Amazing what a win does
AMAZING what a win does for morale and confidence.
AMAZING what a win does for morale and confidence.
The introductory music sounded more like a funeral march as the teams traipsed out to a very subdued Portman Road crowd.
And when Town went behind their was a funereal atmosphere around the ground until two goals in three minutes early in the second half totally changed the mood.
Stern John put City ahead after just five minutes but Jon Walters and Pablo Counago put Town in front before Liam Fontaine scored an own goal to give Blues a cushion.
It was no less than Town deserved for their effort but the game took another twist when Alex Bruce was given a straight red for what looked a 50-50 challenge with Nicky Maynard.
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It looked a harsh decision but unless he wins the appeal, if made, he will miss Town's next three matches and given his contract situation that could well be his last game in a Town shirt.
This was his second sending off so far this season, after being dismissed in the home defeat by Wolves and he faces a four match ban which would take him to January and the transfer window opening.
Bruce had put in a string of good tackles and strong blocks earning a chant of 'sign him up' from the sparse crowd but it has been made clear by manager Jim Magilton and his board that no offer will be made to any of the 14 players whose contracts are up next summer will be offered until next April.
A crowd of less than 17,500 turned up as unhappy supporters vote with their feet.
But the supporters that showed up deserve praise. They tried to get behind the team during the game and waited until half-time before venting their frustration and the first 'Magilton Out' banner was held up by a couple of fans in the North Stand.
Owner Marcus Evans has made it clear he is continuing to back his manager and after the derby day defeat sent him another message of support.
The message from Evans and his board, no matter what the fans feel, is that Magilton has the job until at least the end of the season.
Just how loud the protests get or how low the crowd goes before Evans takes any notice is anyone's guess, as he has shown little inclination in building a relationship with his customers in the year since the takeover was announced.
More results and performances like this will certainly help Magilton's cause as he continues to try and find the formula that will lift his side into the top ten firstly and then further.
If Town can follow up this win with a victory on Saturday they will over-take their opponents Cardiff City who this morning are in that coveted sixth spot.
Town had the first clear chance when Stead met Darren Ambrose's corner with a firm header that keeper Adriano Basso fumbled but defender Brian Wilson on the line by a post cleared with his chest.
Blues players appealed that the ball was over the line and they were made to pay as City went up the other end and scored.
Michael McIndoe bettered David Wright and put in a deep cross and Stern John got away from Jon Walters to head inside Richard Wright's right post.
Wright came to the Blues rescue when Ambrose gave the ball away in midfield and Marvin Elliott was clean through but denied by a good save.
John tried from 30 yards and was not far away, while Marvin Elliott hit a cleanly struck 30-yard shot that went wide.
Apart from those occasional breaks it was mainly Town on the attack but they faced a keeper in sparkling form
Basso tipped a Veliche Shumulikoski effort from 35-yards over the bar and made a string of good saves to deny a lively Ambrose.
Pablo Counago was the main inspiration and started by playing a clever ball into Ambrose's path but his low shot was tipped round the post.
The pair combined again when Counago met Ambrose's corner with header but the keeper was well-placed to take it.
Ambrose again made Basso work with 20-yard shot and the Spaniard again picked out the on-loan Charlton winger but the keeper was equal to the effort.
The Town Academy product made himself space but the keeper made another good save and moved sharply to take a 27-yard free kick.
City had a shout for a penalty moments after the interval when Walters clipped Elliott's heels and he tumbled over in the box but the well-placed referee waved him away.
Then the game exploded with a quick one-two from Town.
Stead played the ball forward for Walters who got away from Fontaine just enough to get in a shot across the keeper for the equaliser and a real crowd-lifter.
Counago gave Town the lead when he clambered above his own team-mate Gareth McAuley to nod in a Moritz Volz cross.
Fontaine put past his own keeper as he stretched to reach another Stead through ball under pressure from Walters.
That steadied everyone's nerves until Bruce's dismissal by referee Paul Taylor for the tackle on Maynard that saw the former Town target driven off by a medi-cart.
A flurry of substitutions was made and McAuley made a vital interception when Lee Trundle swept in a shot from a low cross.