Edwards delivers KO punch for Town

WHAT a relief! It wasn't pretty, but Ipswich Town will rarely have claimed a more precious three points.

Carl Marston

WHAT a relief! It wasn't pretty, but Ipswich Town will rarely have claimed a more precious three points.

The pressure was on manager Roy Keane, and his under-performing players, following the distressing defeat at bottom club Peterborough United in midweek.

Town were on the ropes and wobbling, but they responded with a knock-out punch at fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, courtesy of an early rocket from Carlos Edwards.

An out-of-sorts Edwards had been one of several surprise inclusions in Keane's starting XI - the Irishman always catches journalists, fans and probably the opposition off their guard with his unpredictable team selections.

There were debuts for Brian Murphy and Shane O'Connor (league), and recalls for David Wright and Edwards. And all the changes came off.

Most Read

Murphy celebrated his first outing in a Town shirt, since his arrival from Bohemians, with a clean-sheet. He made terrific saves in both halves, kicked with composure and showed good handling from crosses.

The Irishman is a keeper with a spring in his step. He is always on his toes and seems adept at anticipating the danger.

Wright relished a rare chance to play in his natural right-back role, while O'Connor displayed a maturity beyond his years with an impressive full debut at left back, which has been Town's Achilles heel all season.

But Edwards grabbed the headlines, thanks to his first goal for nearly three years. His 20-yard cracker was a weight off his shoulders, and also eased the pressure a little on his high-profile manager.

Saturday's showdown was certainly no classic. Apparently, football pundit Dean Windass dismissed it as the worst match he had ever seen, while reporting for Sky TV.

But that was a bit harsh. It was an afternoon for chewing finger-nails and glancing nervously at the stop-watch, wishing your time away. It was never going to be 90 minutes of free-flowing entertainment.

The pitch was poor - more a pudding than a grassy surface - which didn't help either side. And yet both teams hit the woodwork and Town in particular had chances to score more goals.

Furthermore, Edwards' goal was worthy of winning any match. Starting his first game for a month, the Trinidad & Tobago stalwart charged onto Grant Leadbitter's intelligent pass and advanced a few yards before unleashing an unstoppable shot that caught everyone by surprise. Left-back Tommy Spurr certainly gave him too much room to manoeuvre.

Edwards' effort flew past dazed keeper Lee Grant and into the far corner of the net. It was the perfect way to end a goal-drought that had stretched back to April 27, 2007, when the 31-year-old netted a spectacular 30-yarder against Burnley during Sunderland's promotion-winning campaign, with Keane again the manager to benefit.

Saturday's goal arrived after just 15 minutes, so there was still much to do, not least because Town had only won four league matches all season when scoring the first goal.

In fact, it was the fifth time in the last six games that the Suffolk club had broken the deadlock - West Brom and Middlesbrough had both fought back to grab draws, and Peterborough had turned the tables to win 3-1 last Tuesday evening.

But this time Keane's men protected their lead. There was no second-half capitulation and, with the exception of one or two scares, the Owls never really looked like getting back on level terms.

The result - Town's third away win of the season - lifted them three places up the table to 19th spot, with another key game on the road at Scunthorpe tomorrow night.

Brian Murphy had no time to settle into his debut. In fact, the ex-Bohemians keeper was called into action after just 10 seconds as his hands were warmed by a fierce shot from Luke Varney.

It was the first of several smart saves from Town's new keeper, although the visitors were just as effective going forward and

were good value for their half-time lead.

Damien Delaney, who was dominant in both boxes, headed wide from Town's first chance on 11 minutes, following a long throw by Edwards.

Delaney was to go on and become a candidate for man-of-the-match, although Jack Colback's bustling display in midfield won him that accolade.

Four minutes later and Edwards obliged with what proved to be the only goal of the game - it was actually only Town's second 1-0 win of the season, following the slender home victory over Derby from the end of October.

They did come close to adding a second goal in south Yorkshire. The excellent Colback drilled straight at keeper Grant on 21 minutes, from just inside the box, before Leadbitter crashed a shot wide of the post following Daryl Murphy's cross into the danger zone.

Wednesday came closest to an equaliser in the 27th minute. Marcus Tudgay, for once, managed to shake off the attentions of Gareth McAuley, only to see his rasping shot on the turn clip the top of the bar.

Three minutes later and Brian Murphy beat away Michael Gray's goalbound shot to preserve the lead. His namesake, Daryl Murphy, also made a mark at the other end by rattling the near post with a first-time shot from Colback's cross, in the last minute of the first half.

There was the unusual sight of Town's players appearing a couple

of minutes early for the second period, so that they could warm-up by the touch-line. They were

no doubt conscious of their recent poor performances in the second-

half of games, especially at Peterborough when they conceded an equaliser within two minutes of the restart.

But in contrast to London Road, goalmouth action was in short supply for the rest of the game at Hillsborough.

Edwards spurned a chance to double the lead on the hour mark.

He ran half the length of the pitch on a breakaway, after intercepting a stray pass from Etienne Esajas, but chose to shoot rather than pass.

Grant diverted the ball around his post.

Brian Murphy did well to block at the feet of substitute Leon Clarke on 69 minutes, but the expected Wednesday onslaught never materialised.

Town are back in business.