Beaten - but still top

DON'T worry folks – this is just a blip.The 3-1 scoreline doesn't reflect the gap between the teams and while it would be churlish to suggest Millwall didn't deserve something from the game, you can understand the depth of disappointment Town must be feeling.

DON'T worry folks – this is just a blip.

The 3-1 scoreline doesn't reflect the gap between the teams and while it would be churlish to suggest Millwall didn't deserve something from the game, you can understand the depth of disappointment Town must be feeling.

Although they didn't play terribly, The Blues were a shadow of the side that so brilliantly beat Wigan in a classic match on Tuesday.

That result, and all the hard work, would have been wasted as they dropped all three points but with Wigan and Sunderland also stumbling Town's season-long luck held.

Now they have the chance to make up for it quickly with a home game against Stoke tomorrow.

Town can consider themselves a little unfortunate with the first two Millwall goals, and not to get a first-half penalty, but they didn't make their quality count and lost the battle.

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One or two players were below par and the Lions never stopped scrapping all over the park. And after going virtually the whole of the first half without a corner, and just one effort on target, they surprised even themselves by going ahead through substitute Barry Hayles.

The Lions suffered two injury set-backs. First they lost influential play-maker Paul Ifill to injury after just 12 minutes but Barry Hayles proved a super replacement.

Ifill went down after playing a pass but had not been tackled and will have scans today, to see the extent of his problem.

Millwall then lost centre-half Darren Ward three minutes before the break. But that, and the fact that Town had not really hurt them despite being by far the better side, seemed to galvanise them.

Danny Dichio had been a bit of a handful but his weak header was easily taken by Kelvin Davis in the first half and that was about all they managed until time added on.

Richard Naylor won a challenge but the ball seemed to squirm away from him and the predatory Hayles spotted Davis caught in no-man's land and chipped him from 15-yards with an exquisite little dink.

Town had spurned their own chances with Darren Ward blocking a Darren Bent shot and then Bent hit another effort into Andy Marshall's midriff.

The former Blues keeper made a superb save to deny the England Under-21 international when he raced off his line and smothered the ball at Bent's feet after he had sprinted clear onto a Shefki Kuqi flick on.

Kevin Horlock curled a 30-yard free kick over the bar as he made a return from a one-match ban.

Naylor then sent a difficult header over the bar from a Currie free kick.

How Tommy Miller didn't get a penalty only the officials know, as he beat Sweeney and then went down under the challenge.

Town were never really under much pressure, although Fabian Wilnis made a brilliant tackle as Hayles bore down on goal with Jason De Vos chasing.

Even being a goal down didn't worry the 1,500 travelling Town fans, although Ipswich have never won at the New Den. After all Blues followers have seen it before in the previous three games.

Not even when Dichio, who looked suspiciously offside, controlled a Dave Livermore cross before giving Davis no chance with his low drive was there any panic.

Almost inevitably the grafting Kuqi pulled one back.

Town had missed skipper Jim Magilton's guile and he had replaced Matt Richards as Town went with just three at the back.

De Vos' determination paid off as he headed a seemingly lost cause back into the area. Tommy Miller hit a powerful shot into a crowd of players and the Finn scored with a cleverly executed inside of the back heel.

If Kuqi had been as accurate with a powerful volley moments later there is more than a fair chance Town would have gone on to win.

As it was he missed and Marvin Elliott played a wonderful through ball for Scott Dobie to chase onto after slipping past Naylor and then hit a powerful shot past the stranded Davis.

The momentum Magilton had given Ipswich had gone, The Lions had their tails up and added Town to the scalps of eight other Championship sides, including West Ham and Sunderland.

Town will welcome tomorrow's opportunity to get back to winning ways and extending their unbeaten home record.

They didn't play that badly, they will certainly play worse and win, but it was just one of those days and Town are still top of the league at Portman Road.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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