Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri is still waiting to celebrate his first victory since purchasing Sheffield Wednesday as the Owls suffered a narrow defeat at promotion-chasing Ipswich.
Nearly a fortnight has passed since Chansiri agreed to buy the Championship club for £30m, although the deal has yet to be ratified by the Football League.
The seafood magnate helped Owls boss Stuart Gray bring in six new players before the transfer window shut last week. But the new faces have yet to change the team’s stuttering form as they lost at Ipswich despite leading at half-time.
Kieran Lee, for the second year on the spin, was on target at Portman Road, lashing in a 20th minute opener to raise Wednesday’s hopes of a seventh away win.
But second half goals from Daryl Murphy and Luke Chambers stretched Owls’ winless run to five matches, meaning they have only accrued one point out of a possible nine since Chansiri’s arrival. In truth, Ipswich could have won by more had they shown a little more composure in the final third, with Murphy and Darren Ambrose hitting the woodwork either side of half-time.
Wednesday sorely missed Glenn Loovens’ leadership and organisational skills when Ipswich laid siege to the visitors’ goal in the opening 20 minutes after the interval. The Dutchman will be available for the clash with Brighton on Saturday, having served a two-match suspension.
Gray made one enforced change to his starting line-up with Chris Maguire serving the first of a two-match ban for collecting 10 bookings, Lewis McGugan was handed a start in midfield.
There was no place on the bench for Jose Semedo, who failed to pass a fitness test on a toe problem, but defensive midfielder Felipe Melo was, for the first time since arriving from Portuguese side Moreirenses for an undisclosed fee, included in the match-day squad. Melo was joined on the bench by Sergiu Bus despite the Romanian striker’s impressive second half cameo versus the Bluebirds.
It was also confirmed, just an hour before kick-off, that Chelsea had recalled Lewis Baker. The England Under-20 international made four appearances in Owls colours, including two starts.
Joe Mattock made an early statement of intent, producing a couple of fair but crunching challenges on Darren Ambrose and Murphy.
However, it was the Tractor Boys who created the first meaningful opportunity in the 15th minute as Murphy shrugged off the attentions of stand-in Owls skipper Tom Lees after racing on to Stephen Hunt’s through-ball before drilling a fierce left- foot shot agonisingly wide.
Against the run of play, Wednesday went ahead courtesy of Lee. The midfielder lashed home from 15 yards after Bartosz Bialkowski collided with Stevie May following a neat knock down by Will Keane.
Murphy continued to look Ipswich’s most potent attacking threat. The big striker, who spent one-month on loan at Hillsborough during the 2005/06 season, forced Westwood into a smart reflex save following a driving run from deep.
On the half hour, things could have got even better for the visitors had they taken advantage of a three- on two-breakaway. Hutchinson fed Keane who slipped a pass into the path of May, who dragged his effort wide when he should at least hit the target.
Moments later, Tommy Smith nodded Darren Ambrose’s corner inches wide as Ipswich pressed.
Hutchinson was in the thick of the action for Wednesday. He broke up another Ipswich move, allowing May to lead a rapid counter attack. He picked out his strike partner Keane but the forward, on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season, dawdled in possession and the hosts snuffed out the danger.
Before Hutchinson was booked for a late lunge on Cole Skuse, Sears steered a right foot shot over after a lovely centre by Ambrose.
Ipswich enjoyed the bulk of possession and Westwood had to be alert to keep out Skuse’s venomous strike from just outside the area.
McCarthy’s men had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Marnick Vermijl appeared to bring down Ambrose but Attwell was not interested and waved play on.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Murphy rose unmarked to meet Hunt’s delivery with a firm header which struck Westwood’s left-hand upright and bounced to safety.
But Ipswich deservedly equalised seven minutes after the restart thanks to Murphy. The Republic of Ireland international glanced in Sears’ delivery to quieten Wednesday’s supporters.
Tyrone Mings, a half-time replacement for Stephen Hunt, released Jonathan Parr and he blazed over as McCarthy threw on Kevin Bru to increase their attacking options. Ambrose should have completed the turnaround just before the hour but somehow headed Mings’ glorious cross against the post. That was another big let off for the Owls and Mings flashed a low drive narrowly off target after more good approach play by Ipswich.
Gray tried to wrestle the initiative back, putting on Melo, Lewis Buxton and Atdhe Nuhiu.
But it was to no avail as the Tractor Boys bossed proceeds and they made their superiority count midway through the half as Chambers’ thumping header left Westwood rooted to the spot after good move on the left flank involving Murphy and Bru. Claude Dielna curled a free-kick over in the closing stages.
Owls striker Gary Madine joined bottom-of-the-table Blackpool on loan until the end of the season and made his debut as a second-half sub against Middlesbrough last night.
Ipswich: Bialkowski; Chambers, Smith, Berra, Parr; Ambrose, Skuse, Bishop (Bru 57), S Hunt (Mings HT); Murphy, Sears (N Hunt 86). Substitutes: Gerken, Clarke, Anderson, Tabb.
Wednesday: Westwood; Vermijl (Buxton 66), Lees, Dielna, Mattock; McGugan (Nuhiu 66), Hutchinson (Melo 59), Lee; May, Helan, Keane. Substitutes: Kirkland, Palmer, Maghoma, Bus.
Bookings: Wednesday - Hutchinson
Goals: Wednesday - Lee (20), Ipswich - Murphy (52), Chambers (67)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).