Date: 7th May 2011 at 3:33pm
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Ipswich Town finished their 2010/11 campaign in disappointing but entertaining fashion as they sank to a 4-2 defeat to Leicester City on the final day of the season.

Paul Jewell made changes from the side that won against Preston North End at Portman Road last week, with Jimmy Bullard ruled out after suffering a recurrence of the ankle problem that kept him out of the Blues’ last away game at Swansea City. Lee Martin therefore returned to the midfield with Colin Healy drafted in at the expense of striker Ronan Murray. Out-of-contract duo David Norris and Gareth McAuley also started what looks likely to be their last appearances for Town, the latter declared fit to return to the Blues defence in place of Troy Brown.

Both Leicester City and Ipswich, 11th and 12th in the Championship at the start of play, were probably glad to be kicking off their final outing of a disappointing 2010/11 campaign, with both harbouring hopes of much greater things next season. It was Ipswich however who came close to striking the first blow at the Walkers Stadium after just two minutes, skipper Norris capitalising on a loose pass by Foxes defender Yuki Abe only to curl his effort narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

Leicester were soon on the attack however, Patrick Van Aanholt dragging wide from 18 yards and Grant Leadbitter throwing himself in the way of Paul Gallagher’s effort before Foxes’ Player Of The Year Richie Wellens played in Ayegbeni Yakubu who blazed over. The on-loan Everton striker was then provided with another opportunity on 10 minutes, Van Aanholt cutting inside and laying the ball back only for Yakubu to scuff his shot well wide of the far post.

Neither team had started particularly well in a game which rather had the look of an end-of-season mid-table affair, but despite Leicester enjoying more of the chances, Ipswich came closest to breaking the deadlock after 14 minutes. Martin had a shot headed away for a corner before Leicester keeper Chris Weale could only parry Connor Wickham’s long-range effort into the path of Jason Scotland, but the Trinidadian’s follow-up was pushed away for a corner. Marton Fulop was then forced into his first save of the match from Yakubu at the other end on 23 minutes before Leadbitter smashed way over from a Martin layoff.

Despite those opportunities for the Blues, it was the hosts who grabbed the opening goal. Gallagher’s cross from the left flew over Wellens but was perfectly placed for an unmarked Andy King to dive in with a header at the far post to make it 1-0 to Leicester.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side had the lead but were dealt a double blow after the Foxes’ boss was then forced into two substitutions in the space of four minutes. Darius Vassell was taken off to be replaced by Diomansy Kamara after 27 minutes before defender Miguel Vitor had to be substituted on the half hour, Aleksandar Tunchev receiving a rapturous welcome from the home fans on his first appearance after a long layoff.

Gallagher received the first booking of the match for a foul on Carlos Edwards as Town fought back in the hunt for a quick equaliser. Weale parried Mark Kennedy’s wicked curling effort to Wickham wide of goal, but despite the 18-year-old working hard to keep the chance alive, there was nobody on hand to convert his ball back across goal. At the other end, Fulop did well to claim ahead of Kamara before the Blues keeper was called into action again to deny substitute Tunchev on the volley from Gallagher’s free kick.

The Foxes were to extend their lead 3 minutes later however. Abe’s cross from the right found King who nearly grabbed his second of the match only to see his volley clatter the foot of the right-hand post, but the rebound fell right to the feet of Ayegbeni Yakubu who prodded home to put the hosts 2-0 up.

Clearly missing Bullard, Ipswich were still struggling to create clear-cut chances at the other end, Scotland failing to make Weale work with a shot on the turn before Damien Delaney headed wide on 45 minutes. There was still time however for Leicester to find a third before the break, the influential King hitting a low ball from the left which ran through for Yuki Abe, the Japanese international having time and space to drive low across Fulop and inside the far post for his first Leicester goal.

Boos rang out among the travelling support as referee Carl Boyeson brought the first half to a close with Ipswich facing their heaviest half-time deficit since January’s trip to Chelsea – and coincidentally, the reverse of the half-time scoreline in their 3-0 win over the Foxes at snowy Portman Road in December. Despite the disappointing performance however, Jewell refrained from making any changes to his lineup for the second half.

Whatever was said at half time, Town came out looking much more lively after the interval. Wickham’s shot on the turn was saved by Weale before McAuley’s header from the subsequent corner was cleared off the line. Martin then fired well over on 54 minutes following a good spell of possession for the Blues before Kennedy struck well off-target from a corner as Town started to find their feet in the contest.

With an hour gone, the game slipped into something of a lull. The Town fans collected in the corner of the ground eventually managed to coax the home fans into a Mexican wave as the supporters made their own entertainment, Jeffrey Bruma’s booking the only thing of any note happening on the pitch.

