Town display play-off style

THAT'S better - much better.If Ipswich had produced performances like the second half at a spruced-up Loftus Road more often and more consistently this season there would not be a Civil War among Blues supporters.

Derek Davis

THAT'S better - much better.

If Ipswich had produced performances like the second half at a spruced-up Loftus Road more often and more consistently this season there would not be a Civil War among Blues supporters.

Since Marcus Evans, who took his seat in the QPR directors' box after returning from a skiing trip, issued a statement saying manager Jim Magilton will be judged at the end of the season a truce has been in force.

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His troops have used this week to galvanise themselves and after a somewhat squeaky win over Nottingham Forest produced arguably their best display of the campaign so far - well, certainly for 75 minutes, anyway.

Another 12 like this and the play-offs will be a reality and not just an outside chance.

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In what is an incredibly tight scrap Town are just two points behind sixth-placed Sheffield United but sit in 10th spot, with QPR, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Cardiff all with games in hand.

Not that Town will worry about that. They will need to focus on going to fifth-place Preston on Saturday to face a team who will no doubt be horrified at their showing at second-from-bottom Southampton, where they got a 3-1 pasting at the weekend.

Ipswich will look to take this surge in belief into the final leg of the season and hope whatever it was that galvanised them will continue and consistency can at last be found.

Town have rarely won three Championship games in a row under manager Jim Magilton, and they have never managed four. But if they play as they did at QPR they can conquer at Deepdale and then have the Saints at home next week - both winnable.

They will need to show the same sort of desire and quality finishing, though, and perhaps might help themselves by not conceding so early.

Just like at Swansea, Town conceded from a right-wing cross when Wayne Routledge bettered Ben Thatcher and his cross was met by Sam Di Carmine, who had got in front of Jon Stead and turned it past Wright at the near post.

QPR are no Swansea, though, and could not cope with Town's relentless running, closing down and balls into channels.

There was some surprise when David Norris was named on the right side of midfield when it was assumed Jon Walters would get his place back with Danny Haynes injured, but it turned out to be a tactically astute move.

Norris was irrepressible and Rangers could not get a hold of him.

No surprise, then, when it was a shot from him, after Gareth McAuley had headed down into his path, that allowed Jon Stead to equalise as he eased ahead of Mathew Connolly and tucked in from close range.

It was Stead's 10th goal of the season and he might have had another when Gavin Mahon's attempted head back to goal went horribly wrong.

Shaven-haired Pablo Counago pounced and instead of trying to go it alone with defenders poised, he laid it back for Stead but he guided his low effort wide.

Mahon will probably still be having nightmares about the Spaniard, who robbed him in midfield before going on a mazy run into the box and finishing expertly.

It was an outstanding goal of solo brilliance, matched only by Town's third which stemmed from good team passing and individual skill.

Thatcher, who was given a torrid time by Routledge all evening, lumped a ball forward and it was fed back to Alan Quinn in the centre circle.

He spotted substitute Walters making a run behind Damien Delaney and produced a sublime ball which last season's player of the year took in his stride with one touch and finished with the next.

World class.

Rangers had no answers and their manager Paulo Souza, who won two Champions' League finals as a player with Real Madrid, was abused by home fans - 'You don't know what your doing' when he made substitutions but left the much-maligned Mahon on the pitch.

Aren't football fans fickle?

Rangers left new signing Jordi Lopez from Real Mallorca out of the 16 but Lee Cook returned after suspension and he showed glimpses of quality but on the whole was well shepherded by David Wright.

Fabio Capello was at the game as a guest of Rangers' owners Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore and while it may just have been a social visit he will have again seen how well rounded Richard Wright's performance was in the Blues' goal.

Town had their fortunate moments, not least at 1-1 when Mikele Leigertwood tumbled over in the box with Norris close behind him, not unlike the penalty shout Palace had, but just like at Selhurst Park, it was not given and Town went on to win.

They had McAuley to thank in the dying minutes when he produced a top-quality tackle from behind on Routledge as he pressed dangerously into the area and Norris headed away another dangerous cross.

The win was no less than Town deserved and puts them back in the hunt for a top six-finish in what promises to be an enthralling climax to the Championship campaign.

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