Blues lose to Lawrence stunner

Stoke City 1 Ipswich Town 0By Elvin KingA STUNNING Liam Lawrence 42nd minute goal was enough to give Coca-Cola Championship leaders Stoke City a narrow hard-fought victory over Ipswich Town at the Britannia ground.

Stoke City 1 Ipswich Town 0

By Elvin King

A STUNNING Liam Lawrence 42nd minute goal was enough to give Coca-Cola Championship leaders Stoke City a narrow hard-fought victory over Ipswich Town at the Britannia ground.

Town competed well against a confident home side, but did not have the punch to manufacture a goal in a high-tempo contest. Perhaps the impending arrival of David Nugent on loan from Portsmouth will change that.

Lawrence struck with a stunning 25-yard shot after Dan Harding had only half cleared the ball. It was the wide player's 13th goal of the season.

Town boss Jim Magilton was banished to the stands in the second half after falling out with the referee, while Jason De Vos and Richard Naylor were giants at the back for the Blues, and Velice Sumulikoski came closest to an equaliser with a shot that produced an excellent save from Steve Simonsen.

Most Read

In the first minute Norris won a free-kick, and Quinn's dead-ball kick went across the sprawling Simonsen and just out of the reach of Naylor at the far post.

Sidibe appeared to strike Sumulikoski as the players waited for a Stoke free-kick, but the incident was not spotted by the officials despite an assistant looking right along the back line.

Lawrence shot 20 yards over from distance after a free-kick conceded by Miller ten yards outside the Town penalty area.

Walters was ordered off the field to replace a left boot that was proving troublesome to replace, and when he returned - in the 15th minute - Lee went twisting and turning deep in the penalty area before running into too many bodies before he could get in a shot.

Sumuliksoski (Shumi) was getting in plenty of important touches in the middle of the park and Ipswich were giving as good as they were getting in a high-tempo contest.

Naylor had to bravely stoop to head clear a long throw-in from the left as Fuller waited to pounce ten yards from goal, but Town soon broke with Harding overlapping but sending a cross into the hands of the keeper.

Town had the best chance so far in the 23rd minute after Walters climbed above his marker and went forward to pull the ball back to Lee. The number 14 took the ball down, but shot left-footed a yard too high from seven yards.

Bywater saved a low 25-yard piledriver from Whelan as these two teams continued to go at each other with considerable gusto.

Fuller was stopped in his tracks three times as he threatened to break clear of a resolute visiting defence. Naylor was featuring strongly at the back with De Vos his usual strong self beside him.

Shawcross put the ball in the net in the 32nd minute after a free-kick had only been half cleared, but he was a good yard offside.

Stoke claimed strongly for a penalty after Sidibe went galloping down the right and crossed into the box. Lawrence went tumbling over a challenge by Harding, but there was no surprise when the officials waved play on.

When Harding ended in a heap three yards over the touchline, Lawrence became the first player to be booked in this cut-throat encounter.

Magilton's friend and former Northern Ireland playing colleague Iain Dowie was sitting in the stand having recently parted company with Coventry City. And Dowie witnessed a splendid finish in the 42nd minute when Stoke took the lead.

Ipswich, who were having more possession at the time, looked to have cleared any danger following a lofted ball forward. But Harding only managed to find LAWRENCE with his clearance, and the number seven took aim before blasting a 25-yard angled drive across Bywater and high into the far corner of the goal before the keeper could move.

It was a blow to the Blues, and came after the ball should have been cleared. They were still in the game, but by taking an advantage Stoke's confidence levels had visablied increased.

Haynes replaced Quinn before the game re-started and took his place on the left of midfield. Magilton was now on the touchline and he watched in long coat as Miller's free-kick caused problems at the far post before going out for a goal kick.

It was all Town at this stage, but when Lawrence went flying beyond Harding, Bywater was grateful that the cross from the by-line went straight at him.

In the 51st minute, Haynes' cross from the left was fumbled by Simonsen and Lee was close to tapping the ball into the vacant net. Fortunately for the home side the ball ran loose and they were able to clear.

Magilton was spoken to by the referee, and then sent to the stand after going down the side of the pitch to put the ball back into play. As Magilton hurried off to the corner of the ground he was sent on his way by baying home fans.

Blues fans chanted 'Super Jim' to show their love of the Town boss, who let the official know his views in no uncertain manner before departing.

Fuller went beyond Naylor on a rapid Stoke counter attack in the 63rd minute. Naylor slipped by the touchline, and it was left to Miller to race back and touch the ball for a corner before Fuller could pull the trigger.

Sidibe then tried an ambitious overhead kick after a cross by Lawrence, and his effort only went a foot wide with Bywater looking on.

Haynes was now playing down the middle with Walters on the right and Norris on the left. Sidibe hooked over from close range in the 68th minute, following a disputed right-wing corner, with Town still plugging away but as yet unable to get in a telling shot.

The attendance figure was the biggest of the season and there was still all to play for with Counago coming on for Lee after 71 minutes.

In the next minute, Shumi was set up for a shot, and his stinging 22-yard effort was beaten away by the diving Simonsen at the expense of a corner. It was a great effort by the Macedonian, and was close to bringing the scores level. Garvan came on for Norris after 75 minutes.

Shumi had a shot blocked and the ball ran to Bruce who fired well over from 25 yards as Stoke began to get a bit twitchy with only a one-goal lead to protect.

Garvan tried to put Haynes away, but the steady Shawcross cleared. Diao replaced Sidibe after 81 minutes, and Fuller had a close range effort that ran through to Bywater with Stoke claiming handball against Naylor.

Haynes ran the ball out of play as the four minutes of stoppage time commenced with whistles all round the ground as the home team ended nervously.