Now don't let it all go to waste

THE dawning of a new era has arrived.Although not the most illuminating of games, the victory at Hillsborough was significant for so many reasons and all positive for Town.

Derek Davis

THE dawning of a new era has arrived.

Although not the most illuminating of games, the victory at Hillsborough was significant for so many reasons and all positive for Town.

Not just did they end their dismal run of away ways, which ironically had started at Sheffield Wednesday way back last March when they were beaten 2-0 just days after winning at Luton Town, but the manner of this win was significant.

An early lead was pegged back and in the past 11 months Town would have been incapable of producing a win away after going behind.

But they showed a dogged determination to not get beaten in the first place, and then the character to go on to pick up all three points themselves.

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Now that elusive away win is under the belt, it is imperative Ipswich not only go on to get a few more victories from the remaining eight trips, but maintain the home form.

Allowing Watford to double them on Saturday would undo all the good work, whereas even a draw would leave Town right in the play-off mix.

Essentially, sixth-placed Town are now involved in a 16-game mini-season buoyed by new buys, renewed optimism and a clean slate.

Alan Quinn's fine finish just three minutes into the game showed the importance of the business done by Jim Magilton in the transfer window.

Quinn has already established himself in Town folklore with his display against the club where he started out in English football, and remains the only player to score for both clubs in a Steel City derby.

He might even have added another goal not long after scoring, for which he received copious amounts of grief from his former Owls admirers, but was denied by a well-timed Jermaine Johnson tackle, although he might have shot a touch or two earlier.

Magilton's other signings had varying degrees of success on their debuts.

David Norris was industrious and honest and should have been given a penalty when he pounced on a mistake by Lee Grant, who then held him back before he could shake free and take a shot that was deflected over the crossbar.

The £2m capture from Plymouth was playing wide right but clearly relished coming inside to take charge, much like Quinn on the other flank, whose natural tendencies as a right-footed player were to move into the middle.

Stephen Bywater cut a commanding figure in the Town goal and made it clear he was not going to stand for any slackness from his back four.

There was not much he could have done to prevent Wednesday's equaliser. Graham Kavanagh, back for his second stint at Hillsborough, laid out Alex Bruce with a thunderous drive which fell kindly to the predatory Marcus Tudgay, who fired in a powerful first-time shot from the edge of the area.

From that moment the game meandered along quite benignly.

Ipswich had the better quality but lacked penetration, while Wednesday were more direct but, Kavanagh aside, had little about them and Bywater was rarely bothered.

The pivotal point of the match came from the bench.

Pablo Counago was given the hook and Alan Lee went on in his place. Seven minutes later the move paid dividends from the unlikeliest of sources.

Bruce had stayed up after a set play and showed some good skill to manoeuvre into a position for a deep cross.

Quinn rose to head down and Lee hooked the ball in from eight yards.

His celebration showed what it meant for the team and for his own personal satisfaction.

After failing to score in open play since November 4 at Norwich - his only other goal in the 17 games since then was a penalty against Leicester - Lee was due a goal and it was an instinctive finish.

With so many distractions regarding player movement and speculation that Burnley were interested in him, although they ever firmed up a bid, Lee will be glad to get focussed on the job in hand and ending his goal drought will help as he starts the season afresh.

Town fans also got a glimpse of Velice Sumulikoski, who was steady without being spectacular in deep midfield as Town hung on to their lead.

All in all a significant, if not pretty, win and the distinct impression that the new dawn starts with understandable optimism, tinged with a cautious note not to have too high an expectation just yet.