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Match Report


Posted Tue 23 Mar 10 at 22:04 PM


Ipswich Town 0

Argyle 2
Wright-Phillips 34, Mason 78

THE finest result of Argyle's tortuous season has kept survival hopes well and truly alive.

Defeat at Scunthorpe had even the Greenest of Green optimists feeling doubtful but Paul Mariner's resilient team produced a fantastic performance at the ground where their leader made his name.

Ipswich marched confidently into the match with a six-month unbeaten home record but they were repelled by brave Argyle defending and incisive work on the counter-attack.

The movement of Bradley Wright-Phillips and wizardry on the wing from Yala Bolasie gave the former an opening to nod home the latter's powerful cross on 34 minutes.

David Stockdale produced a number of superb saves as Ipswich poured forward in search of an equaliser but the home side were hit by a sucker-punch goal from Joe Mason that had the persistence of Jamie Mackie at its source.

The two changes Mariner made to his defence following Saturday's loss at Scunthorpe were bitterly enforced, as the curse of the Pilgrim back four struck once again.

A dangerous tackle by Matt Sparrow on Richard Eckersley in the opening minutes at Glanford Park left the man on loan from Burnley hobbling about on crutches. His early replacement on Saturday, Chris Barker, was given starting duty at Portman Road.

The battle of Scunthorpe also condemned Icelandic international Kári Árnason to a spell on the sidelines with a damaged hip. Bondz N'Gala, on loan from West Ham United, stepped in for a daunting debut against an Ipswich side that had not lost at home since September.

The vacancies created on the Argyle bench gave Kenny Cooper an opportunity to possibly make his belated mark and youth-team defender Ryan Leonard was rewarded for his excellent progress with the other free spot among the replacements.

Ipswich boss Roy Keane had no such selection worries, as he stuck with the same starting 11 and substitutes that battled to a 1-0 home win over Barnsley on the weekend.

The result against the Tykes represented a fourth consecutive clean sheet at Portman Road for Irish goalkeeper Brian Murphy, who has yet to be beaten at home since his January move from Bohemians.

There was a familiar face to the Green Army in the Town midfield, with David Norris lining up against the club where he became a hero with his all-action displays in 235 appearances as a Pilgrim.

The emergence of the two teams brought a wonderful reception for Mariner at the club where he scored almost 100 goals in a Blues' side that won both the FA and UEFA Cup. The entire stadium rose to applaud the Argyle gaffer in a fitting tribute from an excellent club.

A pedestrian start to the game was given an unwelcome boost when Karl Duguid slipped in midfield to allow Daryl Murphy a clear path down the left wing. His crafty ball inside found the run of skipper Jon Walters but Barker gave an early justification of his selection with a fine covering tackle.

Barker's left-side partner, the explosive Bolasie, came to the fore next with a surging run through midfield and pass wide to Wright-Phillips, who cut inside Damien Delaney and rifled in a low drive that battered the back stanchion behind Brian Murphy's enchanted goal.

The sleepy defending that cost the crucial equaliser at Scunthorpe on Saturday returned on just 11 minutes when Gareth McAuley's cushioned header found Daryl Murphy totally unmarked in the box. The winger on loan from Sunderland took time to control the ball before arrowing a dipping volley narrowly over Stockdale's far corner.

Ipswich were suddenly playing fluent football in midfield that had Argyle chasing Blue shadows. One particular move involved five Town players, but the sixth, Pablo Counago, should have centred for Jon Walters to tap home the opener. Mercifully, the Spaniard opted for a tight-angle shot that rippled the side-netting.

Despite the flowing spell, the blistering pace of Argyle's three-pronged attack of Bolasie, Wright-Phillips and Mackie remained a constant thorn. Determination from Wright-Phillips and vision from Mackie gave the former room to force a smart save from Brian Murphy at his near-post after a swift Green counter.

N'Gala endured his first shaky moment of an otherwise accomplished start to life as a Pilgrim when a lack of communication with Stockdale almost allowed Daryl Murphy a sneaky poke on goal after 25 minutes.

A moment of pure magic from Norris reminiscent of happier times gave Walters an even better chance but the skipper's header back across goal from a wonderful deep cross beat both Stockdale and the far post.

Walters' profligacy received the ultimate punishment within two minutes. Delaney pondered under intense pressure from Mackie and Argyle's Duracell Bunny did enough to prod the ball back for Carl Fletcher, who instantly transferred it wide for Bolasie.

