20-goal target for strike pair

DAZZLING Darren Bent has long enjoyed a reputation as a prolific goalscorer but he has also shown lately an unselfish side to set up others, writes Derek Davis.

DAZZLING Darren Bent has long enjoyed a reputation as a prolific goalscorer but he has also shown lately an unselfish side to set up others, writes Derek Davis.

With one goal in eight games, the Blues' striker has dipped below his average but that has not stopped him playing a big part in Town's revival.

Bent said: "When you are flying, it seems that you can be standing anywhere and the ball goes in off you.

"When you are looking for the ball, you find you will go short and the ball goes over your head. You go to the near post and it goes to the far post.

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"I'm a strong believer, though, that if you work hard in training then it will come off on the pitch in the end.

"I have weighed in more with assists this season but, obviously, if I'm not scoring then I still want the team to do well and, if that means making chances for other people, I'm happy to do that and hope they can finish it off."

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Bent leads the attack today at Gillingham along with Shefki Kuqi, with the pair on 31 goals between them.

Both want 20 goals each, and to help Town edge into the top two automatic promotion places again with the games ticking down, a lot is riding on them.

Not that the garrulous Bent worries about that, and he still shows how much he enjoys his football.

He said: "I don't feel the pressure now. We are third in the league and we have to keep winning to put pressure on the top two.

"I have had a couple of droughts before but come through them so, hopefully, I will be knocking them in regularly again.

"Confidence comes not just from scoring goals but from playing well."

After wins over Nottingham Forest and Cardiff, Town will be looking for a hat-trick of wins, and clean sheets, against relegation-threatened sides.

Bent said: "Gillingham are doing well and some of their players have found some good form.

"They have a good reputation lately, winning three out of the last four but, then again, Forest came to our place in good form and they got beat.

"It will be tough but we know that, if we can play as we know we have been doing lately, then there will be no problems."

With 51 goals in 106 starts, Bent has an excellent strike ratio but his club record can't compare with his seven strikes in 10 outings, nine of those as a substitute, for England Under-21s.

He has the chance to increase his incredible record over the next fortnight, when Peter Taylor's side take on Germany and Azerbaijan in their European Championship qualifying group.

Aston Villa's Luke Moore is injured, which means Bent has a good chance of starting alongside either Norwich's Dean Ashton or Blackburn's Jon Stead.

Bent said: "It is always enjoyable representing your country and if I can add to my goal tally, that would be fantastic.

"With Dean playing for Norwich, and me at Ipswich, it will be interesting if we team up on the pitch for England.

"I have only had one start so, hopefully, I can get another in at least one of these games.

"Before I got into the Under-21s, I was looking at people's goal records and I was looking to beat their records. Jermaine Defoe and Shola Ameobi both scored seven and I would have done well to get close to them. I have seven already so I would like to get more."

No doubt, if he doesn't score for England, he will be there to set someone up.

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