Ipswich Town send Leeds United and Southampton clear statement in Championship promotion race


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Sam Morsy’s gentle reminder that Ipswich Town have yet to truly hit top gear is a clear and firm warning to the rest of the Championship that they still have more to prove.

The Blues maintained their promotion credentials with a hard-working and narrow 4-3 win over Rotherham in midweek, lifting them to third in the standings thanks to Southampton’s defeat at home to Hull City.

Kieran McKenna’s side have taken the Championship by storm – there’s certainly no arguing against that. The Blues did, after all, win eleven of their first 13 matches back in the second tier.

During the crossover from 2023 to 2024 the Blues started matches slowly. On some occasions – like away to Watford – they showed enough desire to come from behind and pick up points. On other occasions, however, such as against Preston North End, their slow start proved costly and meant the Blues dropped points.

“We can only control what we do, nothing else, but we’re on more than two points per game and that’s really positive,” Morsy said ahead of Town’s 4-3 victory over Rotherham United.

“I still believe we can get better but we’ll carry on taking it one game at a time. If the season was to finish now, I would be really disappointed, so the goal is to keep going, keep improving and see if we keep this winning run going.”

Their most well-rounded performance was probably against Hull City back in October. The Tigers were enjoying an impressive run heading into that game that included taking three points from Leicester City.

But a rapid start meant Wes Burns’ powerful strike got Town’s scoreboard ticking before Conor Chaplin and Marcus Harness either side of the interval inflicted further misery on the visitors.

It has felt like Town have turned a page from their previous slow-starting selves in recent weeks.

The Blues enjoyed a dominant first-half at Millwall to send them well on their way to a 4-0 away victory and at Swansea City it was Nathan Broadhead who got the ball moving before Jerry Yates levelled the tie only for Connor Chaplin to scoring the eventual match-winner four minutes later.

Except against Rotherham it was certainly a less-than-convincing performance that began with the visitors scoring inside 90 seconds. Luke Woolfenden’s failure to win an aerial challenge led to his wires crossing with full-back Harry Clarke, allowing Tom Eaves to take full advantage and open the scoring.

Fortunately for Town Burns was in fearsome form during an entertaining opening 15 minutes. The Welshman levelled seven minutes after Eaves opened the scoring with a deft header at the far-post, directly Morsy’s pin-point cross across Viktor Johansson.

A lung-busting run from the wide midfielder left Lee Peltier in his wake. His drilled low cross found Kieffer Moore who instinctively swept home to score his x goal in x games.

Burns then doubled Town’s advantage on 29 minutes. An initial shot was saved by Johansson’s legs, the follow-up effort from Leif Davis was then fortunately spilled into Burns’ path and was bundled home from close range.

A momentary lapse in goalkeeping standards from Vaclav Hladky – who has proven himself to be an extremely reliable replacement for Christian Walton since the start of the season – meant Hakeem Odoffin had an empty net to make it 3-2.

It seemed as though things were headed in the wrong direction though when referee Keith Stroud awarded a spot-kick after Kayden Jackson’s foul. Substitute Cafu stepped up and dinked the ball over the line to leave Hladky blushing.

But there was still time for Omari Hutchinson to grab the headlines and an all-important winner deep into stoppage time. The talented winger, whose trickery served up a late leveller against West Brom, was there once again in the dying moments to drive beyond Johansson with a deflected strike.

“It was a bit of a wild game,” says McKenna. “We didn’t manage to get the level of control we would have wanted from the game. Of course it wasn’t a good start and from that moment we never really regained our composure in the game.

“But having said that we’ve scored four goals at home and found a way to win the game. Every game in the Championship is tough and I knew it would be tough today. The players have found a way to come out on top so credit to them for that.”

He added: “I felt like it [their third goal]was coming in terms of the flow of the game. We were struggling to maintain control of the ball, were pinned into our box and random things can happen at that time. I don’t think we had too many things go against us.

“Two goals were from individual errors and a penalty. I don’t think we had many chances against us but we didn’t have the game the way we wanted to, so when you’re defending in your box the way we were for the last 10-20 minutes then there is always a chance something would fall the wrong way.

“When they got the penalty you do begin to wonder whether it’ll be one of those nights. But again credit to the players as it would be easy to lie on the floor at 3-3 and give up on the game or maybe even come under further pressure, but we found the spirit to win the ball back, launch another attack and win the game.”

This was a night which was a free-hit for McKenna’s side to regain ground on their promotion rivals. The Blues are outsiders in the three-horse race to join champions-elect Leicester City in gaining promotion to the Premier League.

Southampton put up a late fight but were unable to salvage a point against Hull City whilst Town were completing their game in hand over second-placed Leeds United. It ultimately means Town are back level on points with the Yorkshiremen, displaced from the top-two only by United’s superior goal-difference.

Three wins from three matches is a statement from Ipswich Town that they won’t be knocked in their fairy tale ambition for promotion to the top-flight. And the best thing about is they’ve not even reached top gear yet.

Ipswich Town: Hladky, Clarke (Tuanzebe 74), Davis, Morsy (C), Woolfenden, Burns (Jackson 87), Chaplin (Hutchinson 72), Burgess, Sarmiento (Broadhead 46), Moore (Al-Hamadi 80), Travis (Luongo 72).

Unused Subs: Walton (GK), Harness, Al-Hamadi, Humphreys.

Rotherham United: Johansson, Clucas, Eaves (Wyke 86), Hugill (Nombe 71), Rinomhota (Cafu 86), Rathbone (Seriki 36), Peltier (Humphreys 71), Odoffin, Morrison (C), Tiehi, Kioso.

Unused Subs: Phillips, Cafu, Wyke, Lindsay, Ferguson, Appiah.

Attendance: 28,026 (145 away)


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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