Currie miss proves costly

THIS season has been full of 'if onlys', writes Derek Davis.If only Ipswich had not been suffering a New Year's hangover and lost at home to West Ham.

THIS season has been full of 'if onlys', writes Derek Davis.

If only Ipswich had not been suffering a New Year's hangover and lost at home to West Ham.

If only they had not given up a two-goal lead at Watford to only manage a point.

If only they had not been so unlucky against the Hornets at Portman Road before losing and if only they had not conceded such a bizarre goal a few days later when they lost at home to QPR.

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And if only Darren Currie had done what he can do nine times out of 10 and tucked away the simplest of chances at Leeds.

But then if Currie and the Blues had not messed up on those occasions - and feel free to add any of your own examples - then the season would not now be heading for such a thrilling climax.

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Heaven forbid that Town would actually make it easy for themselves by being out of sight by now.

Shefki Kuqi's opener followed less than a minute later by a Matthew Spring equaliser meant Sunderland go up and leaves Town and Wigan scrapping for the second automatic spot.

It has been the Ipswich way over the past couple of seasons to make things as hard as possible for themselves but failure to beat Crewe and Brighton, while hoping Wigan slip up at either Preston on Saturday or at home to Reading the week after, will mean the agonising prospect of the play-offs.

Ordinarily no bad thing, with extra revenue generated and hopefully a good day out in Cardiff, but that only works if promotion can be guaranteed at the end of it.

You can't help feeling there are party-poopers waiting along the way though. A bit like Leeds at Elland Road. They looked as if they were going to go toe-to-toe with Ipswich and slug it out with three strikers each.

But the more Ipswich pummelled them, the more they covered up, pulling Spring and Ian Moore back to spread five across midfield.

It was a little sad to see Leeds so unadventurous. They clearly had no interest in trying to win, or even making it entertaining for their fans.

Packing 10 men behind the ball looking for a counter when at home was hardly the style of a team that is already looking to mount a promotion bid next season.

The Blues, with Pablo Counago welcomed back, stayed true to their cause and kept the marvellous away support of 3,500 on their toes with anticipation.

Only 11 minutes had gone, when Kuqi snatched his 17th goal of season to put Town ahead with a well-worked goal.

Counago laid back to Kevin Horlock who hit a through ball for Kuqi. He allowed it to run as he turned and then shot through Gary Kelly's legs, which deceived Leeds player of year, keeper Neil Sullivan.

But dozy Ipswich were caught napping as Leeds hit back from the restart. Frazer Richardson got the better of David Unsworth and crossed for an unmarked Matthew Spring to glance a header past Lewis Price.

The former Luton Town midfielder had managed to get in between Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos but that was to be the centre halves' only slip of the day.

Defences dominated for the most part with the Leeds partnership also forming a solid partnership helped by energetic full backs who got forward as much as possible.

Clarke Carlisle produced an excellent tackle on Counago in the box as the Spaniard showed some classy touches until he tired late on.

Counago dinked the ball over the defence for skipper Jim Magilton to volley from the edge of the area but he caught it almost too well and it dipped over the bar.

Magilton turned provider from his deep position and lofted a ball in for Kuqi but the Finn completely missed his kick.

Darren Bent was playing wide right, and although it is not his most natural position, he caused problems. Town's leading scorer laid a ball into Tommy Miller's path but the midfielder's shot was easily taken by Sullivan.

Matthew Kilgallon produced an excellent tackle from behind on Bent after the striker had whizzed by him and was about to tee up Counago.

The England Under-21 striker's pace and commitment caused problems all day and when Fabian Wilnis found him with a lovely ball down the Town left flank, Bent twisted and turned past his marker before picking out Darren Currie who was charging into the area.

The £250,000 signing from Brighton set himself and sidefooted the ball from 10 yards towards a gaping hole but instead of going in the ball scraped outside a post.

No wonder he held his head in his hands.

It looked a horror and he will be feeling terrible, as that would have put Town level on points with Wigan.

But the Blues had squandered other chances, if not quite as clear cut.

Leeds rarely troubled Price, who was playing in place of Kelvin Davis, who had rushed back to Bury St Edmunds to be with his wife Kelly after she gave birth to a little boy who they have called Sonnie.

The only cause for concern for Town was the way Spring eased past Unsworth and pulled back for Moore but De Vos cleared again.

That avenue was blocked when Drissa Diallo went on at right back and Wilnis switched to the left with great effect.

The defence looked far more secure, while at the same time more dangerous going forward and that could be key in the games with relegation battlers Crewe and Brighton.

The last thing Town will want is to drop points against those two and see Wigan stumble.

That would prompt the biggest 'if only' of them all.

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