Town undone by Commons double

KRIS Commons struck twice as Derby County ended Ipswich Town’s mini league run of victories at Portman Road.

A SECOND-half brace from Derby County’s talisman, Kris Commons, nudged Ipswich Town out of the top six last night.

Derby were good value for their victory, which was their seventh in the last nine games, to show just how much Town will have to improve if they want to be play-off candidates this season.

Roy Keane’s men were not short of scoring chances, especially during an entertaining first-half, but they were second best and can have few complaints.

There was a touch of good fortune about Derby’s opening goal, because Commons’ 20-yard free-kick took a deflection off the defensive wall to wrong-foot Marton Fulop on 58 minutes.

An on-fire Commons wrapped up the points for the Rams in the 76th minute. The skilful attacking midfielder swept home from 12 yards out, with his left boot, after a good cross by Dean Moxey. It was Commons’ ninth goal of the campaign.

Nigel Clough’s side comfortably held onto their advantage, despite a late rally from Town, to end the home side’s recent run of three straight victories.

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Town boss Keane opted to make just one change to the side that had triumphed 2-1 at Sheffield United. Connor Wickham was preferred to Jason Scotland up front, after the Trinidad & Tobago front-runner had struggled for form at Bramall Lane.

The hosts could have taken the lead inside the first very minute. Carlos Edwards skipped past Tomasz Cywka and whipped over a cross that found its way through to Jack Colback. The Sunderland loanee scooped his first-time shot over the bar.

Otherwise, though, it was Derby who dictated the early stages with some impressive movement both on and off the ball.

Ex-Town hit-man Shefki Kuqi soon made his presence felt, nipping in front of Damien Delaney to head wide from Robbie Savage’s sixth minute cross.

Two minutes later and Marton Fulop was forced into the first save of the match. The Hungarian arched back to finger-tip Cywka’s ferocious shot over the bar.

It was Frank Fielding’s turn to come to his side’s rescue in the 12th minute. Tamas Priskin, fresh from his fifth goal of the season at Sheffield United, charged onto Jake Livermore’s measured pass and let fly from 25 yards with a rasping shot that a sprawling Fielding managed to block with his chest. He recovered quickly to gather the loose ball.

The goalmouth action continued apace and Priskin turned creator in the 16th minute. He chested into the path of fellow striker Wickham, whose instinctive left-footed drive swerved into the side-netting.

Town twice peppered the target around the 20-minute mark. First Colback controlled Leadbitter’s pass and turned to leave defenders trailing in his wake with a dazzling run. His final shot, from long range, whistled only a foot wide of the post.

Seconds later and Leadbitter also tried his luck from distance. His 20-yarder, from Wickham’s intelligent lay-off, fizzed narrowly over the bar.

Town were in the ascendancy during the mid-point of the first period, without applying the finish touch. Priskin failed to get enough power behind his header from close-in, after another Edwards long throw had been flicked on at the near post, while Livermore lifted a half-volley over the top from a good position.

Livermore nearly cost his side dear with a tame backward header in the 28th minute. Kuqi easily intercepted and homed in goal, but he could not direct his shot beyond Fulop, who parried low to his right. The ball drifted across goal and wide.

Midfielder Livermore made amends with a slick through ball that grazed the head of defender Shaun Barker and dropped at the feet of Leadbitter, who was standing just 10 yards from goal. Town’s skipper nipped around the outside of keeper Fielding, but the angle was too acute and his shot was blocked.

At the other end, Fulop made his third fine save of the first half in the 35th minute. James Bailey met Cywka’s low cross with a sweet volley that Fulop did well to palm away with a strong right hand.

But the Hungarian did not cover himself in glory when venturing off his line to intercept a swirling cross from Savage. The big man completely missed his punch, though fortune was shining on him as no Rams player was in the right place to capitalise.

Just a minute into the second half and Priskin was threatening to escape through on goal. Town’s front-man appeared to be held back by Barker, on the edge of the box, but that went unseen by referee Roger East, and the move eventually petered out.

However, it was Derby who finally broke the deadlock, via Commons’ deflected free-kick in the 58th minute.

Town were close to equalising just 60 seconds later. Eastman squeezed a pass through for Priskin, and his rasping shot was superbly beaten away by keeper Fielding at point blank range.

Town were struggling to create chances in the second period, although substitute Scotland, who had replaced Livermore on the hour mark, did force Fielding into a save with shot on the turn.

But the task became doubly difficult when Commons swept home his second goal of the match in the 76th minute.

Town nearly pulled a goal back in the 81st minute, but Tommy Smith’s lofted shot, from Wickham’s long throw, was headed off the goal-line by Moxey.

Scotland was also denied by an acrobatic save from Fielding, as Town searched in vain for a late consolation.

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