Late heartbreak for Town

NO wonder neutrals love watching Ipswich Town games, writes Derek Davis.Even the opposition fans must enjoy coming up against the Blues, unless they are Burnley, Crewe and any team – except West Brom – whose name starts with a W.

NO wonder neutrals love watching Ipswich Town games, writes Derek Davis.

Even the opposition fans must enjoy coming up against the Blues, unless they are Burnley, Crewe and any team - except West Brom - whose name starts with a W.

But for Town supporters gagging for a return to the big league, it is frustrating, aggravating and extremely annoying. So many good things - spoilt by so much bad.

In what has become almost a blue-print for the season Joe Royle's boys provided superb entertainment for the nation on Sky TV and then blew three points when everything was set for them to go fourth in the table.

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With Wigan losing at home to Wimbledon; Sheffield United crashing in Yorkshire to Nottingham Forest and Millwall and Sunderland otherwise engaged, a Sunday afternoon kick-off left everyone tantalisingly knowing what could be.

Going in at half time with a well- deserved goal advantage, courtesy of Tommy Miller, and the team playing well, loud and proud Town fans could have been forgiven for thinking: "This could be it, at last." But the result they longed for disappeared amid a flurry of substitutions and two goals in a minute, midway through the second half, for the Baggies.

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Even when Darren Bent bundled in an equaliser the hopes were high. A point at least would help Town in the thronging mass that is the play-off race. But it was not to be - as a controversial goal four minutes into time added on left the Blues supporters with a terrible sense of déjà vu.

What a shame that such a rip-roaring match with plenty of goalmouth action and meaty challenges should end in such bitter disappointment.

For entertainment value Ipswich score 10. For allowing leads to slip away they score nothing. And nothing was precisely what they ended up with yesterday. But few could argue they deserved at least a draw.

Unfortunately it is a common theme threaded throughout the season that even though the Blues played largely the better football and banged in a couple of goals, they managed to concede three.

It can be argued that the first and third owed something to the officials, and the fact that Lee Hughes, who assisted in the winner, should have been sent off for a disgraceful kick on Town keeper Kelvin Davis. But defensive weaknesses were again too apparent and ruined so much good work.

Miller set the tone with a crunching tackle on ex-Town man Thomas Gaardsoe and the Blues crowd responded by providing, arguably, the best atmosphere of the season.

Ian Westlake tested Baggies' keeper Russell Hoult with a header after a quick Jermaine Wright free-kick released Dean Bowditch, who crossed. That effort was Ipswich's 300th attempt on target in the league this season - another indication of their attacking prowess.

Bent then went close when he met a Matt Richards' diagonal ball with a first-time, left-footed shot which was inches too high. The England U-21 striker then glanced the ball into the net from a Wright lob over the defence, but was offside.

Albion looked dangerous early on and only clever defending by Fabian Wilnis prevented Geoff Horsfield getting a head to an Andy Johnson cross.

Horsfield flashed a 35-yard shot just wide and Jim Magilton replied in kind moments later; only his was on target and Hoult made a good save.

The Baggies' keeper was hurt in the resulting corner from Magilton, when he collided with his own man and the powerful Georges Santos.

Although Hoult struggled on for a while, he was replaced by Joe Murphy during the break.

Frenchman Santos was booed throughout by the Albion fans who preferred to remember his spat with Johnson two years ago rather than when he helped them to promotion. He could have got his own back from a Magilton free-kick but his diving header from seven yards was off-target.

Miller's 44th-minute goal stemmed from a Magilton ball wide for Richards, who played it in from the left. The ex-Hartlepool midfielder took it in his stride; his touch and pace took him past Darren Moore before he placed his left-footed show low past the spread-eagled Hoult.

Davis made a brilliant save from Johnson moments after the break and Albion had the ball in the net on 58 minutes, but Horsfield was offside.

Jason Koumas had replaced Artim Sakiri at half time and was exerting some influence in midfield. It was he who supplied a ball for Horsfield whose shot was well-saved by Davis' outstretched leg. Davis was then well positioned to get behind a header from Albion's third substitute, Lloyd Dyer.

The substitute's equaliser was a wonderful 30-yard free-kick which he curled around the wall and in off Davis' left-hand post. A minute later Dyer put the Baggies ahead with a 10-yard, left-foot shot after a Horsfield flick-on.

The influence of the substitutes continued for Town's equaliser when Martijn Reuser delivered an angled cross from the left and Shefki Kuqi won the aerial battle, getting between Moore and Murphy to nod the ball down, and Bent was on hand to knock the ball in from six yards.

But Town lost it in the cruellest of fashions. Horsfield was in an offside position before being on hand to tap in Hughes' low cross from close range in the fourth and last minute of time added on.

Great value for money for the TV viewers but it keeps Ipswich down in ninth. The good thing is you never know quite what will happen next and just as they are capable of blowing every remaining game, the Blues could quite easily win the lot.

After all they have scored enough goals to win two leagues.

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