Magical display sends Pompey packing
Ipswich Town 3Portsmouth 0IPSWICH Town produced a magical first-half display to go three up in half an hour to send promoted Portsmouth well on the way to only their sixth league defeat of the season, writes Tony Garnett.
Ipswich Town 3
IPSWICH Town produced a magical first-half display to go three up in half an hour to send promoted Portsmouth well on the way to only their sixth league defeat of the season, writes Tony Garnett.
Town held on comfortably enough after the interval at Portman Road yesterday to make sure of three points that will put pressure on the likes of Wolves, Reading and Nottingham Forest.
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Another massive crowd produced a tremendous atmosphere but it was Dutchman Martijn Reuser who put an end to early apprehension.
In the 10th minute the Dutchman latched on to a careless square pass from Arjan De Zeeuw and strode forward before unleashing a 25-yard drive that swerved to leave goalkeeper Shaka Hislop floundering.
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The Pompey Chimes were muted as it became apparent that Ipswich were quicker on the ball and seemingly far more hungry to achieve victory.
The second Ipswich goal came in the 28th minute when Tommy Miller rifled the ball into the net from 12 yards after a cross from the overlapping Matt Richards had been only half cleared by De Zeeuw, who was under pressure from powerful striker Marcus Bent.
A couple of minutes later Ipswich fired another salvo into the sinking Portsmouth ship. Pablo Counago jinked his way cleverly past De Zeeuw in the penalty area before firing a close-range drive into the roof of the net.
Ipswich were three up but it could have been more because Hislop, with help from Linvoy Primus, prevented Miller from scoring in the 18th minute after some brilliant work by Counago, who is at last blossoming into a striker of real quality.
Strikers hunt in pairs and it is vastly encouraging to see Counago and Marcus Bent starting to develop a real understanding.
Gianluca Festa, perhaps lucky to stay on the field after what looked like an elbow on Reuser, tested Andy Marshall with one of Pompey's few shots on target but the Town keeper was able to turn the ball round the post in the 14th minute.
A Pompey equaliser could have made a world of difference but Ipswich stayed well on top with Jim Magilton and Miller probing from midfield and Matt Holland tidying up effectively.
Richards and Fabian Wilnis provided good width while the Town defence was excellently served by Thomas Gaardsoe, who was shown a yellow card for a mis-timed sliding tackle on Szetoslav Todorov just before the interval.
Todorov, though, did not look a patch on Counago on the evidence of this match.
Bearing in mind how Nottingham Forest had fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ipswich in their last home game there were a few nervous moments early in the second half.
Pompey were permitted to enjoy a brief spell of dominance but it did not last long with Tim Sherwood being barracked by the crowd, no doubt because of his former Norwich City connection.
The same thing has happened to Magilton when he has visited Portsmouth only because he used to play for their arch-rivals Southampton.
The second half did not match the first but the Ipswich fans were not concerned as they realised that Town have another vital assignment at Rotherham on Monday.
Chris Makin looks solid at the back for Ipswich and went on more than one adventurous run. It was great to see young Richards looking so confident and composed at such a young age.
Manager Joe Royle knows he must bring Academy boys through and Ian Westlake had a late taste of the action forcing Hayden Foxe to cut out a testing cross at full stretch.
Those in the executive boxes behind the Portsmouth fans can have seen very little in the later stages but by that stage it was mainly a question of Ipswich playing keep ball with both sides using their full quota of substitutes.
The best Ipswich chance after the interval came in the 64th minute when a close-range-header by Reuser struck Steve Stone on the arm in the goalmouth.
Penalties have been given for a lot less but this time the referee was lenient to the visitors.
Portsmouth are obviously a far better side than they showed yesterday but they won promotion with victory over Burnley on Tuesday and had every right to celebrate. Maybe they found this encounter at Portman Road came a bit too soon.
The Ipswich season now looks like going to the final match when, ironically, they visit Derby County who are currently under the control of their former boss George Burley.
Ipswich are showing that they are capable of playing excellent football without the likes of Jamie Clapham, Hermann Hreidarsson and Darren Ambrose, who have all been sold in an effort to balance the books.
All is not lost by any means if Ipswich are reduced to a small squad because this usually produces a far better dressing-room spirit.