes. Leadbitter struck wide from a long range free kick before Forde saved from Wickham, but by far the best remaining chance fell to Jake Livermore, who had come on as a substitute for David Norris ten minutes earlier. The Spurs loanee set up Wickham for another shot which was parried by Forde, but Murray managed to nudge the ball away from the keeper and into the path of Livermore with the goal at his mercy. Shooting instinctively, his first effort thumped off the foot of the left-hand post only to roll straight back to him for another go. Astonishingly however, with Forde still stranded, the 20-year-old smashed the rebound way over the open goal from six yards! It was a fantastic opportunity for Ipswich to notch a third goal in a league match for the first time since the opening day, but perhaps it was just as well that it counted for little in the end as referee Friend sounded the final whistle to hand the Blues a well-earned and much-needed 3 points.

The victory is great news for Keane and his team following that dire week of 3 straight losses, and it sends Ipswich up to 11th yet – by virtue of the four teams above them also sitting on 21pts – they are actually just 1 point away from the playoffs. There will still be concern over the number of chances squandered by the Blues, not least by Livermore and Colback in the second half, but the defence rode the Millwall storm very well and the clean sheet was the deserved reward for their efforts. Much room for improvement therefore, but Ipswich have returned to winning ways and, hopefully, can heave themselves back into the top six at Sheffield United next week.

Ipswich: Fulop, McAuley, Delaney, Smith, Eastman, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris (Livermore 80), Colback, Scotland (Murray 71), Priskin (Wickham 66) – Not used: Murphy, Peters, Brown, Townsend

Millwall: Forde, Dunne, P Robinson, Barron, Shittu, Trotter, Schofield, Henry, Abdou (Carter 54), Morison, T Robinson (Marquis 54) – Not used: Mildenhall, Craig, Ward, Hackett, Laird.

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