Match Report: Ipswich Town 2 Rotherham United 0

Ryan Hall's shot is blocked
Ryan Hall's shot is blocked
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Here’s a little stat for you.

Before Saturday’s match, Ipswich had lost just three times in the 31 games in which Daryl Murphy had scored for them.

Make that 32 now.

The Town striker needed just three minutes to bag his 34th goal for the club, and it’s 20 months since the opposition managed to see off the Murphy jinx. Well done Bristol City in January 2013.

Unfortunately, only another three minutes had elapsed when David McGoldrick, Ipswich’s string-puller and a problem for Rotherham all day until he went off to rapturous applause, added a killer second.

Murphy’s effort was an opportunist header. Right place at the right time as Luke Chambers’ header came back off Scott Loach and he headed over the Millers goalkeeper.

McGoldrick’s was some goal. He took Luke Hyam’s square ball from 22 yards, making room for a thumping left-footed shot which gave Loach no chance. And on his supposedly weaker foot too.

Even Millers boss Steve Evans, who needs only seconds after matches to be dissecting the video evidence of major incidents to see what his side could have done better, came out of the dressing room and admitted it was just a great strike.

“I think the first goal was sloppy. The guy gets up above Revs (Alex Revell) to win the header and Scott Loach should have put his cap on it,” he said. “Then they have a piece of magic. I’ve just looked through to try to pick fault and blame and it’s just a stunning goal.”

Not many teams are going to come back from two goals down at Portman Road against a side now in a play-off place and eyeing the Championship top two.

To their credit. the Millers, hit by injury, suspension and loan absences, refused to fold, battling first to gain a foothold in the game and then in the second half, when Town were able to sit back and protect their lead, dominating possession and territory.

This part of Suffolk is the home of the footballing ‘Sirs’, Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson, both of whom have stands named at them. Rotherham might not have quite deserved knighthoods for their second-half efforts, but they got about and rattled the division’s form team who now have four successive wins.

The Millers are acclimatising to life in the second tier, retaining possession better than they did at the start of the season, but for the second match running they couldn’t make their superiority count and it’s now five matches without a win.

At home against Charlton last week they destroyed the visitors after the break but managed only one goal and here the pressure mounted on the Ipswich defence as the number of balls into their penalty area stacked up yet the breakthrough never quite came.

“Our performance for 70 minutes away from home was special in the Championship. But you get nothing for special performances,” Evans said.

“The players got their confidence back and we had a few nice passing moves. Second half, the way I’ve seen it is just one-way domination of a football match. One or two individuals will be extremely disappointed, but other than that I thought we were terrific.

“I’ve just said to the group that you can’t have the dominance that we had in the second half against Charlton and you can’t have that dominance that we had in the second half here at Portman Road and not make it count.

“We’re learning every week, but it’s time to get some results. We’re not stupid.”

As ever, there was penalty controversy.

Ryan Hall’s first-half shot from Lee Frecklington’s pass was heading goalwards until the block brought shouts for handball.

Then, in the 67th-minute, substitute Matt Derbyshire looked to be pulled back as he went through on goal.

Not just spot-kicks, said Evans, who is getting sick and tired of having to query officials ‘no penalty’ verdicts after matches. Red cards.

“Their man should go off for handball when Ryan Hall strikes, and that’s with the benefit of the DVD. Second half, there’s one team trying to play, making the chances. Again, we make another terrific chance and Derbyshire’s held back,” the Millers boss added.

“I can’t keep saying it, can I, that we should have penalties and we’ve got poor referees. He’s not to blame. What is to blame is an awful first six minutes. In any game of football when you go two down so early, it’s a long afternoon.

“Derbyshire is brought down, he’s pulled back. It’s not only a penalty and a red card. The first one is as well. We said last week that there was a penalty not given to us in Charlton and the people in a TV studio in London deemed it not to be. They’re pundits. It’s why they’re in a studio not in the game. It’s not important what they think. What’s important is what the referee thinks.

“We’re disappointed with the big decisions. He gave us a few little throw-ins and free-kicks but I think, as I told him afterwards, that’s irrelevant to the game of football. Get the big decisions right.”

