Ipswich Town’s Under 23s (sponsored by CNet Training) won 4-2 against top-of-the-table Bristol City at Playford Road this afternoon (Tuesday 6th April 2021).

The game, which had a midday kick-off in sunny, partially cloudy and windy conditions, was a meeting of the top two sides in the Professional Development League South. Bristol City went into the game with an 11-point lead over Town, and Kieron Dyer named an experienced side as the Blues looked to close that gap. Armando Dobra, Aaron Drinan and Myles Kenlock all started having made substitutes’ appearances for the first-team at Rochdale the previous day, while Dai Cornell and Mark McGuinness both made the starting XI in this one having been unused subs at the Crown Oil Arena.

The game began at a frenetic pace, although the opening third of the game lacked clear chances for either side. Ipswich won a couple of corners within the first ten minutes, one of which was the result of a marauding Keanan Bennetts run and shot. Bristol City forced a corner of their own when Kenlock cleared the danger, before a through-ball put Freddie Sears in on goal before his lobbed effort went just wide. On 21 minutes, City’s number 11 pinged a fierce right-footed shot after cutting in from the left but Cornell saved convincingly.

The game sprung into life on 31 minutes, as Town took the lead. Sears’ shot was blocked and broke to Levi Andoh on the right side of the opposition penalty box. His clipped cross was met by a shot across the six-yard box which Sears tapped in for the opener. A minute later Drinan’s run and dinked cross evaded everyone, then Bennetts pulled a shot wide (33′) as the home side looked to extend their lead.

The second Blues goal arrived on 36 minutes, as Dobra curved a superb ball down the right touch-line and around the Robins’ right back, perfectly into the path of Drinan. The Irish front man finished emphatically with a low, drilled shot past the visiting ‘keeper and Town led 2-0. Three minutes later, Tristan Nydam was on the end of a late challenge near the centre circle as the match became increasingly competitive.

The hosts did not have to wait long for the third goal, as Dobra fed Sears whose dangerous cross-shot from the left-hand side of the box was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Bristol City number 5. City went looking for a way back into the game before half-time, first by forcing a corner on 41 minutes and then via a free-kick on 42 minutes which resulted in Cornell saving comfortably from the City number 6’s header. Two minutes of stoppage time were played before the referee blew his whistle, with Town going into the break three goals to the good.

Ipswich had the first chance of the second period on 46 minutes, with Sears forcing a corner as his left-footed shot was well blocked by a Bristol City defender. Liam Gibbs’ corner evaded everyone, however. City then enjoyed a good spell of pressure as McGuinness cleared off the line on 48 minutes and Bailey Clements blocked a goal-bound effort with his stomach on the six-yard box moments later to maintain Town’s clean sheet. Bennetts’ left-footed free kick then forced an excellent, full-stretch save from the City goalkeeper (52′), but in truth the visitors were on top at this stage.

Cornell made an impressive save down to his left-hand side on 58 minutes, before Town made their first change of the afternoon as Connor O’Reilly replaced Andoh at right-back (60′). City then had a penalty shout turned down on 62 minutes as the Bristolians began to show the kind of strengths that have given them such a healthy lead at the top of the table. A second Blues swap followed shortly thereafter, as Tyreece Simpson replaced goal scorer Drinan upfront (65′).

City continued to put the Town defence under pressure and their number 9 shot into the side netting on 66′. on 68 minutes, a Tristan Nydam back-pass got caught in the wind and Cornell had to come out of his box to block, before the Welsh shot stopper saved well with his legs from number 9 on 69 minutes. The resulting corner came to nothing, but soon after City did get the goal that their pressure deserved as number 9 scored with a strong headed effort that Cornell could only push into the roof of the net.

Ross Crane replaced Kenlock at left-back on 73 minutes in the third ITFC change of the match, but within a minute Town’s lead had been cut to one as number 11 scored for the visitors (3-2, 74′). The next few minutes of the game where mostly played in the middle third of the pitch, with Ipswich looking to keep possession and stop the City fightback in its tracks. Simpson won a corner for Town on 80 minutes as his flicked finish forced a smart reaction save from the Reds’ ‘keeper, then Town enjoyed a sustained period of pressure as the game entered its final ten minutes.

Town halted the City comeback and sealed all three points on 86 minutes, as a Dobra dribble was laid off to Simpson who fired a shot low and into the net from just inside the area. The same pair combined a minute later but Simpson’s low cross was blocked (87′). Town saw the final few minutes out without too much trouble, even forcing another corner in the second minute on additional time as Dobra’s shot was deflected wide. The referee, who had kept his cards in his pocket all afternoon, blew the whistle to confirm Town’s 4-2 win. The gap at the top was reduced to eight points in the process.

Next up for Town’s Under 23s is another home league match at Playford Road, against Barnsley next Tuesday 13th April (NB: the kick-off time for this fixture has been changed to 1pm).

Ipswich Town Under 23s line-up vs Bristol City (home, Tuesday 6th April, 12h00 kick-off): Cornell, Andoh (O’Reilly 60′), McGuinness, Clements, Kenlock (Crane 72′), Gibbs, Nydam, Dobra, Bennetts, Sears, Drinan (Simpson 65′).

Subs not used: White, Page

ITFC.co.uk match report: https://www.itfc.co.uk/news/2021/april/ipswich-u23s-beat-bristol-city-4-2/

TWTD.co.uk match report: https://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/40050/u23s-beat-leaders-bristol-city

Photo credit: James Ager

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