Irony over keeper Arran's Town debut

THERE was a delicious sense of irony that Arran Lee-Barrett, after three months of keeping the bench warm, should make his surprise Ipswich Town debut against his old club yesterday.

Carl Marston

THERE was a delicious sense of irony that Arran Lee-Barrett, after three months of keeping the bench warm, should make his surprise Ipswich Town debut against his old club yesterday.

Keeper Lee-Barrett probably thought that he would never play a first-team game for Town, following his arrival last August.

An emergency replacement for Shane Supple, who had retired from the professional game, Lee-Barrett played second fiddle to Richard Wright and was then third in the pecking order following Asmir Begovic's loan move from Portsmouth.


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Begovic's return to his parent club Pompey last week, due to an injury to David James, at least elevated former Ipswich schoolboy Lee-Barrett (St Albans School) to the substitute keeper role for yesterday's trip to Cardiff.

But he probably never dreamed that he would end up playing 65 minutes of the game, following Wright's knee injury midway through the first period.

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“Football can be such a funny game,” admitted Lee-Barrett.

“I spent two-and-a-half years at Cardiff, without ever playing a league game, and now I've ended up playing against them!

“I suppose I wouldn't even have been on the bench, if Asmir (Begovic) had still been with us. I was obviously disappointed to be left out of the squad, but you just have to stay professional.

“It was unfortunate that Richard Wright picked up a knee injury, but I'm very happy that we managed to hold onto our lead and win the game.

“It's brilliant for the club,” added Lee-Barrett.

Town's 25-year-old keeper, who made 55 league appearances for his previous club Hartlepool, before being released last summer, had no chance with Peter Whittingham's 20-yard thunderbolt which gave Cardiff a 1-0 lead on 35 minutes.

But the Bluebirds didn't seriously trouble Town's defence for the rest of the game. Lee-Barrett made one save from Whittingham, early in the second half, and dealt with a couple of crosses, but otherwise he was well protected by Town's back-line.

Despite his cameo appearance yesterday, his long-term future remains uncertain, especially as fellow keeper and new signing Brian Murphy will officially become a Town player in January.

“My contract is up in January,” confirmed Lee-Barrett.

“I don't know whether I'll get an extension. I just have to try and impress, and see what happens.

“If I get the opportunity to stay, then I'd take it. But who knows?

“I think I've improved as a keeper, over the last few months. I've got a lot sharper, and it was also good when Asmir Begovic was here, because I also got to learn from him, coming from a different club,” added Lee-Barrett.

It was a case of 13th time lucky for Lee-Barrett yesterday - after 12 games as an unused substitute, he was finally called into action, and he did not disappoint.

Wright's knee injury is likely to keep him out of Saturday's trip to Bristol City. Manager Roy Keane might be allowed to sign an emergency loan keeper before then, but Lee-Barrett will be hoping that he gets the nod from the start.

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