The Imps earned a point this evening away at Ipswich, in a game that keeps us in touch with the top two.
On an evening where six of the top eight played each other, it was good to see the other two, Doncaster and Accrington lose. In fact, only two of the top eight won (Hull and I assume Sunderland who lead 2-0 at Fratton Park as I write this), meaning the gap between the top four is five points, but Hull have played two matches more. The gap between us and the final place outside the play-offs is now ten points and looking like becoming a chasm.
Michael Appleton made two changes from the side that beat Crewe 3-0 at the weekend, Callum Morton dropped to the bench, with Tom Hopper coming in, whilst Regan Poole also lost his place, replaced by TJ Eyoma. On paper, it looked a big challenge with an Ipswich squad packed with talent but not quite firing on all cylinders. Paul Cook will get them playing, but City hoped it wouldn’t be before the 90 minutes were up.
One thing the Imps have been guilty of is poor starts of late, but there was no fear of that in a confident opening 15 minutes. Both sides certainly had their moments without any clear cut chances, but it was certainly a good advert for League One. Both teams tried to play out from the back, and Ipswich had seemingly identified Cohen Bramall as a good weak spot to attack, switching Edwards from his usual left wing spot to match up.
If that was the plan, they vastly underestimated the former Colchester man, who looked to cause problem in the attacking third from the get-go. One moment saw him started a good five yards behind Luke Chambers, but knock the ball beyond on him glide past like a Audi overtaking a transit van on the A14. It was Bramall who had the first serious Imps chance of the game, a corner was cleared to Edun, who teed him up on the edge of the area. His shot was high and wide, but it was a warning for the home team.
City had a strong spell in the middle period of the half, with Morgan Rogers looking lively too. He was often found tucking into the channel with Bramall going down the outside, but he got his first sight of goal after a corner dropped to him 12-yards out. It took him by surprise a little, but his shot was well blocked anyhow.
I felt referee James Oldham was having a bit of a tough game, but it could be the rose-tinted glasses. He did miss a blatant handball in the area, not deliberate, but I have seen them given. Then Alex Palmer seemed to be fouled as he contested a ball, but the officials gave a corner. Finally, from an Ipswich corner, City broke with Johnson and I thought he was brought down as he made up the yards, with the referee giving a corner. They weren’t horrendous decisions, but they were enough to have me muttering bad words under my breath.
On 22 minutes, City hit the post through the unfortunately Nsiala. This time it was an attack down the right hand side doing the damage, Brennan Johnson finding Eyoma on the overlaps. His ball was sent to the near post, and with Hopper lurking Nsiala turned it onto the post, before it surprised Jones and his header came to nothing. As the ball came back out, Montsma picked it up and let fly with one of his ambitious, but worrying drives which had the keeper beat, but also the goal.
City were turning the screw and on 27 minutes, James Jones had an effort blocked. The former Crewe man has struggled of late, but impressed against his former employers at the weekend and looked strong in the first half here. Bramall was the initial creator, with his ball finding Hopper, who worked it to Jones for the effort.
Just before the hour mark, City took a deserved lead. It was all the work of Morgan Rogers, confidently and dare I say nonchalantly swaggering forward with the ball, looking for options. Bramall drew a runner and a bit of space opened up for the young winger to curl a lovely effort to the left of Tomas Holy, and into the net. It capped a good opening half hour and a dominant quarter of an hour for City, and was certainly just reward for Rogers who had their back line petrified.
The game tailed off a bit after that, with Ipswich finding their footing. Mile Kenlock impressed me with his forward intent, but often fans watching were treated to slow and patient build up from both teams with little penetration. Of course, that suited us as we had the lead, but just before half time we got reminded of how narrow that lead was.
Both times the architect was Andre Dozzell, courtesy of Tayo Edun fouls. The first saw a free kick from the attacking left, on the edge of the area from 18 yards out. Dozzell lifted a neat ball over the top for Nsiala, who got under it and could only head wide. Within minutes, Dozzell had another free kick, this time to the attacking right after a rather cynical Edun challenge, which drew a yellow card. This time Dozzell, son of Ipswich legend Jason, curled his free kick to Palmer’s right, with the keeper at first parrying, then catching the delivery.
It was the final effort of an engrossing first half which saw us have six effort, with only one on target. The home side, for some decent possession, mustered just two, with one on target. It wasn’t a great return for them, and it felt as thought there must be more to come from Paul Cook’s men.