Ipswich dodged the early threat of a cupset by the Cobblers as three goals saw off Northampton in the battle of the Towns to earn a place in the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup.
As expected, Roy Keane made several changes from the lineup that lost to Nottingham Forest at the weekend. Marton Fulop was replaced by Brian Murphy continuing his run of appearances in all rounds of this season’s Carling Cup, while Tamas Priskin replaced cup-tied Jack Colback and Tom Eastman took the place of Jaime Peters at the back. Connor Wickham missed out after the Town boss revealed that the young striker had picked up a minor injury in training over the weekend. Abdul Osman, Northampton’s penalty hero at Anfield, recovered from injury in time to start in the Cobblers lineup, but there was no place in the squad for former Norwich striker Leon McKenzie (thankfully!)
Both teams started the cup tie in lively fashion, Tamas Priskin having Ipswich’s first opportunity after getting past Craig Hinton before striking from 25 yards into the arms of Cobblers keeper Chris Dunn. Brian Murphy was on hand to keep out Billy McKay at the other end before Carlos Edwards was set up by Jason Scotland only to waste the opportunity with a poor touch.
Against the run of play however, it was the League Two side who were to make the breakthrough. Scotland attempted a pass to Priskin which Paul Rodgers intercepted, allowing the visitors to build up some lovely interplay on the left wing with McKay and Kevin Thornton before releasing to Liam Davis in the middle. The 23-year-old brought the ball forward and turned away from Grant Leadbitter before deciding to try his luck from 25 yards. Indeed, his luck was very much in – despite slipping as he struck the ball, his shot took a deflection off Tommy Smith which caught out Murphy, allowing the ball to loop over him and under the bar to give Ian Sampson’s side a rather fortunate 1-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Having started the game strongly, the goal was a blow for Ipswich with talk of an embarrassing potential upset now on the cards. Having fallen behind in their last three matches in the league, the Blues looked to get back into the cup tie as quickly as possible. Edwards was unfortunate to see his effort deflected wide off his own man Gareth McAuley after 25 minutes, but the Trinidad midfielder was not to be denied. One minute later Ipswich had the equaliser they had needed and deserved, Scotland rolling to his international team-mate Carlos Edwards running into the right of the Northampton box. The ex-Sunderland man was aided in no small part by a badly-timed slip by the goalscorer Davis, allowing Edwards to collect the pass before smashing a brilliant drive across goal which flew beyond Dunn into the top-left corner. The slip was the bit of good fortune that the Blues deserved after the Cobblers’ rather lucky goal of their own, and it was an excellent equaliser to set the hosts on their way with improved confidence.
As the match approached the half hour mark, Ipswich sought to snatch a lead before half-time. Scotland and Priskin linked up well before the Hungarian saw his low shot saved by Dunn. Soon after Edwards rolled the ball to Grant Leadbitter in the middle 25 yards out who thumped a powerful drive that Dunn could only parry to his right. David Norris tried to reach the loose ball on the left of the box but the Northampton keeper managed to intervene to concede the corner.
That set-piece was to prove to be Northampton’s undoing just before half time. From the resulting corner, Andros Townsend swung towards McAuley who appeared to go down under pressure from Marcus Hall on the penalty spot. Any potential calls for a penalty were to prove unnecessary though, Damien Delaney reacting first to beat Osman and Ryan Gilligan to the rebound before powering a left foot shot high into the net for his first goal of the season; a great way to put many months of injury troubles behind him and hand the Blues a vital 2-1 lead going into the break.
Eager to seal their progress through to the Quarter Finals, the Blues came out in the second period looking for a third goal. Once again Scotland sought to set up Priskin but his shot was deflected out of play before Delaney struck well wide in search of his second of the night. Townsend, who had been giving the Cobblers plenty of problems all night, also tested Dunn with a shot from the edge of the area just before the hour mark. Having failed to extend their lead, the Blues then found themselves lucky to escape after Leadbitter underhit a pass across field to Eastman which Michael Jacobs was able to race in and steal with the goal at his mercy. Fortunately however, a rush of blood was most likely to explain for his subsequent effort which flew way off target when he really should have made more of it.
With Priskin again denied by Dunn having nearly gotten onto a deflected shot by Scotland, the Trinidad striker was then replaced by Ronan Murray while Keane also brought on Peters in place of Eastman. Murray was involved on the break five minutes later but his shot was stopped by Dunn, but the opportunities were starting to become a little sparse with Ipswich not able to punish Northampton on the break and the visitors looking vastly inferior to how they had performed in the first half, the introduction of Andrew Holt from the bench making little difference.
As the clock ticked into the final five minutes, fans may have been fearing a late threat from Northampton, but thankfully the Blues were to put any late nerves to bed. Jacob’s cross from the left wing was gathered by Murphy who then set Edwards on a run down the left. Edwards tried to play the ball to Murray but the Republic of Ireland U19 international was nudged over by Hinton. Leadbitter stepped up to take the free kick on the left wing, sending a long ball deep into the visitors’ box. Tamas Priskin, who had done enough to deserve a goal over the course of the evening, finally took his chance with a header at the far post that beat Dunn to put Ipswich 3-1 up with just two minutes of normal time remaining. It was Priskin’s 4th goal of the season in all competitions, his second in successive rounds in this tournament. That was to be enough to seal the win for the Blues, though there was just enough time for 18-year-old Jamie Griffiths to earn his competitive first team debut in place of Edwards before the final whistle was blown to confirm Town’s place in the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup for the first time since 2000/01.
The win is undoubtedly welcome relief for Keane and his men after a tough old week in the league, and despite the early scare with Northampton starting brightly, the Blues were well worth the win. Having avoided potential upsets on three occasions in this competition, the opportunity of a tie against a Premier League club awaits in the last eight. The priority in the meantime however will surely shift to rediscovering this winning mentality in the Championship when Millwall come to Portman Road on Saturday.
The draw for the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup will be made at around 12:20 on Saturday 30 October.
Ipswich: Murphy, McAuley, Delaney, Smith, Eastman, Leadbitter, Edwards (Griffiths 90+2), Norris, Townsend (Peters 67), Scotland (Murray 67), Priskin – Not used: Fulop, O’Connor, Brown, Hyam
Northampton: Dunn, Rodgers, Hall, Clinton, Thornton (Holt 68), Gilligan, Osman, Wedderburn, Jacobs, Davis, McKay – Not used: Walker, Slowe, Kaziboni, Guinan, Konstantinou, Harris.
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