Bargain buy could swing promotion push

IT is already beginning to look like Velice Sumulikoski is going to prove to be the bargain buy of the season for Ipswich Town.

Derek Davis

IT is already beginning to look like Velice Sumulikoski is going to prove to be the bargain buy of the season for Ipswich Town.

His goal and all round display, coupled with the performance at Palace and previous cameo roles, point to the Macedonian playing an influential role on Town's promotion push.

Dubbed the 'Balkans' Steven Gerrard' the shaven-headed midfielder is similar in looks and style to the England captain, although plays deeper and has more defensive capabilities.

He likes to drive forward and arrives unannounced around the area but his strength is also in his passing, which is accurate and imaginative. His experience and ability allows Tommy Miller to play more to his own liking so he can get forward more and link with the forwards.

In time it may mean the forwards allowing the midfield to come to them instead of going back for the ball so much and then they will be in the box more to take the chances that are being created.

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Shumi did what those in front of him failed to do and break the deadlock against a Blackpool side that were already rocking even before they lost both centre haves to hamstring injuries within half and hour.

The goal climaxed a marvellous move started when Jon Walters put a move on Keith Southern and burst clear before pulling the ball back for Danny Haynes who in turn fed it into Alan Lee's path.

Lee's way to goal was blocked so instead he laid the ball back for Shumi to drive in from just inside the 18-yard box, Steven Gerrard style.

It was a good goal that demonstrated the understanding and fluidity that the new look Town are building.

The second goal was similar in that aspect too with Lee skilfully putting the ball through for Walters playing off the shoulder of Keith Southern.

Walters slipped by his man like smoke through a keyhole beating Paul Rachubka with a low, angled shot.

If substitute Alan Quinn had been has positive in his finish when clean through the scoreline would have been more realistic to the performance.

The two second half goals were no more than Town deserved and really they should have been out of sight even before then.

Lee, clearly enjoying a return to form with a spring in his step on the better pitches, made a difficult skill look easy by hitting a dipping volley that beat the keeper but hit the underside of the crossbar.

Lee showed plenty of endeavour and movement to link well with Walters and teed up his striker partner with a low ball across the six yard box. Walters failed to get a clean connection and the ball was cleared off the line by Danny Coid.

Jason De Vos, awesome at the back once again to deal with the threat Blackpool's big striker Ben Burgess carried, suffered a kick in the face from the irritating Paul Dickov who was close to getting through.

The skipper suffered more pain when his header from a Tommy Miller corner was cleared off the line by Claus Jorgensen who was hugging a goal-post.

Against better sides it is possible that those missed opportunities may have been punished but there was a certain inevitability that Town would score and go on to win.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who had lead his side to the top of the Championship the night before, was at Portman Road in person, to see the Blues outplay Blackpool and it is unlikely he will allow his side to be so open and no doubt will have special plans to stifle Shumi's threat.

Town suffered a scare at the death when Dickov ignored an offside flag to go round Stephen Bywater and finish but the ball had inadvertently got through to him from Quinn while challenging Stephen McPhee and the referee rightly overruled his assistant.

The victory sets up sixth-placed Town superbly for a play-off place at the least with 13 games left. The win opens a slight gap from the chasing pack, although they have games in hand, while putting Town just a point behind fifth-placed Charlton who have the same goal-difference.

With the likes of Shumi fitting in so quickly and Town looking rejuvenated home and away, the outlook for the rest of the season looks as bright as spring morning.