Analysis: Ipswich 2 Doncaster Rovers 1

Rovers are held back in their bid to secure safety. Picture: Steve Uttley
Rovers are held back in their bid to secure safety. Picture: Steve Uttley
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Paul Dickov clearly subscribes to the mantra that fortune favours the brave.

A change of approach appeared a rather audacious move with just five games to go and safety far from certain at this point.

It was a much considered gamble that failed to pay off at Portman Road on Saturday as goals from Daryl Murphy and Luke Chambers bettered Rovers’ offering of a Chris Brown penalty.

Losing at a side chasing the top six may be somewhat of an expectation for a club still battling at the bottom but the disappointment of the defeat was still stark. Particularly so when a late, late equaliser for Millwall deflated Rovers’ safety cushion down to three points.

Not to read too much from the book of Dickov, but there were still positives to take from the defeat and enough to provide confidence Rovers will be able to get the single win that should meet the criteria for survival.

The switch to three at the back worked while it lasted.

Ipswich were the better side in the first half before they met a closed door as Rovers were able to quickly get plenty of men back to cover.

On the attacking front, it proved difficult for them to mount much in the first half as they saw little of the ball but Rovers did threaten, particularly when David Cotterill was brought into play behind the front two.

The problem was, Rovers met a side with just as much to battle for. And at Portman Road on Saturday, play-off chasing Ipswich were just that little bit better at battling.

Dickov was on the nose when he said afterwards that Rovers were not allowed to get going in the first half.

Ipswich pressed incredibly well from front to back, denying Rovers any time on the ball which saw them in full control for the majority of the half.

They really should have taken the lead in the first 45 minutes.

Stephen Hunt had the goal at his mercy when sliding in to meet a Paul Anderson low cross but made a poor connection which sent the ball spinning wide.

Chambers scuffed a header wide from Hunt wide from eight yards out while it took a superb one-handed save from Sam Johnstone to keep out Tommy Smith’s powerful header from Hunt’s free kick.

It took Rovers half an hour to register a shot on target when battling Brown swiped an effort on target while sat on the floor.

But they could easily have been in front when a Cotterill corner found Gabriel Tamas completely unmarked only for him to power a header straight at Dean Gerken.

Mick McCarthy was not patient enough to wait and see whether his Ipswich side would batter down the door in the second half so he rolled the dice himself at the break.

McCarthy sent on Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Frank Nouble to move to an incredibly audacious 4-2-1-3, providing further validation to Dickov’s own tactical tinkering.

Before the move could have been judged to have worked, Ipswich took the lead.

There are not many mistakes you could throw back in Johnstone’s face from his time with Rovers but poor judgement led to perhaps his most costly error to date.

Johnstone hesitated as he decided whether to come for a high-flighted ball into the box from Mings. His late call to try and claim the cross allowed Murphy to get there first and nod into what was effectively an open goal.

Just like at Burnley last month, Rovers were dealt a major blow before everyone had returned to their seats for the second half.

But again, they responded well to the set back and began to mount their best spells of possession and attacking intent so far.

The managerial tete-a-tete continued with Rovers switching to a 4-4-2 in order to better combat Ipswich’s increased attacking threat.

The switch brought greater fluidity and more urgency to Rovers’ attacking play as there was less scope for short passes and time to ponder on the ball.

Decent chances for either side failed to materialise through the majority of the half and it certainly appeared as though it was not going to be Rovers’ day as the minutes ticked by.

Few would have predicted the action-packed finish which the game delivered.

Arguments with referee Graham Scott would be saved for later as there could be few questions over his penalty decision in Rovers’ favour.

Full back Tyrone Mings had impressed for the hosts but dented his cause with a blatant and unnecessary shove in the back of substitute Mark Duffy who was just about to run out of the box in any case.

Brown stepped up and confidently rolled the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Gerken the wrong way.

Before Rovers could begin to contemplate returning home with at least a point, a hammerblow fell upon them just three minutes after parity was achieved.

Once again blame for the defeat, or at least Ipswich’s second goal, could be pointed at the match official.

Intentional or not, Luke Hyam certainly appeared to make plenty of contact with Gabriel Tamas’ shin in the build-up but play was allowed to continue.

Mings picked up the loose ball and played inside to Williams whose shot deflected twice out to the on-rushing Chambers who lashed low into the far corner.

It was a cruel blow after Rovers had done well to battle back into the game.

They could have drawn level in added time when Brown met a good cross from Cotterill but sent it straight at Gerken.

Fortune did favour the brave at Portman Road but Ipswich laid the biggest claim for it.

Now Rovers’ need to be brave is only increasing.