Hat-trick hero feared being subbed

DELIGHTED Darren Bent celebrated his first senior hat-trick but last night admitted he feared being taken off at half-time, writes Derek Davis.The England Under-21 international's three goals all came in the second half of the 3-1 win over Walsall as Ipswich got back to winning ways.

DELIGHTED Darren Bent celebrated his first senior hat-trick but last night admitted he feared being taken off at half-time, writes Derek Davis.

The England Under-21 international's three goals all came in the second half of the 3-1 win over Walsall as Ipswich got back to winning ways.

Although Bent had caused some concern with his pace he failed to find a way through a determined Saddlers defence in the opening 45 minutes and was concerned changes may be made. He said: "I didn't feel I had done that well and worried it was not going to be my night. I thought I may well be taken off but the Gaffer stuck with me and I got an early goal in the second half.

"I'm delighted at scoring a hat-trick but more importantly it was great to win. It would have been awful to lose four on the bounce and we were determined not to let that happen."


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It was the first hat-trick by a Town player since Pablo Counago netted three in the 8-1 win over Avenir Beggin in August 2002.

Bent's last hat-trick was for the reserves against Chelsea a couple of years back but he was quick to praise his team-mates last night.

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He said: "Everyone was brilliant, especially the midfield, and I thought Tommy Miller was truly outstanding.

"All the goals were set up for me well but the third was probably the most important as Walsall had just scored and were going for an equaliser. Ian Westlake did very well to slow the play and then get the ball again and pull it back for me."

Blues boss Joe Royle praised the whole team's performance, in particular new signing Matt Elliott, who cleared an early header off the line, and Richard Naylor, who played with a broken toe.

"The whole performance was excellent. When we trained on Monday I didn't even know which players were going to be fit, never mind which formation. Richard was as brave as a lion to play with a broken toe which needed two injections. Matt was super, nothing flash just steady, composed and headed one off the line."

Town took time to get on top but the midfield proved too strong for Walsall.

Royle said: "We passed the ball brilliantly on a difficult pitch. The midfield dominated but then we have done that in games we have lost."

"The kid (Bent) has a good goal record. Darren is still a bit naïve about the game, which Dean (Bowditch) isn't. If Darren had Dean's know-how to go with his natural assets, pace and power, he could go all the way to the top."

After three straight wins it was important for a win to lift confidence among doubters.

Royle added: "I have been disappointed with some people's negative reaction to our recent results because we have not had much luck. But we can play, we played better than that at Norwich and lost, so we needed a break. We perhaps got that when Paul Merson missed one by the post which could have put us under pressure."

Walsall manager Colin Lee admitted: "You have to say we were beaten by a team who were better than us.

"Darren Bent is an excellent player and he was probably the difference although they have a great midfield as well."

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