What followed was a fine example of brilliant wing-play. Bolasie twisted David Wright inside out before rifling in a low cross that flicked off an Ipswich foot for Wright-Phillips to plant a perfect header past Brian Murphy and the force-field that has surrounded his goal for almost 400 minutes of his Portman Road career.

At the other end, Réda Johnson was quietly marching through another magnificent display of heading and defensive badgering, and his display was all the more impressive given that he was now the senior partner in a very junior centre of the back four.

Going forward, Ipswich looked a cohesive unit. Going backward, they now looked to be in the final throes of a bitter divorce, as shown by Delaney's hurried clearance striking the back of McAuley and floating agonisingly past Brian Murphy's now vulnerable goal.

The half-time whistle was greeted with a chorus of disgruntled Suffolk boos - music to the ears of Mariner and his brave band of Green men.

It has been said for a long time that each game is must-win, but half-time scores elsewhere basically meant that Argyle would be three points from safety if nothing changed after the break. It was, therefore, a massive 45 minutes in the context of a gruelling season.

A key element for the Pilgrims would be the surprisingly fickle home support. Keeping the crowd quiet and dissatisfied could prove crucial in a second-half that would inevitably see Ipswich pile on the pressure.

Mackie made a decent start in that aim by robbing Wright after more defensive hesitancy from Town but the eventual shot screwed well wide. Counago came far closer a minute later but Stockdale judged his angles perfectly to parry away the Spaniard's snap-shot.

Stockdale's next contribution was sensational. Carlos Edwards gave Bolasie a taste of his own medicine on the wing before serving up a fabulous cross for Walters to head downwards in the direction of the bottom corner, but Argyle's custodian continued his Scunthorpe form to produce a stunning reflex save.

The Bolasie bandwagon responded with typically unorthodox brilliance. A dazzling run through the centre left three Blues shirts trailing in his wake and the final shot was only carried wide by the desperate boot of a recovering Shane O'Connor.

Keane had seen enough. Norris and Edwards were withdrawn for the guile of Owen Garvan and Grant Leadbitter, and Daryl Murphy immediately exposed the reorganising defence with a run and shot from the inside-right channel that Stockdale beat away.

Back to Bolasie, and persistence from Mackie created space for a floating cross that Argyle's sparkling winger attacked like an old fashioned centre-forward, and Brian Murphy did well to block the thumping header.

Mariner's plans were then thrown into disarray by an injury to Barker. Chris Clark was immediately ushered into an emergency full-back role with Alan Judge filling his void in midfield. The exhausted Wright-Phillips was also replaced by Mason.

Argyle's back four for a hugely important final 20 minutes would be Duguid, who has spent much of the season in midfield, Clark, who has spent the whole season in midfield, debutant N'Gala and the imperious Réda Johnson.

Thankfully, Stockdale was having a corker behind them. For his next trick, the man on loan from Fulham dived full-length to push away a sublime curling free-kick from Leadbitter.

The big moment arrived with 12 minutes to go and it proved decisive. Garvan attempted a crazy header back to Brian Murphy. Mackie read the substitute's intentions and scampered towards goal.

McAuley held up the marauding Mackie, who had epitomised the extraordinary hard work of the whole team all night, but Mason was on hand to prod the loose ball past Brian Murphy and give the Greens a vital two-goal cushion.

Stockdale had not finished with his own heroics, showing superb reflexes again to divert a stooped header from the frustrated Walters, and the Pilgrims enjoyed the final ten minutes against a dispirited Town side.

Next up in our search for a Green miracle is a home meeting with Blackpool and a return to Home Park for Mr Holloway.

Ipswich Town(4-4-2): 26 Brian Murphy; 2 David Wright, 3 Damien Delaney, 4 Gareth McAuley, 30 Shane O'Connor; 23 Carlos Edwards (7 Owen Garvan, 60), 10 David Norris (6 Grant Leadbitter 60), 17 Jack Colback, 21 Daryl Murphy; 9 Pablo Counago (20 David Healy 71), 19 Jon Walters (capt). Substitutes (not used): 12 Jaime Peters, 28 Arran Lee-Barrett (gk), 35 Tommy Smith, 40 Connor Wickham.

Argyle (4-4-2): 21 David Stockdale; 2 Karl Duguid, 29 Bondz N'Gala, 22 Réda Johnson, 15 Chris Barker (25 Alan Judge 68); 6 Chris Clark, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 7 Damien Johnson, 36 Yannick Bolasie; 8 Jamie Mackie, 10 Vradley Wright-Phillips (32 Joe Mason 71). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 14 Rory Fallon, 20 Luke Summerfield, 33 Kenny Cooper, 40 Ryan Leonard.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 19,316 (400 away est.)

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