Cruel luck denies dominant Town

WHEN it is not your night, it is just not your night.While Stoke will be grateful for three points and a clean sheet, Ipswich will wonder how they could have dominated a game so much and end up losing.

WHEN it is not your night, it is just not your night, writes Derek Davis.

While Stoke will be grateful for three points and a clean sheet, Ipswich will wonder how they could have dominated a game so much and end up losing.

A reckless piece of defending, a lapse of concentration and an offside decision which went harshly against the Blues meant a second away defeat in succession.

Peter Hoekstra scored from the penalty spot and Ade Akinbiyi played on when Drissa Diallo stopped waiting for a flag and went on to score, as Stoke twice scored against the run of play.

It was nails in the coffin for Town in the Potteries and if this game turns out to be the result which costs Town a play-off spot it will be as cruel as it felt on the night.

Stoke were without influential midfielder John Eustace who failed a fitness test on a groin and back problem and so skipper Clive Clarke moved into central midfield alongside ex-Norwich man Darel Russell.

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Ed De Goey replaced Neil Cutler in goal, while leading scorer Carl Asaba was dropped to the bench and on-loan Arsenal midfielder Seb Svard took his place on the right flank.

Shefki Kuqi returned after a one-match ban to replace Pablo Counago and partner Darren Bent up front in what was the only change in the starting line-up from the Ipswich side which beat Preston on Saturday.

Bent showed Town's attacking intent by flashing a shot across goal almost straight after the kick-off.

De Goey had to react quickly when a loose back-pass from Wayne Thomas was almost intercepted by Bent and the livewire striker earned a corner from a dangerous cross.

Town survived an early scare when Georges Santos over-hit a back-pass and while Kelvin Davis did well to prevent a corner his clearance fell for Svard whose cross was cut out by the French defender before Ade Akinbiyi could head home.

Town quickly retaliated and De Goey made an excellent save with an outstretched boot to deny a low Ian Westlake 16-yard drive.

Ade Akinbiyi and Russell were booed by the few hundred travelling Town fans who braved the freezing cold to make the journey to the Potteries, and they got behind their team so vociferously.

So they were delighted when Magilton robbed Russell in the centre of the park before finding Bent, whose low shot was straight at de Goey.

Kuqi won a corner when a powerful shot was deflected and John McGreal almost succeeded in forcing Magilton's flag-kick in from close range and all this in the first half hour.

But all their early good work was wasted when Santos got himself in a mess trying to deal with Akinbiyi and chose a close-range back-pass which fell short of Davis. The Town keeper managed to block the striker's shot but it only went as far as Svard, who was tripped by Santos for a penalty.

Hoekstra sent Davis the wrong way as City took an undeserved lead just 10 minutes before the break.

Richard Naylor replaced Kuqi at half-time and Drissa Diallo went on for McGreal on the hour, once it was clear Santos was alright after suffering a heavy nose-bleed following a mid-air collision with Akinbiyi.

The Guinea international was soon in the thick of things, blocking a Russell shot and helping out his defence when Akinbiyi tried to thread a ball into Noel-Williams.

But he was caught out when the offside flag stayed down as Akinbiyi latched on to a Noel-Williams flick-on and the striker rounded Davis before slotting his eighth goal of the season

It was a cruel blow for the Blues, who had got their fluid passing game going but made little impact in the final third with de Goey protected well by his back-line.

Counago went on for skipper Magilton as Town chased the game with three up front. It almost paid dividends straight away as Wright played a ball into Counago's feet. He wriggled free and laid the ball out for Westlake who carved out space for a shot which de Goey turned around a post.

Counago had a sniff of an opportunity when a low Bent cross evaded Naylor but fell to the Spaniard whose initial effort was blocked and Stoke recovered to snuff out the danger.

Naylor got a head on a low Richards cross but it went wide and Counago hit a ball across the six-yard area with no one there to apply the finishing touch.

Miller brought out a terrific save from de Goey, who tipped his 20-yard shot around the post.

That summed up Town's night. Nothing was going the Blues way and a combination of bad luck and a silly slip-up cost them dearly.

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