That moment did however prove to be the catalyst for a dramatic change in the balance of the match. Leadbitter’s resulting free-kick was deflected away for the first of a series of Ipswich corners, during which time Josh Carson was introduced to the play in place of the ineffective Scotland. Four corners later the pressure told, Bruma handling from the last delivery to give the Blues a penalty, though the on-loan Chelsea defender escaped a second booking. Grant Leadbitter struck the spot-kick low beyond the diving Weale and into the bottom-left corner for his sixth of the season in all competitions to make it 3-1.

That goal might have seemed like a mere consolation for Town at the time, but astonishingly, the Blues had another goal a minute later. A poor pass back by Van Aanholt allowed Connor Wickham to steal the ball and run one-on-one with Weale. The Foxes keeper compounded the defensive chaos with an untimely stumble as Wickham slotted home for his 9th league goal – much to the delight of the visiting supporters, who had seen their team go from being dead and buried at half time to put themselves right back in the game.

Just as they were back in the game however, the Blues were then put straight back out of it. Leicester’s on-loan Chelsea defender Van Aanholt, who had previously terrified the Ipswich backline at Stamford Bridge in January, made amends for his error with some lovely interplay with Gallagher and Yakubu as he ran down the left wing before crossing for King in the middle. The Welsh international’s effort was blocked by the feet of Fulop, but the Town keeper could do nothing to prevent substitute Diomansy Kamara thumping in the rebound to make it 4-2 to Leicester – less than 4 minutes after Leadbitter’s penalty.

The Foxes might have killed off the Ipswich fightback, but the final 15 minutes would certainly not pass without incident. Jaime Peters replaced Martin for Ipswich before a skirmish broke out after Kamara reacted angrily to a bad challenge by Leadbitter, both players consequently seeing yellow. Gallagher struck the resulting free kick over before Matt Oakley took the place of Wellens for the hosts.

The Blues still hadn’t given up though. Carson had a shot deflected wide for a corner on 79 minutes before Wickham blasted an effort from the set piece which poleaxed Tunchev, the Bulgarian defender just about finding his feet in time to see Peters lash over the bar after a good run from the right. Delaney was added to Boyeson’s book for a foul on Kamara as the match approached stoppage time, but there was still time for Wickham to come within inches of hitting double figures for the season on 92 minutes. The 18-year-old made the most of some poor Leicester defending as he charged forward before touching the ball beyond Weale, only to see it run just wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Boyeson sounded the final whistle to hand Leicester the points and bring the 2010/11 season to a close.

Jewell will take heart from the manner in which his Blues fought back from 3-0 down to make it 3-2 in the second half, but ultimately the display exposed the problems that have plagued Ipswich all season. The need for a quality finisher up front was demonstrated yet again, and Scotland in particular would have found few friends amongst the travelling support having been very wasteful with his chances. Meanwhile sloppy defending at times had allowed Leicester to build up a first half lead from which there was always little hope of Town recovering, and even though the Blues did well to make a game of it in the end, their weaknesses at the back were exposed again on the counter-attack.

Ipswich went into this meeting knowing that a win would have seen them finish in 11th place, whilst defeat could drop them as low as 14th. Middlesbrough’s 3-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers was enough to lift Tony Mowbray’s side above Town on the final day, but a second-half fightback by relegated Preston prevented Watford overtaking the Blues, meaning that Ipswich finish the 2010/11 season in 13th place.

That will be of little consequence for Jewell and his team though, with thoughts having been firmly fixated on next season for quite some time. They may have to face that challenge without Norris and McAuley after the pair played what looks set to be their last game for Ipswich at the Walkers, but the hard work begins now to build a team that can challenge in the promotion race next year. So until next time, it’s farewell to the boys in blue – and here’s looking ahead to hopefully happier times in 2011/12.

Leicester: Weale, Van Aanholt, Miguel Vitor (Tunchev 30), Bruma, Naughton, King, Wellens (Oakley 77), Abe, Gallagher, Yakubu, Vassell (Kamara 27) – Not used: A Smith, Moreno, Dyer, Howard

Ipswich: Fulop, McAuley, Delaney, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Martin (Peters 74), Healy, Kennedy, Wickham, Scotland (Carson 64) – Not used: Lee-Barrett, Brown, Drury, Civelli, Murray

Did you travel to the Walkers Stadium for this final match? What did you think of the game, and what would be your overall verdict of the 2010/11 season? Are you optimistic about next season, and what do you think needs to be done this summer if we are to succeed next year? Have your say on this game as well as all things Town by joining Vital Ipswich:

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One Reply to “Leicester 4-2 Ipswich – Until Next Time…”

  • Despite the result, I have to say well done to our fans today. Admittedly there was a rather unhappy reaction at the half-time whistle, but the way they managed to get the Leicester fans to join in with the Mexican wave was brilliant. The two goals really boosted the atmosphere and even though we soon went 4-2 down, it really had a light-hearted end of season feel by then. Our fans even got a giant conga line going which went down the stairs and out of the stand, only to come back up via another entrance – classic!

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