Ipswich consolidated their position in the Championship play-off places tonight with a fifth successive away victory as they proved again that they are a match for all but the best in the division.
Their only defeats in their past 14 matches have been to the present top three, and fourth-placed Brighton did not have the resources to overcome the Tractor Boys, who could have won by more than the single goal, his seventh of the season, scored by Daryl Murphy after 32 minutes.
Brighton manager Chris Hughton changed his preferred 4-4-2 formation, bringing Andrew Crofts in as a holding midfield player, allowing Beram Kayal to get further forward, and the Israel midfielder had the match’s first effort at goal, a 25-yard shot that went only a yard or so wide.
But Brighton were unable to build on that promise. Mick McCarthy, the Ipswich manager, had made his first two team changes for six games, bringing in Ryan Fraser and Kevin Bru, and both changes seemed to work. Bru was within inches of putting the visitors ahead in the 15th minute, controlling Connor Goldson’s clearance and hitting a volley that dipped over Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale and rebounded from the crossbar.
That heralded a spell of Ipswich pressure that caused the home side problems, even though Brighton broke away and had the ball in the net in the 29th minute, Jamie Murphy correctly flagged offside as he touched the ball in after Dale Stephens’ flick had been tipped onto the crossbar by Ipswich keeper Dean Gerken.
It was an isolated Brighton break and two minutes later Ipswich were deservedly in front. Brighton defender Lewis Dunk lost concentration, allowing Murphy to take possession and send an angled shot past Stockdale and in off the far post, Goldson unable to clear off the line as he attempted to rescue Dunk’s error.
It was almost 2-0 as Fraser cut in from the left and crossed to the near post, where Bru’s first-time shot rebounded from the upright.
And Ipswich missed another chance to double their lead after 54 minutes. Fraser’s volley on the turn became a pass to Jonathan Douglas, but Stockdale spread himself in front of the midfield player to block.
Hughton’s answer was to send for the cavalry in the shape of Bobby Zamora and James Wilson, and after Stockdale had saved well again, blocking Fraser’s low shot, the substitution almost paid off when Zamora’s looping shot beat Gerken but came off the bar. Close, but not close enough.
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