Stunning win was not so Crystal clear

WITHOUT wishing to raise expectations to silly proportions, this win was highly encouraging.

Derek Davis

WITHOUT wishing to raise expectations to silly proportions, this win was highly encouraging.

Although the Blues are still some way from looking like breaking into the top six, this victory against fellow promotion hopefuls in their own backyard, offers a glimmer of hope.

The secret now is to keep the pressure on and force their way, firstly, into the top 10 and then try to close the gap on the top six, hoping at least one of them will wobble.

After winning at Derby and coming back to snatch a draw at home against Sheffield Wednesday, Town have now gone three league games without defeat and from such starts can good runs follow.

No-one will kid themselves too much. Town still look a fairly ordinary side and they did not exactly outplay Palace.

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In fact for much of the game they were under the cosh and on another day, with another referee, the result could have been quite different.

But they took the chances and breaks that came their way and secured the win.

Built on a foundation of solid defending Ipswich got the better of a Palace side that typified their manager Neil Warnock - hard working, tough tackling, but showing serious intent by constantly getting the ball into the danger zone.

Ipswich were forced to defend deeply for long periods, but not only did they ride their luck at times, they took full advantage when chances presented themselves.

The first of those came after 20 minutes when the slippery Pablo Counago drew a foul from Clint Hill.

From a position on Town's right flank young Irishman Owen Garvan hit a left footed in-swinger, at mid-height and with Jon Walters making a run to the near post, the ball kept travelling in front of a crowd of players and flashed past the stranded and unsighted Julian Speroni into the net.

That just seemed to spur on Palace, but 10 minutes later, with the home crowd shouting for an offside, Counago galloped away and pulled the ball back for David Norris who got away from his marker and finished well, for his first goal since hitting the winner at Blackpool last November.

Palace pulled one back almost immediately when Alan Lee nodded just inside a post, but an assistant's flag went up for an offside against Jose Fonte. Referee Clive Penton consulted him and gave the goal anyway with the assistant thinking the defender had got a touch and was interfering with play.

It was then tin hats time for Town, but they weathered the Palace storm both before the break and immediately afterwards.

Skipper Gareth McAuley needed to be on top of his game, not only to cope with Lee and then Shefki Kuqi, but to help out Pim Balkestein who also coped very well.

With Ben Thatcher a late withdrawal due to a virus, Dan Harding made his first appearance for the Blues since the 4-1 loss at Barnsley last March and stepped up well after his loan spell at League One Southend.

On the other flank Alex Bruce showed why so many clubs are monitoring his situation so closely and why he deserves a better contract offer than the one he has rejected.

Behind them was the ever-reliable Richard Wright who made a number of good saves without a great deal of fuss or dramatics.

A crunch moment came midway through the second half when Nick Carle was looking to get on the end of a cracking Eagles move, but just as he was to strike after Lee had dummied a ball in from Scannell, Tommy Miller brought him down from behind.

Penton claimed Miller had got the ball, but Palace were not convinced.

Town continued to dig deep and looked to counter.

The tactic worked when a double substitution paid off and Jon Stead was involved in a cracking move down the right with Garvan and the ball was played in for Kevin Lisbie who held his nerve to beat Speroni.

There was time for another Garvan free kick to cause panic in the Palace goal before it was hacked away. Then, in time added on, more Blues pressure led to Hill putting though his own goal to give Town their best away win of the season.

Too often in the past hopes have been raised only for Town to revert to type and disappoint. Certainly this was never a 4-1 and they will play better and lose, but you take what you can and the result offers encouragement.