A first half strike from former Rotherham United midfielder Ben Pringle gave visitors Ipswich Town all three points at the John Smith’s Stadium, punishing the Terriers for not making the most of a host of chances.
The Terriers played very well in the first half and created a number of opportunities before Pringle netted the only goal of the game in the 19th minute.
Town’s second half display wasn’t quite as good as the first as Ipswich reorganised and made themselves more defensively resolute, but David Wagner’s men still dominated the ball and could feel that their performance didn’t match the end result.
Wagner made four changes for the game to keep his side fresh after the midweek game at MK Dons and they sprang out of the blocks in impressive fashion.
One of those newcomers, Kyle Dempsey, should have opened the scoring in the 5th minute, but placed his header from Jason Davidson’s excellent cross wide of the near post after Joel Lynch had released the Australian down the left side.
Nahki Wells has a good goals record against the Tractor Boys and he was a constant threat again. A big clearance from Tommy Smith was misjudged by centre back Christophe Berra and the Bermudian raced clear, showing commendable honesty to stay on his feet in the area when clipped from behind. Unfortunately, that honesty was not rewarded as goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski blocked his effort from close range.
Karim Matmour setup Harry Bunn for another great chance on the quarter hour mark, but the ball seemed to bobble as the winger took aim from dead centre around 18 yards out and he sent his effort flying into the Family Stand.
Pringle scored the game’s only goal four minutes later. Lynch tried to shepherd the ball over the dead ball line, but Daryl Murphy nicked it around him and crossed for Pringle – whose volley from 15 yards out went in off Davidson as he tried to get back on the line.
Wells had an immediate chance to reply upon the restart, but badly under-hit an attempted left footer that was comfortable for the ‘keeper.
Wells still had time to send another long range shot just wide before the half ended.
Mick McCarthy’s side regrouped at the interval, having already switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 to try and curb Town, and made life difficult for the Terriers by getting men behind the ball. Wagner tried to change things by bringing on Jamie Paterson and then Elvis Manu, with Joel Lynch also going off on the hour mark with a knock.
Town’s best chance of the second half came on the hour mark. Tommy Smith – making the 100th appearance of his career – sent a low volley towards goal that was deflected into Davidson’s path, but the left back was taken by surprise and could only react to divert the ball wide from around eight yards out.
Berra led the way for the away side, blocking superbly soon after to stop Wells turning home Smith’s low cross, before Ipswich striker Murphy created a great opportunity all by himself in a rare attack at the other end. After turning past Hudson, he sped towards goal and pulled a left footed shot mere inches wide of goal.
Wells created another chance with 13 minutes left, cleverly heading Manu’s clipped pass forward into Jonathan Hogg’s path on the edge of the box. Unfortunately the midfielder volleyed his powerful effort too close to Bialkowski, who pushed the ball away.
Hogg had to leave the pitch two minutes later, hurting his knee in a sliding challenge, leaving Town with 10 men. Wagner eventually pushed Mark Hudson up front and instructed his side to go long – with Jed Steer even joining the attack from set plays – but Ipswich held out.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch (Martin Cranie, 58), Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Dean Whitehead, Jonathan Hogg; Harry Bunn, Kyle Dempsey (Elvis Manu, 68), Karim Matmour (Jamie Paterson, 58); Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, James Husband, Duane Holmes, Flo Bojaj
Tommy Smith (74)