Ipswich continued their fantastic home run to make it eight wins in a row at Portman Road by edging out Preston in a fairly one-sided encounter. Alan Lee and Tommy Miller getting the Blues goals, with Neil Mellor scoring a controversal penalty for the Lilywhites.
Jim Magilton raised a few eyebrows by dropping the fairly reliable Alex Bruce in favour of veteran Fabian Wilnis. Billy Clarke kept his place in the Ipswich side, while Pablo Counago returned to the lineup with Sylvain Legwinski dropping to the bench.
Preston started off by applying a little pressure to the Ipswich defence but when it came to the final ball, the offside flag was often raised and Neil Alexander was rarely troubled – much a sign of things to come. Pablo Counago however, was lively early on and wriggled his way through a few Preston players in the box before Andrew Lonergan going down well to smother the ball and deny the Spaniard a shot on goal.
As the half progressed, Ipswich were well on top – Jason de Vos heading an Owen Garvan corner straight at Lonergan, while Billy Clarke should have done a lot better when a sublime Garvan free-kick found its way to his head, but failed to make enough contact to head home.
Owen Garvan play was immense – especially his set-pieces as they found an Ipswich player nearly every time. Also, Jon Walters won every ball in the air as he so usually does, but the Town fans saw a rare side to his already impressive amount of attributes, with him running fiercefully at the Preston defence on many occasions. Nearly everytime, he beat his man and somehow created a chance for himself or his team-mates.
In fact, it was Walters that setup the first Ipswich goal after playing a neat exchange of passes with Counago and then crossing for Alan Lee to stoop and head the ball when it was only a few inches above ground level.
Neil Alexander saw his first real piece of action – a misunderstanding between Fabian Wilnis saw the Scotsman nealy lobbed after he went to claim the ball. Alexander was clearly not happy as he made his feelings clear to Wilnis.
The Preston players were sent out a few minutes before Ipswich to warm up for the second half, and they started they started it very much on the front foot as they had a few corners that flew across the six-yard box. However, the only other contributions that the Preston attack made were a series of offside runs.
Just after the hour, Jon Walters saw his blocked shot fall to the feet of Billy Clarke who thundered a fantastic strike against the post. He, like many Ipswich fans, thought it was in as he ran to celebrate. Minutes later, Gary Roberts replaced the Irishman to a chorus of boo’s from the Ipswich fans while Billy Clarke was given a standing ovation.
The Tractor Boys got just rewards for their pressure, with Tommy Miller finally scoring his first goal of the season after good work and a neat backheel from Pablo Counago. Miller had the easy job to slot home from twelve yards despite a crowd of players in the box.
That goal took the stuffing out of Preston, who only got on the scoresheet thanks to a very controversal decision in which Neil Mellor seemed to fall to the ground before Neil Alexander got to the ball. However, Ipswich boss Jim Magilton has since said that the penalty was somehow given against right-back David Wright. Mellor was on-hand to tuck home the penalty but it was no more than a consolation.
Neil Alexander 7
Nothing much to do except comfortably claim a few crosses that came into his box. One notable lapse in communication was with Fabian Wilnis when the Dutchman nearly lobbed him to score an own goal.
David Wright 7
Has settled in at the right-back slot well and looked in good shape.
Dan Harding 7
A series of powerful runs down the wing left gaps on his side but looked more comfortable with more cover in front of him.
Fabian Wilnis 7
A typically committed display included some strong tackles but a few dodgy moments nearly cost dearly.
Jason de Vos 7
Paticular attention was on his leadership, and he displayed this well when tempers frayed after conceding a late penalty. Kept the team calm and collected whilst organising the back four.
Jonathan Walters 9
Powerful runs, great vision and skill, the list could go on. He was phenomenal today.
Billy Clarke 8
Helped out in defence with a string of excellent potentially goal-saving tackles and had a fantastic effort unluckily bounce off the post. Will have done his chances for a run in the first team no harm at all.
Owen Garvan 9
Man of the match.
Tommy Miller 8
Took off his invisibility cloak and was everywhere tackling, intercepting, passing and finally scoring!
Alan Lee 8
Non-stop running all game and not only scored, but created chances for his team-mates.
Pablo Counago 8
The tricky Spaniard had the defence mastered and was a prominent figure throughout.
Sub – Gary Roberts 6
Stupidly booked for a pathetic dive and deserves to be disciplined. However, he looked as if he was hungry to have a permanent place in the side – something that has been lacking this season.
Sub – Danny Haynes 6
Didn’t have too much time to make an impact.
Was brave in leaving Alex Bruce out of the team in favour of veteran Fabian Wilnis, and the gamble nearly backfired with the Dutchman twice going close to putting the ball through his own net. However, he kept faith in youngster Billy Clarke who was prominent throughout.
Failed to put the spring in the step of his players that they had in their 5-1 drubbing over Southampton in midweek and were ultimately second best all game.
Gave a very dubious decision in rewarding Preston a penalty – apparently against David Wright. Not the best referee Ipswich has seen this season, but certainly not the worst.
Signs are good. If it wasn’t for a series of good Andrew Lonergan saves, the scoreline would have been much bigger. Alan Lee kissed the badge at the end, and that is a clear sign of the hunger of the squad to do well.