Date: 22nd January 2011 at 5:00pm
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Connor Wickham finally netted his first goal of the season to inspire Ipswich Town to come from behind for a dramatic 3-2 win over Doncaster Rovers in Paul Jewell’s Portman Road debut.

Picking the lineup for his first home game in charge, Jewell made two changes to the team that lost at Millwall. Mark Kennedy and Jaime Peters were dropped, with Grant Leadbitter making his comeback from suspension and a first Town appearance of the season for Lee Martin, recently recalled from Charlton. With Peters on the bench, Carlos Edwards moved back to fill the right-back slot. Tamas Priskin once again started up front with Connor Wickham, the youngster fresh from signing a new contract on Friday.

With Jewell and his assistant Chris Hutchings making their first appearance at Portman Road, Town looked to get off to a good start for the new boss in front of his home fans. However, they nearly went a goal down within 5 minutes, John Oster lifting a ball over the Ipswich defence for Billy Sharp to beat the offside trap, only for the Doncaster striker to smash his shot against the near post before James Coppinger hammered over from the rebound.

The warning signs were there for the Blues defence but they failed to learn their lesson. Coppinger delivered the ball forward to Billy Sharp on the edge of the Town box, the visitors’ top goalscorer getting between Darren O’Dea and Gareth McAuley before driving a low strike behind the Northern Ireland international and across keeper Marton Fulop into the far corner.

Ipswich looked to get back on level terms straight away. Wickham was denied by Doncaster keeper Neil Sullivan before Leadbitter and David Norris both fired long range efforts off target. With around 20 minutes played, Wickham then created another opportunity from Priskin’s long ball towards the visitors’ box, but despite turning well past James Chambers, the 17-year-old striker’s shot went straight at Sullivan.

Doncaster attempted to respond with a second goal, Coppinger striking over the bar before Sharp did get the ball in the net, but his effort was ruled out by the offside flag. At the other end, Wickham thumped at Sullivan from 25 yards before Martin offered the Town fans a reminder of his ability, jinking down the right past Dean Shiels before whipping in a cross towards the far post which Priskin nodded over.

As the end of the first half approached, Edwards narrowly managed to prevent the visitors extending their lead by clearing off the line from a header. It was to be the last significant action of an opening 45 minutes that didn’t offer much promise for Jewell. However, rather than make changes to his lineup, the Ipswich boss sent the same team out to overcome the deficit in the second half.

It didn’t take long for his players to achieve that. Just three minutes after the break, Wickham headed to Priskin on the D before the Hungarian flicked a deft volley into the path of David Norris. Despite the ongoing rumours about his future at the club, the Ipswich captain showed no lack of interest in putting his side ahead, smashing a further volley across Sullivan into the back of the net. It was a beautifully crafted goal to take Norris to seven for the season in all competitions, making him joint top scorer with Priskin and Jason Scotland.

After a fairly timid first half display, Ipswich were now looking much improved. Edwards was denied by the Doncaster defence before the game entered a crazy few minutes on the hour mark. Colin Healy, who seems to be enjoying regular first team football since Roy Keane’s departure, swung in a cross from the left which flew just over Damien Delaney in the area. It flew just right for Connor Wickham though, the England U21 international celebrating his new deal by thumping a header past Sullivan to finally net his first goal of the campaign and put Ipswich 2-1 up.

However, while Town were still celebrating taking the lead, they immediately went and lost it. From the kickoff, Coppinger exchanged passes with Oster before charging down the right wing and sending in a dangerous cross deep into the Blues box. McAuley and Billy Sharp both slid in for it ahead of Fulop, but it was the Doncaster striker who got the decisive touch to tap in his second of the day and his 12th league goal of the season.

Heads might easily have dropped after relinquishing the lead so quickly, but instead the Blues got back in front almost as quickly as Doncaster had equalised. Carlos Edwards cut past Sharp before deciding to try his luck from 35 yards. Less than five minutes since Wickham had first put Town ahead, Edwards’ strike took a slight deflection and thumped in off the far post to make it 3-2 to the Blues, bringing to an end a mad yet decisive spell of the match.

Town haven’t scored four in a match since a 4-1 win at Crystal Palace almost exactly two years ago. As such, the Blues were keen to try and extend their lead, Priskin and Wickham both denied before Norris dragged wide following a good run. The skipper then struck a further effort off-target as the match edged towards the final 10 minutes.

Doncaster had previously snatched a 3-3 draw against Ipswich at the Keepmoat Stadium last season, and they nearly repeated the trick at Portman Road with five minutes left. A long ball over the top reached James Hayter about 8 yards out, but the striker fired into the side netting. At the other end, Priskin had a great chance to clinch the points after being sent clear by Edwards, but the Hungarian couldn’t keep up his recent scoring form and smashed wildly off target.

Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll made a string of substitutions as the final minutes ticked away, Ryan Mason and Waide Fairhurst coming on for Shiels and Chambers. Sam Hird also replaced Mark Wilson as the visitors came close to a last minute equaliser, but thankfully Fulop was able to block from Matthew Kilgallon. Referee Mark Brown subsequently blew the final whistle to end a dramatic afternoon and hand the Blues their first victory over Doncaster since 1957.

Despite a poor first half, Jewell will be delighted with the way his team responded in the second half. The Town boss made no changes to his team in the 90 minutes, instead giving his players time to prove themselves as a unit. The manner in which Doncaster were allowed to equalise will undoubtedly raise concerns, but defensive wobbles aside, the Blues put on a refreshing attacking display in the second half which provided some rare entertainment for the Portman Road crowd. It was also particularly encouraging to see Wickham end his scoring drought, hopefully with plenty more goals to follow.

The win therefore lifts Ipswich 5 points clear of the drop zone in 19th place, though they still have at least one game in hand over several teams both below and above them. The victory also gives Jewell’s Blues a much-needed confidence boost ahead of their big midweek challenge – a first-ever trip to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium…

Ipswich: Fulop, McAuley, Delaney, O’Dea, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Martin, Healy, Wickham, Priskin – Not used: Lee-Barrett, Peters, Smith, Hyam, Civelli, Kennedy, Scotland

Doncaster: Sullivan, J O’Connor, Chambers (Fairhurst 89), Lockwood, Kilgallon, Wilson (Hird 90+3), Oster, Shiels (Mason 87), Coppinger, Sharp, Hayter – Not used: Woods, Friend, Guedes, Keegan


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