Ipswich Town’s Under 23s beat Charlton Athletic 2-1 this afternoon (Tuesday 16th March) at a wet and windy Playford Road.

Kieron Dyer’s Town Under 23s, sponsored by CNet Training (https://www.cnet-training.com), leapfrogged Charlton Athletic into second place in the Professional Development League South table with a home victory, courtesy of a goal in each half from Ross Crane and Colin Oppong.

Town had slightly the better of the early exchanges, which led to Charlton’s number 7 picking up a yellow card for a strong challenge on Armando Dobra inside ten minutes. Zak Brown was at the heart of much of the home side’s good work early on, shooting over the bar on 12′ before running out of room at the touchline when attempting to round the ‘keeper on 15’. For their part, Charlton threatened on 18 minutes when a dangerous free kick was cleared for a corner by Mark McGuinness. Town then forced back-to-back corners at the other end, resulting in a header wide by the busy McGuinness.

As the game entered its second quarter, play was ebbing and flowing as each team enjoyed spells of pressure. For Town, Liam Gibbs’ corners were causing problems for the Addicks defence and Dobra forced a relatively straighforward save from the visiting goalkeeper on 32′. Zanda Siziba was growing into the game by this point, with the Town youngster only just beaten to the ball by the Charlton goalie after a through-pass from on-loan Barnsley man Luke Thomas on 39′.

Less than a minute later Siziba, collecting a pass from Dobra, forced a corner from which Town broke the deadlock. Gibbs’ set-piece from the Ipswich left caused havoc in the penalty area and, as the ball dropped, left-back Crane smashed the ball home from within the six-yard box (40 minutes). The home team were unable to hold the lead into the break, however, as just two minutes later Charlton won a penalty after a trip in the box. Their number 4 stepped up to send Harry Wright the wrong way and level things up (43′).

There was still time for a Dobra shot to be deflected through to the goalkeeper and for Charlton number 5 to get his side’s second yellow card of the half before the referee blew his whistle. What followed was a seemingly shortened half-time break, perhaps due to the fact that the rain and wind were both picking up by this point and both teams’ half-time team talks were carried out while exposed to the elements.

Town began the second half with the same XI as had started the first and Charlton had the opening half-chance of the period when Wright sprinted off his line to clear with his feet ahead of the onrushing striker on 48′. Two minutes later, Thomas saw his on-target strike held before Oppong replaced Zak Brown on 51 minutes.

On 55 minutes, Dobra earned himself Town’s first card of the game but the Blues’ defensive wall did its job from the resulting free-kick. Town then enjoyed a spell of pressure around the hour mark, during which the corner count crept up. The hosts made back-to-back substitutions on 64 minutes, with Cameron Humphreys replacing Gibbs and Kai Brown coming on for Thomas. A minute later, the Charlton ‘keeper once again had to be on his toes to beat Dobra to a through-ball and clear (65’) before saving at the feat of substitute Brown.

On 70 minutes, however, Town did retake the lead through substitute Oppong. Brown did well to make space for himself on the right-hand edge of the box, before crossing low to Oppong who took a touch before drilling the ball into the net. On 79′, however, Town’s task became tougher as right-back Dylan Crowe was shown a straight red card. A looping ball over the top bounced and Crowe attempted to head back to Wright, but was unable to generate sufficient power due to the wind. A Charlton forward seized on the opportunity and latched on to the ball meaning that Crowe, who was the last man, had little choice but to instinctively tugged him to the ground and receive his marching orders.

With Town down to 10 men, Charlton inevitably threw caution to the wind and their number 12 fired wide with a left-foot effort after 86 minutes. Town’s defence continued to stand firm but, as the clock reached 90 minutes, the Londoners had their best opportunity to claim a point. a left-wing cross into the box was met by number 12 whose sweet left-foot volley was saved brilliantly with his legs by Wright. The rebound fell to number 17, but the speed on the ball meant he could not sort out his feet quickly enough and he fired his effort over the bar.

Charlton’s number 14 then shot high and wide from the edge of the box in the first minute of injury time, before Luke Woolfenden went in the referee’s notebook for kicking the ball away and time wasting. Shortly afterwards, the final whistle went to confirm Town’s win and a return to second position in the table. Town now have 29 points from 18 games and sit behind leaders Bristol City in the nine-team league. The next league game for the Blues is away to Hull City on Monday (22nd March).

ITFC line-up vs Charlton Athletic (Tuesday 16th March 2021): Wright, Crowe, Crane, Alexander, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Thomas (K. Brown 64), Gibbs (Humphreys 64′), Z. Brown (Oppong 51′), Dobra, Siziba. Unused sub: Ridd.

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