A win - but at a price

WE can only hope the short-term gain on Saturday does not result in a long-term loss for Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.The Blues took a hard-earned three points off Stoke – in its own way an even more impressive win than beating Burnley by five.

WE can only hope the short-term gain on Saturday does not result in a long-term loss for Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.

The Blues took a hard-earned three points off Stoke – in its own way an even more impressive win than beating Burnley by five. But injuries to Alan Mahon and Jim Magilton may prove costly in the weeks to come.

But that is in the future and today, five weeks after being at the bottom, Ipswich can glory in the top six and have overtaken arch-rivals Norwich – always a source of satisfaction.

To gain their seventh win in eight league games they had to do it the hard way against a side who have now lost six away games on the bounce. The gutsy Blues slugged it out with a strong, physical City side determined to strangle Town's rich source of providers.

Rarely will you see a side come with three defenders at the back and three forwards as imposing as Carl Asaba, Ade Akinbiyi and Gifton Noel-Williams. If Potters boss Tony Pulis thought he could starve Town while providing for his own attack he was wrong as Town had chances and his side barely troubled Kelvin Davis.

Skipper Clive Clarke sat on Jermaine Wright and pressed Fabian Wilnis, while Darel Russell contained Jim Magilton but had less success with Tommy Miller when he replaced the Blues' captain at half-time.

Most Read

Karl Henry found Alan Mahon too slippery and must have been pleased to see him limp off until Ian Westlake gave him the slip too.

Wayne Andrews pressed on Chris Bart-Williams and had far more success at having pot-shots on goal than the Charlton midfielder did at getting things going for Ipswich. When Magilton went off injured, Bart-Williams was surprisingly handed the captain's arm-band during the break, probably the first time that has ever happened to a loan player in Ipswich Town's history.

One candidate for the stand-in captaincy is Fabian Wilnis, who along with Matt Richards took advantage of a bottled-up midfield to get forward as often as possible. Indeed the 18-year-old Richards was the last person Stoke expected to find in the middle of goal after a sweeping move forward. Wright crossed from an attacking right channel and Magilton, in virtually his last action of the game, headed down for Richards to hook in left-footed from six yards.

As difficult as City made it, Town still found chances and top-scorer Pablo Counago will be annoyed that he had not added to his six-goal tally for the season.

Neil Cutler had been drafted into the City goal at the last minute when Ed de Goey went down with flu. Cutler produced some terrific saves.

But he was beaten after just four minutes when he spilled a Mahon shot but Counago followed-up from an offside position and the goal was disallowed. Later Cutler twice denied Counago with his knees and the Spaniard needs to perfect his one-on- one technique. Shefki Kuqi worked relentlessly but Cutler turned a low shot from him wide and was agile enough to push away an 18-yarder from Miller. The Town midfielder had an explosive introduction – getting booked after just 10 seconds for a late challenge on Russell, claiming a penalty – when he fell under a Clarke tackle – and seeing Cutler turn away a shot after a neat one-two with Counago. His return was a welcome sight and he showed no ill-effects from a six-week lay-off.

Another showing no ill-effects, after struggling with a groin strain, was Georges Santos, who, along with Richard Naylor, was imperious in defence and also got forward. He was unfortunate to see a downward header cleared off the line by Karl Henry.

But all the time it was just one-nil there were moments of concern.

Andrews continually evaded Bart-Williams and hit one chipped shot over the bar and then was as amazed as everyone else to see a shot hit both posts before rebounding safely back into Davis' arms. But a draw at that point would have been harsh on Ipswich who showed they have the resilience to cope in what is proving to be a tight and unpredictable division.

Davis and his defence deserved their first league clean sheet at home since last April – the last time Sky cameras visited, when Town beat already-promoted Pompey 3-0.

Ipswich now have four of their next five games away from home and could be without a couple of key midfielders. It is an ominous period but if they get through this, the second half of the season should be a comparative doddle.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter