Town defeat in London is first in seven Championship games

IPSWICH Town lost for the first time in seven Championship games when beaten by table-topping Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

QPR 2 Ipswich 0

IPSWICH Town lost for the first time in seven Championship games when beaten by table-topping Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

The visitors were good value for most of a pulsating match and were equal to their illustrious opponents.

But the home side took control and scored through Clint Hill in the 77th minute and Heidar Helguson in the 83rd minute as Ipswich tired after their recent busy schedule.

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Paddy Kenny was not called upon to make a serious save, but it was still an impressive Town display that bodes well for the future but showing that there is work to do to become genuine promotion contenders.

With pressure to gain points having gone with Town’s recent revival leaving them with around eight points to gain in the final 15 games – before this game – it was more a case of the visitors giving themselves a benchmark to work on against a quality team.

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Rangers had lost just one home league game going into the match with manager Neil Warnock having used his experience and the money at his disposal to lift his side within touching distance of the top flight.

Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney were superb at the back for Town who will now look to get back to winning ways against Portsmouth on Saturday at Portman Road.

Cynics will suggest that Town’s recovery under Jewell has been based on the fact that they have played poor opposition for most of the seven league games that he has been in charge.

This was a chance to see how his management fared against a team on top of their game and heading for likely automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Before the visit to London, Ipswich had been unbeaten for six league matches and accrued 14 from the previous 18 on offer.

Jewell lost his first Championship game in charge when taking the lead but then tiring to lose 2-1 at Millwall shortly after a tiring Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Since then it’s been all roses with four victories and two draws as the threat of relegation has virtually been removed. This defeat is hard to take but Rangers were pushed all the way before finishing worthy winners.

Jimmy Bullard was able to return to the Blues side after being ineligible as a Hull player on loan for the visit of the Tigers to Portman Road at the weekend.

It looked a case of whether he replaced Andy Drury or Colin Healy in the starting line-up against a QPR side that had drawn their two previous matches and beat Town comprehensively on Suffolk soil when the currently injured Jamie Mackie stole the show with a fine striking display.

It was Drury, who made his full Football League debut at the age of 27 on Saturday, who made way and he took the place of Luke Hyam, who travelled and was included in the warm-up, dropping out of the final 18.

Healy did okay for half and hour but then looked to have been slowed by injury and he was replaced soon afterwards by Drury with Town’s formation remaining 4-5-1.

Rangers made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with bottom club Preston on Saturday with Kaspars Gorkss and Matthew Connolly dropping out to be replaced at the back by Fitz Hall and Danny Shittu.

Shaun Derry, who visited Portman Road in the summer and was close to signing for previous Ipswich manager Roy Keane, was a key ball-winning member of the home midfield with the talented Adel Taarabt in line to be named Championship player of the season.

On the bench for Rangers was Pascal Chimbonda, who looked set to join Ipswich from Wigan last month but opted to join Rangers instead.

Derry showed why he is such a valuable player never wasting a ball and always being available in midfield to take possession off a team mate.

But with Bullard all over the place for the Blues and acting skipper Grant Leadbitter filling in the bits and pieces around the centre of the park Ipswich gave as good as they got in the opening half.

Connor Wickham, who continues to be watched by scouts from Premier League clubs, was in a mood to show what he can do and bolstered by his recent good form he ran at opponents on several occasions often beating a couple but then being foiled when he tried to make it beyond a third.

Neither keeper was called into serious action in the opening 45 minutes when Rangers stepped up a few gears as the interval approached but with Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney in commanding form they never came really close to taking the lead.

QPR came out with more bite after a talking to by manager Warnock at the break and it needed McAuley and Delaney to be at their best to keep Town on level terms as home fans started to become agitated.

Rangers slowly but surely wore Town down to be cheered off the field by their delighted followers.

Town coaches Chris Hutchings and Sean McCarthy helped warm the players up with the latter having played as a front man for Rangers manager Neil Warnock when Warnock was boss at Plymouth Argyle.

Ipswich were well represented in the stands as usual with their fans travelling in large numbers to fill the top tier of one of the stands behind one of the goals. The ground looked filled almost to capacity with an electric charged atmosphere.

Jewell is happy that players who have missed out recently are playing their part in what he sees as a squad effort to move up the table.

The manager said: “I want every member of the squad to fight to get into the team. The likes of Daniel O’Dea, Tamas Priskin, Luca Civelli Tommy Smith and Jaime Peters are not sulking and are all going about their business in the right manner and working hard.”

Jewell, who expects Rangers to gain automatic promotion, went on: “We respect everybody, but fear nobody.

“We all felt low after the late goal Barnsley scored and then hit back with a good win at Doncaster four days later.

“We were looking to bounce back in a similar nature last night after getting another late kick in the teeth when Hull City levelled late at the weekend.”

And Jewell was looking for positive moves up front by his team.

He went on: “When we get to the final third of the field we should either finish with a shot or a cross into the danger area.

“Our six goals at Doncaster were a one-off and scoring goals is one area where we need to improve.

“At the back we haven’t been too bad as our goals against record shows.”

Skipper David Norris again missed out last night although his knee problem has now cleared up.

But the ankle ligaments he damaged at the same time at Barnsley need more time to heal and the visit to Cardiff City on Saturday week is his likely time to be considered for a return.

TOWN’S senior players who didn’t feature last night are set to be included in a reserve team that plays Southend at the Playford Road training ground in the Combination with a 2pm start time.

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