Cardiff target Bent and Kuqi

STOPPING deadly duo Darren Bent and Shekfi Kuqi is the aim of Lennie Lawrence's game plan at Ninian Park tonight.The Cardiff City manager believes defensive duo Danny Gabbidon and James Collins can stifle Ipswich's promotion dream and give the Bluebirds their seventh point out of nine since their financial troubles came to the fore.

By Derek Davis

STOPPING deadly duo Darren Bent and Shekfi Kuqi is the aim of Lennie Lawrence's game plan at Ninian Park tonight.

The Cardiff City manager believes defensive duo Danny Gabbidon and James Collins can stifle Ipswich's promotion dream and give the Bluebirds their seventh point out of nine since their financial troubles came to the fore.

Lawrence said: “For Gabbs and James this will be as big a test as they've had in a long time.


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Their battle with Kuqi and Bent is the key in this game and they've got to win it.”

Finland international Kuqi has struck 16 goals this term while England Under-21 man Bent has hit 15. Both men found the net in Saturday's 6-0 rout of Forest at Portman Road.

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Lawrence added: “Ipswich's forward line has got power and, in Bent's case, pace. They can score goals. We've got to make sure the supply to Kuqi and Bent isn't as good as it should be.

“If you catch Ipswich on a good day they can beat anybody - as Forest found out. They're not quite as consistent as Wigan and Sunderland, who don't lose many games.

“Ipswich do let in the odd goal - but they can also score goals for fun. Going forward, they are as good as anybody in this division.

“I'd like to think they've got that bad run out of their system with that win over Forest. But if we don't perform properly then they can bash us as well.

“We mustn't stand off and let them play. That would be fatal. The best way to deal with Ipswich is to take the game to them.”

Lawrence's players have not been affected by the cash crisis that engulfed Ninian Park a fortnight ago. Under-fire Cardiff owner Sam Hammam was forced to sell skipper Graham Kavanagh for £350,000 but the City chief received a welcome boost last week with the news that Bluebirds director and property developer Michael Isaac had pumped £1m into the debt-ridden club.

That cash injection should mean Lawrence will not have to sell any of his star players - such as West Ham target Collins - this season.

“This is a difficult time. We've all got to pull together and that is what has happened so far,” said the City boss.

“The players do seem together. They're an honest bunch and they've kept going. I've seen all this before, when I was manager at Charlton. Things like this mustn't distract you.

“We've battled and shown great resilience, spirit and commitment. I do believe the togetherness here is a concrete thing and not cosmetic.

“The fact we've got a lot of young players helps because they don't have any fear. Youngsters are less affected by of-the-pitch problems.

“If we have a setback against Ipswich I don't think it will be down to a lack of spirit, It will be down to Ipswich's quality.”

The Bluebirds will be unchanged from the side that earned a 1-1 draw at Coventry City on Saturday. Alan Lee is suspended and Peter Thorne is injured so Lee Bullock will carry on as a makeshift striker.

Former Town defender Gary Croft remains a long-term injury after surgery on a knee problem.

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