Ipswich bask in victory

IF there were a simple formula to be a winner, there would be no losers.In football the permutations are infinite and in front of the biggest crowd at Portman Road this year, how Ipswich beat Preston could not be put down to one simple equation.

IF there were a simple formula to be a winner, there would be no losers, writes Derek Davis.

In football the permutations are infinite and in front of the biggest crowd at Portman Road this year, how Ipswich beat Preston could not be put down to one simple equation.

Perhaps by taking away Richard Naylor and Drissa Diallo and then adding Georges Santos to John McGreal, Joe Royle came up with a way of dividing Ricardo Fuller and Richard Cresswell's effectiveness, which equalled Town's first clean sheet in the league since the defensive duo were together in December, at Millwall.

Then again, maybe the four-day sunshine break in Tenerife was a factor. Certainly the freshness multiplied by an increase in mental toughness gave Ipswich the edge over a Preston side who out-numbered Town in midfield but were found inferior.

Craig Brown summed it up from the Lilywhite's perspective by blaming the referee for not punishing Georges Santos when Jim Magilton's corner struck his arm before falling to Ian Westlake, whose off-target shot was deflected in by Tommy Miller to break the deadlock. Equally, Royle claimed Town might have had a penalty when Claude Davis pushed Santos, resulting in the forearm pass to Westlake.

Brown discounted Westlake's goal in time added on as 'incidental' because by then Preston were going all out for an equaliser and so were short at the back.

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That said there were still plenty of men back as Bent made a terrific run down the right flank, pulled the ball inside for Fabian Wilnis who then found an unmarked Westlake who controlled, turned and fired the ball in for his fourth goal, in five games.

But whether it was x, y or z, the pluses outweighed any minuses and the only figures that really mattered in the end were the two goals to nil.

Those who like their statistics would have been scouring the books for the last time there was a goal-less draw at Portman Road after a drab first half, which lacked genuine drama or excitement. (For the record it was against Stoke City, last March.) Jonathan Gould tipped over a Matt Richards free kick from almost 30 yards, and then made an excellent diving save to push away a vicious John McGreal shot from the edge of the area.

Royston referee Keith Hill left many confused when he appeared to show McGreal a yellow card twice, which would ordinarily result in a red card.

McGreal was shown a yellow for apparently fouling Richard Cresswell, but before Mr Hill could record all the details the Scouse defender was off remonstrating with the Preston forward. When he was recalled to the official, another card was shown but the referee was merely finishing off the original booking and then had a quiet word with both about two heads not being better than one.

The incident did not dent McGreal's enthusiasm and he made a sublime tackle to halt a Ricardo Fuller run into the box. Fellow defender Georges Santos was also having a stormer at the back, dealing effectively with the striker who had the speed and twisting turns of a Jamaican bobsleigh rider.

The Town front men were not having the same impact. Pablo Counago looked as if he was still having a siesta and far from the break invigorating him he looked listless and lacklustre.

With Shekfi Kuqi suspended for one game it was an ideal opportunity for the Spaniard to remind everyone what a good player he is. Instead nothing went for him, Counago's sharpness was at a lower ebb than his confidence.

Royle gave him another 10 minutes after the break but it was still not happening for Counago and Richard Naylor was given a rousing reception as he took up a forward role for the first time this season.

He won flick-ons and made his presence felt but when Bent rolled a lovely low cross in from the left flank the man who has hit six goals from a defensive role this season, could not get his feet set and the chance went begging.

No matter, Naylor just being there seemed to lift the crowd who stayed patient as Ipswich tried to break down a determined Preston side intent on containment and then counter.

Their best, and only real effort on target, came from a corner when Cresswell escaped his marker but Davis was down superbly to turn away the diving header.

With a goal to the good, Royle took off his skipper, to a rapturous reception from the crowd, to bring on Chris Bart-Williams, who helped solidify the midfield even further.

Before Westlake's killer goal, Bent had a great chance to add to his tally when he chased on to a through ball but Claude Davis showed a good turn of pace to catch the England under-21 defender and do enough to put him off making a clean strike and a goal his work deserved.

Miller kept Gould alert with a couple of shots from distance as the new Scottish recruit put in a gritty display covering acres of ground in one of his best games of the season.

His goal may have had a touch of fortune about it but it was just reward for Ipswich, who showed mental toughness and a high concentration level to see off a resilient Preston. The maths is now quite simple. If Town want to stay in the top six they need to maintain this sort of level of performance and determination.

To go up automatically, they need to improve another few per cent.

But then again as this division has shown, time recurring – there is no set formula for success.

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