Best so far from Town
NO matter that the score-line flattered Ipswich this victory is probably the best win of the season so far.While 2-1 against Walsall was a relief, 6-1 over Burnley record breaking and 4-3 at Palace exciting, to overcome a Neil Warnock side that had started the day in second place was something of a groundbreaker.
NO matter that the score-line flattered Ipswich this victory is probably the best win of the season so far.
While 2-1 against Walsall was a relief, 6-1 over Burnley record breaking and 4-3 at Palace exciting, to overcome a Neil Warnock side that had started the day in second place was something of a groundbreaker.
And not just because it was Town's first win with the yellow ball this season in four attempts.
No, it was the first time they had managed to beat a team from the top 10 and the manner in which they completed the task was impressive.
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Goals from Shefki Kuqi, Ian Westlake and Darren Bent pushed the Blues back into the top six and United go another year without winning at Portman Road, a run which stretches back to 1975.
It was a pretty grim first half in terms of entertainment unless dubious decisions and back-chatting officials is your thing.
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The Blades allowed themselves to get distracted from the task in hand as they berated Worcestershire referee Mick Fletcher
The three major points of contention, although he got a lot of other things wrong, were a coming together of Kelvin Davis and Ashley Ward who had poked the ball past him.
Michael Tonge then appeared to have been tripped on the edge of the area but nothing was given. And when Shefki Kuqi went down under a Chris Morgan challenge it appeared the referee had accepted the defender had got the ball first but then over-ruled himself by accepting an assistant's version and awarding a penalty.
Curiously Morgan escaped caution even though he had denied Kuqi a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Kuqi showed what his fourth goal for Ipswich meant against his old Steel City rivals with a theatrical dive in front of the United fans, purely celebration, or slightly symbolic?
Only he knows.
His powered drive from the spot was justly deserved as he was bound to have scored when he got in front of the defender to reach a clever Bent flick on. The Blues should have already been one up but wrongly had a goal ruled out for offside when Gerrard could not hold a rasping Magilton shot and Westlake was quickest to follow-up and finish.
As expected Warnock's men pounded Town straight after the break and Davis made a wonderful reaction-save to deny Lester who turned and shot from eight yards after an Ashley Ward knock-down.
It was one of the rare moments United had breached the Town defence who certainly looked a lot more solid with Richard Naylor back from suspension and Georges Santos showing no ill-effects after his battle with flu.
Ward and Lester were relieved of their duties just after an hour as they were sailing close to a red card and losing their battle up front anyway. Lester, already booked for dissent, could barely contain himself when he emerged from an encounter with Santos bruised, shirt torn and on the deck, only to find a free kick had gone against him.
All the time Town kept trying to play their football. Chris Bart-Williams had his best game in a Blues shirt after a shaky start when Ward got the better of him. He started to anchor the midfield to good effect starting many a move with his simple passing.
Jermaine Wright also got around the midfield well prompting and probing while Blues skipper Jim Magilton did a good job shaking off the close attentions of Chris Morgan to start playing more telling balls.
It was a fine diagonal ball for Kuqi which led to the second goal midway through the second half.
The Albanian-born, Finland striker showed he has a bit more to his game than just brute force and non-stop running, by playing in a wonderful through ball for Westlake, who shrugged off a defender before beating Paul Gerrard with a shot on the run. Gerrard, who had been a popular and useful loan signing from Everton last season until a knee injury ended his days here, had not been overly busy. So he will have been annoyed to concede a third goal in the dying moments when a short corner between Tommy Miller and Westlake was played in low by the teenager and Bent was the first to reach it and turn it in from six yards.
The Blues will be hoping their emphatic victory will convince a few more people to buy shares which are issued today with Royle bound to benefit and be able to use funds to keep the likes of Kuqi.
In the meantime, a run of games against the likes of Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest, Norwich and West Ham look a lot less daunting than they did a couple of weeks back.
With John McGreal, Martijn Reuser, Tommy Miller and Dean Bowditch on the bench this is the strongest the Town squad have looked for some time and Alan Mahon should also be available next week.