Ipswich extend good run

ONCE again, it was a case of never mind the quality, feel the three points.If you ignore the missed chances (it could easily have been 8-0) and overlook the fact Bradford are quite appalling, then this was an excellent result.

By Derek Davis

ONCE again, it was a case of never mind the quality, feel the three points.

If you ignore the missed chances (it could easily have been 8-0) and overlook the fact Bradford are quite appalling, then this was an excellent result.

Town showed moments of class but too often let themselves down in front of goal. But, on the whole, they should have been well out of sight by half-time when only an Alan Mahon goal separated the sides.

They also withstood a nail-biting onslaught in the final 15 minutes, which showed there is something extra about this current Town side.

A few months ago there is a fair chance Ipswich would not have left with all three points. Far too often they either threw away a lead or got themselves in a situation where they were playing catch-up.

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But while this side may not be packed with the same amount of quality, or have so many international players the game would not have been played, the Blues have a new resolve.

They showed courage, character and coolness under pressure, which showed they can mix and match it with the toughest in the Division.

Mahon ran riot up front, showing the sort of energy Sellafield would struggle to produce and the sort of skill that will cause Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr to come looking.

The ubiquitous Irishman was ostensibly playing on the left wing but turned up in the inside right channel 25 yards out to get on the end of a Pablo Counago head-down and drive his left-footed shot low past the impressive Marlon Beresford.

The stand-in keeper was only playing because regular No. 1 Mark Paston was playing for New Zealand in Iran yesterday.

The former Middlesbrough keeper played a major part in setting up a nail-biting finish by producing a string of saves, including a penalty stop from Counago.

The Spaniard, successful in three out of three previous attempts this season, hit it hard to his right as he usually does and Beresford guessed the right way to dive.

The keeper was Counago's nemesis throughout, denying him and Shefki Kuqi just before the spot kick with a magnificent double save.

Kuqi, who asked to be excused international duty for Finland who were playing a friendly against Canada, had won the penalty just as he had won the physical battle against David Wetherall and Jason Gavin. These guys knocked heads, literally, with the referee twice needing to hold the game up as they received treatment.

A thumbs-up from the Kosovan-born striker showed he was alright while the experienced Wetherall later succumbed more than once to a head injury.

But the antics on the side-lines had the home crowd thinking the pantomime season had arrived early, as referee Graham Law and fourth official D Coulson conspired to make a mockery of the blood bin. He is allowed back on, oh no he is not – farcical. But that, coupled with Beresford's double save and penalty stop, prompted something of a fight-back by the Bantams.

The crowd were roused and City starting throwing everything forward while Town took a few steps back. Not long ago they may have crumbled but the defence were so strong keeper Kelvin Davis was rarely in danger.

When he was, Fabian Wilnis pulled off a superbly-timed tackle in front of the Kop End to deny Tom Kearney from a few yards out. It may have been a point-saver, although he did still have Davis to beat.

Twin peaks Richard Naylor and Georges Santos held firm when Nicky Summerbee and Scotland international Andy Gray threatened their air space, while Ben Muirhead's impressive pace and skill was nullified. It would have been ludicrous if Town had thrown away the points. They should have been comfortably ahead by half time and looking at a rugby score before City's revival.

But hold on they did and deservedly kept their first clean sheet in 15 league games since April, and notched their fifth win in six matches.

The Blues midfield had gained control of the middle, with skipper Jim Magilton and Jermaine Wright providing the forward impetus while Chris Bart-Williams anchored the trio and helped out defensively, making a good block on Muirhead on the edge of the 18-yard line.

But how Kuqi missed the chances he did only he will know. After getting the better of substitute Wayne Jacobs when Wright played a delightful ball over the top. He only had Beresford to beat but blazed over the bar. He missed another open goal after Counago put him clear and took so much time over his shooting that Beresford was able to get behind a couple more efforts.

Mind you, Georges Santos hung his head in shame after missing from a yard out from a near-post Mahon corner. In the end it mattered not – the single goal and three points will do nicely.

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