This could have been an FA Cup shock either way, such are the current fortunes of Accrington Stanley and Ipswich Town despite them being leagues apart. Thirteen league places is the gap between the two teams but in terms of mood, the difference is substantial.
Accrington were promoted for the first time last season into League One under the leadership of John Coleman while Ipswich, who have become barren in the Championship of late, sit bottom of the second division.
It is certainly troubling times in Suffolk and this FA Cup third round defeat will only darken the mood around the club further. Billy Kee’s goal in the 76th-minute goal for Accrington sent the League One side through to the next round whilst Paul Lambert’s men had to deal with another difficult afternoon during a testing time. That is now only one win for Ipswich in the past three months that has featured 15 matches.
With only 15 points registered, the Tractor Boys are substantially adrift at the foot of the Championship table. It was clear at the Wham stadium that they are a team devoid of confidence and lacking quality in key areas. Lambert became head coach in October with the ambition of stopping the rot and put a longer-term plan in place. Since his arrival little has changed.
Accrington dominant and deserved victory
Accrington could have won more emphatically. They created most – and the better – of the chances but it came down to Kee’s header fairly late on to send the Lancashire side through. This was a much-needed success for Lancashire football in general, the area has not had a lot to sing about in recent years. Blackburn, Bolton and Blackpool have all regressed drastically since their spells in the Premier League, mainly down to reckless owners who wanted a piece of the pie then but have no clue how to run a club.
Thus Accrington – and in part Preston North End’s steady run in the second division – have been the leading lights of football positivity in the county for some years. This victory will only heighten that sentiment. The wait for Monday evening’s fourth-round draw will seem like an eternity for Coleman who – with his side sitting relatively comfortably mid-table – would cherish a cup run. This is the highest tier Accrington have reached in English football, but there is something unique about the FA Cup.
“A FA Cup third round win would be worth nearly as much as Accrington’s total season ticket revenue,” said fan and club chairman Andy Holt this week. With a big tie possibly lying in waiting, the benefits for the club are endless – establishing this relatively new club is Holt’s main objective.
No cup win since 2010 for Ipswich
Stretching Ipswich’s winless run in the FA Cup to 14 matches – away at Blackpool in 2010 was their last victory in the competition – could have been sealed much earlier. The two thousand or so supporters braving the cold were encouraged by an impressive performance from the hosts who started with impetus and were imposing.
Jordan Clark tested Bartosz Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal on numerous occasions to in the opening half; the Accrington midfielder was outstanding throughout. He forced Bialkowski into two saves with low driving shots and also saw a header late in the first half travel narrowly wide of the post.
The visitors’ only chance of note in the first half was a shot from Freddie Sears which Connor Ripley in the Accrington goal was able to collect. The chance came from Sears cutting inside from the right and surging towards goal on his own because there where a lack of options around him, that in itself summed up Ipswich’s approach play.
Hosts should have scored more despite an improvement from Ipswich
Whatever Lambert said at half time it did invoke an improvement in Ipswich’s performance in the second half, Teddy Bishop came off the bench and dragged a shot wide before firing a long distance effort off target. Ripley in goal was more involved after the break too; frantically scrambling back to stop a header from his own defender Ben Richards-Everton crossing the line had hearts in mouths across the gallery.
It was a game of limited clear-cut chances but Kee’s header was converted and ultimately proved victorious. Sean McConville whipped in the free-kick, the ball was headed back across goal by Richards-Everton and Kee was there to score his ninth goal of the season.
Ripley saved an attempt from Jon Nolan whilst Sear’s sent a shot wide of the post, but that was the extent of Ipswich’s fightback. Lambert could only watch on as his side’s circumstances deteriorate further whilst in the opposite dugout Coleman was all smiles having secured a place in the next round, once again assisting in Holt’s attempt to establish Accrington.