Most fans not bothered

ALL defeats hurt, but not many Ipswich followers will be particularly bothered that the Blues are not in this afternoon's FA Cup draw.Most of the time, watching the side lose on a Saturday afternoon puts a dampener on the rest of the weekend but after holding Premiership Bolton for an hour before folding so dramatically, no one will be shedding tears over this loss.

ALL defeats hurt, but not many Ipswich followers will be particularly bothered that the Blues are not in this afternoon's FA Cup draw.

Most of the time, watching the side lose on a Saturday afternoon puts a dampener on the rest of the weekend but after holding Premiership Bolton for an hour before folding so dramatically, no one will be shedding tears over this loss.

Beaten by a fresher side that had that extra touch of quality, Ipswich were reminded that in the top flight any slip will be punished by deadly finishing.

Not that the Blues really deserved to be trailing by three goals at one point.


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Indeed, if Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent had put away any one of the half-a-dozen chances they had between them in the first half, it might all have been so different.

The tie was interesting in its own way without ever hitting any great heights in terms of excitement, but seemed locked in a stalemate until Danish international Henrik Pedersen missed a sitter from four yards when he scooped a simple tap-in over the bar.

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Blues manager Joe Royle, fearing the worst – a draw – made two significant changes with almost an hour gone and it had a big effect, although not the way Town would have wanted.

By slinging on attack-minded midfielder Tommy Miller, along with striker Pablo Counago in place of the unusually ineffective Darren Currie and skipper Jim Magilton, Town went to the more adventurous 4-3-3.

That just allowed Bolton to exploit the extra space in midfield as they dropped to a 4-5-1.

They made the numbers, as well as their much fresher legs, count and El-Hadji Diouf, booed relentlessly from the moment he stripped off his tracksuit on the bench, ripped Town to shreds.

The Senegalese international, on a year's loan from Liverpool, was not going to be used at all, along with Gary Speed and Jay Jay Okocha, who were left in Lancashire to put their feet up. But when Kevin Davies felt a reaction to a suspect hamstring after just 27 minutes, Sam Allardyce unleashed the only Bolton man to have played in all four of their previous games.

The Trotters' boss took great pride in being vindicated for his rotation policy but before Diouf, and later Kevin Nolan, were introduced Town looked just as good as the side 10 places above them in the pyramid.

Diouf seemed to take the barracking as an incentive and instantly gave Bolton more bite.

They took a chunk out of Town on the hour when Diouf slipped the ball through for Greek European Championship winner Stelios Giannakopoulos to drill an angled shot past Kelvin Davis.

Ipswich appealed for offside but Scott Mitchell, making only his second start of the season, had not stepped up with the rest of his line.

The young right-back, in because Richard Naylor has a groin problem, had played well up to then with some good tackling, clever shielding and decent passing.

But then he lost another challenge going forward and Bolton countered with incredible speed.

Diouf was again involved, feeding Pedersen, who surged into the area before hitting a low shot for Wanderers' second. Pedersen was able to take advantage of a weak Mitchell challenge four minutes later and this time he dinked the ball into the far corner to wrap up the game.

Mitchell will have learned a valuable lesson in this stunning nine minutes but he also showed his own terrific character and determination by continuing to push forward and get involved.

Birthday boy Miller finished off a slick move from Town, with Kuqi feeding Counago and the Spaniard did very well to find the unmarked midfielder, who finished from 16 yards.

Miller almost forced a nervous finish for Bolton as he surged into the area, but his shot was saved.

Mitchell was following up but could not get a clean shot in and his effort was cleared by a frantic defender.

Allardyce is known to be keen on Kuqi and the Finn had the opportunity to impress even further.

Jussi Jaaskelainen stood strong to block a first-half shot and the ball was scrambled clear. Kuqi then went for an audacious effort 30 yards out as he controlled a Davis goal clearance with his chest before turning and volleying goalwards.

Jaaskelainen was well-positioned to deal with the effort and made a terrific save to deny Kuqi again, after he had been picked out by Kevin Horlock, with the keeper tipping away a low shot and Tal Ben Haim turned it behind for a corner with Bent closing in.

Bent curled an 18-yard shot just wide early on and had a header cleared off the line by Khalilou Fadiga and was then off-target with a long-range effort in the second half.

Fadiga, playing with a defibrillator after collapsing in the warm-up against Spurs in October, was making his first senior appearance since that Carling Cup tie.

England Under-21 striker Bent was only playing because Dean Bowditch had gone down with flu, denying Royle the opportunity to give the young striker a much-needed and deserved break.

Matt Richards was another who missed out due to illness after food poisoning left him weak. That allowed American Danny Karbassiyoon the chance to make his home debut and the Arsenal loanee impressed with a series of good passes and clever defending.

It may be a cliché about concentrating on the league, but with a £25m prize pot waiting in the Premiership, instead of around £4m for winning the FA Cup, there will be no tears from Town no matter who Bolton pull out of the hat today.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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