Forster gives Town a lift

QUITE how Ipswich are in eighth place and a point off the play-off places, I don't really know.After the first half against Crewe, you would be hard pressed to see how they could even be as high as eighth bottom.

By Derek Davis

QUITE how Ipswich are in eighth place and a point off the play-off places, I don't really know.

After the first half against Crewe, you would be hard pressed to see how they could even be as high as eighth bottom.

Perhaps it is an indication of how poor the division is, that the Blues could have amassed 17 points playing the way they have been at times, and with the problems they have had with injuries and red cards.

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But here they sit, going into an international break, on the heels of the likes of Wolves, Southampton and Leeds, rather than sitting in 15th place, where they would have been had they lost, and looking over the shoulder at the likes of Burnley, Plymouth and Hull.

The fine line between relative success and failure comes down to finishing - as the long-awaited return of Nicky Forster highlighted.

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Had Steve Jones been able to convert the numerous chances created by his team-mates, and his own excellent play, then Crewe would have been out of sight by half-time.

As it was, they led through the softest of free- kicks by the left-footed David Vaughan, whose set piece from near the right touchline curled through a crowded box and past a flat-footed Lewis Price and into the far corner.

The young Blues keeper, who is expected to win his first senior Wales cap in Northern Ireland on Saturday, was well positioned for the rest of the afternoon and constantly denied Jones.

Crewe's Northern Ireland international was a big doubt to play, after his premature-born son was ill in hospital, but he made the trip and could have made Ipswich pay, as he gave the defence, and Jason De Vos in particular, a torrid time.

On-loan Manchester United youngster Eddie Johnson missed a sitter, slicing his shot well wide, and found Richard Naylor too alert on another occasion. It was fortunate for the Blues that Crewe's finishing was as wretched as their own had been in the first half.

Sam Parkin, a two-goal hero at Leeds, was taken off at half-time with a back injury, which could have been caused by the amount of people getting on his back during the opening 45 minutes.

Parkin did provide a terrific knock-down for Dean Bowditch but the youngster's confidence is rock bottom and his shooting lacked conviction.

Jim Magilton and Owen Garvan tried their luck from range, while Darren Currie might have scored in the opening minute after a wonderful run and cross by Naylor.

But for all their possession and poise, it was Alex who got the break, after Kevin Horlock was penalised for a foul on Jones and Vaughan finished.

The Crewe goal knocked the stuffing out of Town and they visibly wilted, even though, by then, they had worked out Dario Gradi's ploy of getting his wide men to cut in and put extra pressure on the centre-backs.

Kenny Lunt was causing problems and Price saved from him and De Vos cleared before Johnson could follow up but Town were reeling.

'Royle - sort it out' demanded the Ipswich crowd and the manager did just that with an inspired switch.

Fabian Wilnis went in as centre-back as Naylor went up front in place of Parkin.

It almost worked immediately, with the Dutchman missing with a five-yard header from a Currie corner. A worse miss followed later, when Wilnis looked as if he could not miss from the same range, and totally unmarked, but he contrived to glance Currie's ball wide.

But the breakthrough did come, when Stephen Foster fouled centre-forward Naylor 23-yards out and Currie curled and dipped an exquisite free- kick into a top corner, even though Darren Moss was on the post trying to protect against exactly that.

Then on came Forster, to massive applause, and eight minutes after arriving he showed precisely what Town had been missing.

Jay McEveley played a good ball forward and Naylor flicked on into Forster's path. His pace took him away from Chris McCready and he was strong enough to power in an angled, left-footed shot past Ben Williams.

Only a good save from Williams prevented him getting another, after a powerful shot on the run following another great crossfield ball from Currie.

All of a sudden a stuttering, uncertain Blues looked transformed. Wilnis was outstanding alongside McEveley at the back, the midfield perked up, with Currie running all over the place and pinging balls in from all angles.

On-loan Frenchman Jimmy Juan kept the tempo ticking over, while Garvan and Horlock got back into it again.

But it was Naylor and Forster who were worrying a Crewe defence, whose lack of pace was exposed, and Town looked as if they could go on and get a third.

There was no need and the come-from-behind win had echoes of last season and Forster seemed to give the Blues' players and fans a new belief.

There have been times when Town's football has been excellent, but not always. If they can play as well, if not a little better, from now on, and with Ian Westlake expected to be back by Christmas, maybe being in the top 10 and challenging will not be such a surprise.

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