Goals either side of half-time from Clayton Donaldson and Michael Morrison sealed a welcome three points for Blues.
This game never possessed the ingredients to be a classic but Gary Rowett’s men got back to basics, looking to keep a tight backline whilst causing Ipswich plenty of problems at the other end. A direct approach paid dividends, interspersed in equal measure with some neat passing moves.
Donaldson opened the scoring four minutes before the interval as he took his seasonal tally to six from the penalty spot. And when Morrison put his side two goals to the good, it seemed Blues were set for a comfortable evening. However, Adam Webster set the St. Andrew’s nerves a-jangling by heading the visitors back into the game, before the hosts regained their composure to see out the win.
The major blot on the night came with the premature departure of Donaldson due to injury just a few minutes after his goal, the striker taken off on a stretcher just prior to half-time.
Jonathan Spector and David Davis returned to the starting line-up as two of four changes made by Rowett. Maikel Kieftenbeld and Lukas Jutkiewicz were also restored to the side, as Josh Dacres-Cogley, Robert Tesche and Che Adams dropped down to the bench.
The first threatening moment inside the Ipswich area was caused by Jonathan Grounds’ long throw-in on 10 minutes, but Bartosz Bialkowski palmed clear under pressure from David Cotterill. At the other end, David McGoldrick got in a shot on the turn that Ryan Shotton did well to block.
Neat interplay between Cotterill and Spector down the right engineered a good crossing chance that the American pulled back into the area but unfortunately it rolled behind his onrushing colleagues. Jutkiewicz’s attempted half-volley inside the box bounced off the heels of Christophe Berra as Blues upped the ante.
On 25 minutes came the game’s first real save. After the ball ricocheted back to Jutkiewicz on the edge of the area, the loanee unleashed a well-controlled effort which stung the hands of Bialkowski but the Ipswich keeper turned the shot aside.
Six minutes later and it was Blues’ own Polish shot-stopper that was called into action. Tomasz Kuszczak produced a fantastic fingertip save to divert McGoldrick’s fierce 12-yard effort over the ball, after a mazy run from Tom Lawrence set up the chance.
A lofted long ball from Spector looked to pick out Davis running in at the far post but it always looked likely to drift too far. The midfielder stretched his neck muscles to get to the ball but wasn’t able to send his header goalward.
Blues looked to get the Ipswich defence on the back foot at every opportunity and it was a tactic that provided the next dangerous moment. Spector’s up and under was headed back across goal by Morrison for Jutkiewicz who was again unfortunate to see another goalbound effort blocked.
But, ironically, it was courtesy of the next blocked Jutkiewicz shot that Blues edged in front. This time it was the hands of Luke Varney that prevented the striker’s effort from finding the target and, after a moment’s hesitation, referee Darren Bond pointed to the spot.
Donaldson kept his nerve to convert the penalty, waiting for Bialkowski to dive to his left before chipping the ball down the middle of the goal. Sadly, however, it was to be the scorer’s last contribution of the evening as a minute into stoppage-time he slumped to the floor following a challenge from Adam Webster. Blues’ top scorer departed on a stretcher with Che Adams replacing him.
Blues came out after half-time on the offensive looking for a second goal that might kill off the contest. At the end of a flowing move involving Adams, Spector and Cotterill, Kieftenbeld’s side-footed shot was deflected away from goal. From the resultant corner, the ball dropped invitingly for Grounds but the left-back saw his attempted volley charged down.
But, on 54 minutes, a corner from the same left-hand side helped Blues open up the two-goal cushion they craved. Cotterill’s in-swinging delivery just evaded Shotton but Morrison was there to direct his header down and into the net.
Ipswich mounted a spirited response and put the game back in the balance on 69 minutes by reducing the deficit. Spector’s headed clearance was returned back into the box with impressive accuracy by Lawrence and Webster rose well to power a header past Kuszczak.
Sub Freddie Sears lashed a shot wide from inside the area as the visitors pressed for an equaliser but the head of steam that the Tractor Boys built up gradually ebbed away. Instead it was Blues that threatened to add to their advantage, Adams racing clear on the right but he was forced out wide, eventually crossing to Jutkiewicz whose header flew straight at Bialkowski.
Home hearts were in their mouths in the 89th minute though, as Christophe Berra’s close-range header bounced down and into the net. To the massive relief of the vast majority of people inside St. Andrew’s, the goal was ruled out for a foul.
Blues came through five slightly nervy minutes of stoppage-time to secure a precious victory, three points that lifted Rowett’s side up one place to seventh in the Sky Bet Championship table, level on points with sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.