Town maintain perfect record in style

JIM Magilton has given his players a few extra days off after they maintained their perfect home record in superb style.The time off was offered as an incentive before they put Preston to the sword and is a richly deserved reward.

By Derek Davis

JIM Magilton has given his players a few extra days off after they maintained their perfect home record in superb style.

The time off was offered as an incentive before they put Preston to the sword and is a richly deserved reward.

After a testing week on the road the Blues showed how much they love playing in front of the Portman Road crowd, even if it is dwindling alarmingly.

Some of the football on show was outstanding and begs the question - just how good can this team be?

Going forward they look as good as anyone in the Championship, using Pablo Counago as the fulcrum, with the lively Billy Clarke on one side and the much-watched Jon Walters on the right.

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Their passing and movement stemming from Tommy Miller playing deeper than he ever used to for Town, and the astute Owen Garvan, who is getting ever more dangerous from set plays.

The Blues might have scored in the first couple of minutes when Garvan played a delightful free kick towards the back post and Clarke sneaked behind the defence to meet the ball unmarked a few yards out but steered his header wide.

The young Irishman, who along with Garvan is now away with the Republic of Ireland Under 21s plotting to dump England out of the European Championship qualifying group, was lively throughout.

Clarke also hit a post with a terrific 25-yard drive in the second half and his form is going to make it very hard for Gary Roberts to force his way back into the starting line up. But Clarke was given a lesson in how to finish by Alan Lee who headed in from an extremely difficult position as he dived in to meet a Walters cross.

The goal was created by the strength and precision of Counago, whose cunning causes chaos in defences as he highlighted by slipping the ball behind Danny Pugh for the wide man.

Counago also played a key part in Town's second to help his old mate Tommy Miller break his 18-month goal drought and ensure Town's eighth successive home victory.

Miller had shaken of the chains of playing in the anchor role and surged from the edge of the box to head on to Counago. The Spaniard instinctively knew Miller would continue his run and played the sweetest of back heels into his path for the man who was on loan at Preston last season to finish emphatically.

The Spaniard was unlucky not to nod in a goal of his own when skipper Jason De Vos headed a Garvan corner on to Counago whose flick came back off the crossbar.

Town always looked in control and kept the Lilywhites at arm's length for the most part, even when they had reasonable spells of possession.

The weakness continues to be defensively and Fabian Wilnis' inclusion at the expense of a luckless Alex Bruce, who will feel hard done by at being made a scapegoat, almost cost Town twice as he and Neil Alexander showed a lack of communication.

A Kevin Nicholls' free kick was almost back-headed into an own goal by Wilnis and the Dutch defender almost did it again moments later when he intercepted a ball with Alexander stranded, but his deflection floated wide.

That said, Wilnis showed terrific commitment in the opening exchanges with some vital early tackles and blocks.

Preston captain Nicholls caused mayhem with a corner that went through the six-yard box without a Town player clearing, but also evaded Darren Carter and Karl Hawley.

Ipswich felt aggrieved three minutes from time when substitute Neil Mellor went over Alexander while chasing a Patrick Agyemang ball into the box.

The referee took advice from an assistant, who apparently said it was a dive by Mellor, but gave the penalty anyway, telling Town players it was for a foul against David Wright who he had already booked for protesting.

Mellor ignored the accusations of diving and sent the keeper the wrong way with his penalty kick.

With wins away so elusive, no maximum points on the road since last March, Ipswich will be grateful for their home form.

But if they continue in this vein, home and away, the Blues could start challenging the big boys of the division and if fans can see them becoming realistic play-off contenders, then perhaps the crowds will return.

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