Preston 1–1 Ipswich Town 28/01/2017: Match Report
Three points for North End in this mid-table encounter would see them gain further ground on their play-off rivals, and just as expected, Grayson’s men were on the front foot right from the off.
Having settled into their surroundings quicker, Preston seemed to have the measure of Ipswich in the opening ten minutes — controlling the ball and dictating the tempo of the match, and it didn’t take long for them to set up a decent scoring chance. With Aiden McGeady, who started brilliantly out on the left, sending in a looping cross for Jordan Hugill who headed just over the bar.
As the early period of the first half went on however, the Tractor Boys found a way to deal with Preston’s determination and began to control the ball; influencing proceedings.
And unlike the home side, they’ll have something to show for it, as Tom Lawrence took advantage of a good Ipswich period to cut inside from the edge of the penalty area and curl a powerful shot passed on-looker, Chris Maxwell, into the top corner.
Ipswich tails then briefly seemed to be up as they planned to hit the home side on the break. A tactic that came to fruition for a brief period, with Freddie Sears testing Maxwell at the near post on a quick counter attack and again ten minutes later from close range; the North End stopper then denied him a second time with his legs.
This pattern went on through till the end of the first half; with Grayson’s team having much in the way of build up play but little in the way of goal mouth action — a few snap shots being the only form of real penetration.
Knowing the best chance for Preston, an early Hugill header, left a frustrated Deepdale crowd with the knowledge that, as it stood, they were no closer to the playoffs and Ipswich were now only 3 points behind them in the table.
Half time: Preston 0–1 Ipswich (Lawrence, 16)
The second period began almost exactly the same way as the first, but with much more panache. A determined Preston side, clearly given an earful by Grayson, began to hem the visitors in their own half and apply some much needed pressure — shortly after creating a decent scoring opportunity. Daniel Johnson lifted a cross over Christophe Berra to the feet of Hugill, who lashed a tame shot at the Ipswich keeper.
However, just the like first half, the high Preston tempo died down quickly and a scrappy affair ensued from there after — with Daryl Horgan, a recent signing from Dundalk, brought on to provide some much needed creativity mid-way through. Along with Jermaine Beckford several minutes later, making only his second appearance since a return from suspension.
With both sides fighting for dominance, the next chance would come in the form of a snapped at volley from an Ipswich corner, which narrowly flew over the bar — a warning sign for the Lilywhites.
Soon after the scrappy period however, Preston began to assert themselves again and pick up where they left off — trapping Mick McCarthy’s blues in their own half with McGeady forcing a top draw right arm save from Bartosz Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal.
More pressure soon followed from the home side, with Tom Clarke narrowly heading over from a near post corner. A much needed equalizer looked to be on the horizon — with 6ft 7 loanee striker, Simon Makienok, brought on for a more physical presence up front.
Dogged organised defending managed to keep the Lancashire side at bay, but not for long — as Horgan, who looked bright ever since coming on, had the beating of Jonas Knudsen on the left and chipped a great ball into the path of Hugill who made no mistake this time and smashed a volley past Bialkowski in the last minute of normal time. A heartbreaking moment for the away side.
Despite some hard fought pressing from North End, the game finished all square with the Lilywhites moving up to 10th — just 4 points off a play off place, meanwhile Ipswich remain where they were and lose some key ground.