After the goals, Revell, who was a problem in the air throughout for the Town defence, had three efforts which came to nothing before Jordan Bowery stepped up in the 35th minute.

Ben Pringle’s teasing delivery from the left found the big man free in the centre of the goal but his header was disappointingly tame. Dean Gerken saved with relative comfort and a clear, important chance was gone.

“Jordan Bowery should score,” Evans said. “It’s a great cross by Ben Pringle and it’s right on his head from seven or eight yards in the centre of the goal.”

Loach, playing against his former club and receiving a warm reception, saved the Millers with smart stops from Christophe Berra and Chambers before, seconds into the second half, Connor Sammon latched on to Frazer Richardson’s header back and rounded the Millers shot-stopper.

Game over.

No, this was one Sammon that didn’t find the net. He hit the post and the Millers used the let-off to galvanise them.

Paul Green, Bowery, Revell, twice, and Frecklington all threatened in the penalty area before the Derbyshire incident as Town’s attacking thrust, until a Murphy curler just wide in the 87th minute, evaporated.

Ipswich made changes to counter Rotherham’s growing threat, bringing on Jay Tabb - who, with his short, sturdy schoolboy frame and outsized baggy shorts, looked like an extra from Kes - Elliott Hewitt and Balint Bajner.

The Millers sent on strikers Derbyshire, Jonson Clarke-Harris and, very late on, Luciano Becchio as they went for the reward their possession and territory deserved.

In the 80th minute Evans’ men should have scored, and what a grandstand finish that could have set up. Ipswich old boy Paul Green’s deflected free-kick from 20 yards was parried by Gerken into the path of another former Portman Road citizen, Richardson.

He has been such an assured performer since recovering from injury that he is one of the Rotherham players you would have backed to do the right thing, but the right-back chose power over placement and blazed wastefully over.

In time added on, Clarke-Harris saw his shot blocked, and that pretty much summed up the visitors’ frustration: yet another moment when their pressure almost made something happen but it didn’t quite come off.

Finally, as we started out with a statistic, how about we end on one?

In nine Championship matches so far - 810 minutes of football, plus time added on, more than 13 and a half hours of game-time - Rotherham have yet to be awarded a spot-kick.

Hero: Ben Pringle. Could have sulked after being dropped at Bolton but has come back in and looked like his old League One self. Played on the left at Ipswich and the crosses came in all game. Kari Arnason played through injury to help the cause.

Key moment: David McGoldrick’s sixth-minute strike, a goal good enough to settle any match. No-one doubts how game and willing the Millers are, but being 2-0 down against a seasoned Championship side gave them too much to do.

Viewpoint: Nine games in and the Millers are certainly competitive at this level. What is a cause for concern, though, is their inability to make their dominance count when they are on top. It’s the difference between losing and drawing, drawing and winning.

Manager’s view: Mick McCarthy: “David McGoldrick is arguably one of the best strikers in the league. He has two good feet, just one better than the other, and it was some strike. September has gone particularly well. We have had a nice bit of momentum, although we have carried a bit of luck.”

Manager’s view: Steve Evans: “Ipswich have had a bit of ‘doing’ in the second half but their team’s won. Good luck to them. I’ve never heard the Portman Road crowd so quiet and I’ve been here on many occasions. We’ve had more width and more crosses going into the box today than in a long time. If we continue that, we’ll be fine.”

Ref watch: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire): Not the first official this season to incur Steve Evans’ wrath over penalty/no penalty incidents. So-called ‘bigger’ clubs so often find those decisions going their way at home. That apart, he handled the game pretty well.

Ipswich Town: Gerken 6, Parr 7, Mings 7, Chambers 7, Berra 7, Murphy 7, McGoldrick 8(Bajner 74), Anderson (Tabb 54, 6) 7, Bru 6, Hyam 6, Sammon 6 (Hewitt 67, 6). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Smith, Henshall, Bishop.

Rotherham United: Loach 7, Richardson 7, Broadfoot 6, Arnason 8, Skarz (Becchio 87) 7, Hall 6 (Derbyshire 59, 6), Frecklington 6, Green 7, Pringle 8, Revell 7, Bowery 5 (Clarke-Harris 74). Subs not used: Collin, Brindley, Swift, Rowe.

Attendance: 16,447 (495).