Ipswich Town left it until the 87th minute to snatch a 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
The Tractor Boys, who came into this match on the back of a frustrating 2-2 draw with bottom club Rotherham United, led twice in the match with Tom Lawrence’s opener cancelled out by Wednesday’s Gary Hooper before skipper Luke Chambers rose highest in the box to head home a crucial away win for under-fire Town boss Mick McCarthy.
The Owls made three changes to the side that lost 2-0 at Derby County last weekend with goalkeeper Kieron Westwood and front man Steven Fletcher passed fit to play following respective thigh and head injuries. The alteration forced Cameron Dawson and Fernando Forestieri to drop to the bench, while Jack Hunt took Liam Palmer’s place in the starting eleven.
Having netted just three goals in their last four games, the pressure was on the Owls to pick up three points against an Ipswich side that have only scored two on the road so far this season, leading McCarthy to claim in midweek that he will not step down from his post despite them sitting precariously low in the table.
Wednesday’s home form had been positive though, with their 2-1 defeat against Brighton their only loss in six games at S6.
And they almost had a chance to claim a lead inside the opening two minutes when Adam Reach was set free down the middle by Fletcher, but he could only watch on as his shot was thwarted by Christophe Berra.
The Owls penned back the visitors for the opening 20 minutes – Ipswich’s David McGoldrick had a chance but scooped over shortly after Reach’s blocked effort – but the likes of Barry Bannan struggled to find that final ball to unpick Town’s rear-guard as possession was too often wasted in the final third.
Their best chance came from their first corner of the game midway into the first-half but Fletcher failed to nod David Jones’ delivery on target and instead powered narrowly over the bar.
For all their possession, however, it was Ipswich who took a shock lead, with Tom Lawrence netting shortly after the half hour mark. A number of Wednesday players passed at the chance to tackle and were duly punished when he arrowed a shot past the outstretched arm of Westwood and into the bottom corner as Hillsborough became restless with the home side suddenly up against it.
But it didn’t take long for Wednesday to hit back as David Jones’ initial effort from range was parried into the path of Gary Hooper by Bartosz Bialowski, and the striker, who celebrated his 50th Wednesday appearance last week, made no error in tapping home from close-range to level and score the 100th goal of head coach Carvalhal’s reign. The momentum was now swinging in favour of the hosts.
While they couldn’t sneak another before half-time, it only took Wednesday a minute to force the first opening of the second-half with Hooper‘s teasing run eventually resulting in a shot that was pushed out, but one that Kieran Lee was only capable of prodding wide.
It was then Fletcher’s turn to attempt to edge Wednesday in front for the first time but he could only get underneath Hunt’s lofted cross as he glanced over.
On the basis of Wednesday’s dominating performance it looked as though it would not be a case of if they score but when they score, although when Forestieri was introduced in place of Reach the hosts looked somewhat toothless up front with the final ball still failing to make a telling impact.
The ball rarely broke into Ipswich’s attacking half but when it did in the 87th minute the visitors duly pounced. Grant Ward’s free-kick from the right was glanced on by Berra before skipper Luke Chambers turned it in from inside the 6-yard box to shock the home faithful in what was an afternoon of missed chances and one that didn’t please Carvalhal.
“We didn’t perform at our level, that was the problem today”, he said.
“I hope that this game will be an exception in the run that we are doing because we were playing very, very well in the last 7 or 8 games and today we don’t perform at our level.
“We knew that today we were playing against a team that don’t do many goals, they play very compact, very good discipline, we knew this before the game, we take a goal in the fast attack and after we try to find a way to score we score, then it’s 1-1.
“Second-half, we started very well in the first minute, press a little more but really we don’t act like a threat to Ipswich. We were losing energy, we were trying but we were going against a wall.
“I think the score is very heavy, we don’t deserve to lose the game but we didn’t deserve to win it also.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Hutchinson, Lees (C), Pudil; Bannan, Jones (Wallace, 74’), Lee, Reach (Forestieri, 57’); Hooper (Abdi, 81’), Fletcher. Subs not used: Dawson, Loovens, Palmer, Buckley.
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski; Chambers (C), Webster, Berra, Knudson; Skuse, Bishop (Williams, 70), Ward (Varney, 90’), Sears; McGoldrick, Lawrence (Bru, 79’). Subs not used: Gerken, Best, Emmanuel, Kenlock.
Referee: Andrew Madley
Sheffield Wednesday: Steven Fletcher (59’, foul)
Ipswich Town: Luke Chambers (55’, foul)
Sheffield Wednesday: Gary Hooper (36’)
Ipswich Town: Tom Lawrence (32’), Luke Chambers (87’)
HT Score: 1-1
Man of the Match: Gary Hooper (Sheffield Wednesday)