Old failings prove costly

JUST when it looked as if the Blues had all the ammunition and attrition to deal with whatever could be thrown at them, the old costly mistake reared their ugly heads.

By Derek Davis

JUST when it looked as if the Blues had all the ammunition and attrition to deal with whatever could be thrown at them, the old costly mistake reared their ugly heads.

Twice Town were in front in this fire-cracker of a game, but each time they were pegged back and finally they succumbed to a determined Stoke side.

Jason De Vos headed Town ahead, but Wayne Thomas equalised after a goalkeeping error and when Ian Westlake nudged the Blues back in front Thomas again levelled.


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Town still looked more than capable of going on to win but a horrific mix-up at the back allowed Ade Akinbiyi to snatch victory.

It was a cracking game with both teams slugging it out like two middle-weight boxers.

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Town had more quality and showed terrific pace and movement to get at Stoke.

City were more direct but the Blues seemed to be more than coping until the Potters found their Achilles heel, which remains set pieces.

Inside the first minute Darren Bent's speed took him away from the defence to latch on to an excellent angled ball from Ian Westlake, but former Chelsea and Holland keeper Ed De Goey tipped his shot around the post

City's first chance came a couple of minutes later when Gifton Noel-Williams headed on a Clive Clarke free-kick which clipped the top of the crossbar.

Bent slipped a ball towards Westlake, but his drag back did not quite work.

The England Under-21 striker went on a 30-yard run but hit a weak shot when Miller was in a better, more open position

Bent did tee up Miller moments later but his low left foot shot was saved.

Despite an outstanding 20 minutes which helped turn the game against Millwall, Pablo Counago was left on the bench as Royle kept faith with Shefki Kuqi.

The Finn twice went close to getting a head on crosses from first Fabian Wilnis and then Bent, and almost scored from a swift counter attack but was foiled by an excellent Darel Russell sliding tackle in the area.

He made way for the Spaniard on the hour, with City swapping keepers at the same time.

Midway through the first half a Town summer target, Dave Brammer, almost sliced into his own net from a Drissa Diallo cross, but De Goey tipped to safety.

Richard Naylor played an important part in Town's defence but one ball he played back to Davis was partially blocked as the keeper cleared.

The stout-hearted defender was booked for handling a difficult bouncing ball with Akinbiyi in close attendance. Stoke were awarded a free-kick just outside the box, which Clarke smashed against the wall but won a corner.

Brammer's delivery was headed back across goal by Gerry Taggart, Noel-Williams applied a touch, but Davis pulled off a brilliant save low down.

Davis made another good save when Clarke had a chance after his corner was cleared back to him by Wilnis.

City were the first to crack under the pressure with the lively Blues striker Bent winning a corner. Jim Magilton took it short with Westlake curling the ball in from the dead-ball line and De Vos timed his run perfectly to head in unopposed from 10 yards four minutes before the break.

But the Potters equalised three minutes later, also from a corner.

Skipper Clarke swung it in deep, Davis failed to gather under pressure and Thomas headed in despite a couple of players on the goal-line.

Stoke's strength at corners was evident again just after the break when Noel-Williams rattled another header from a Clarke corner against the bar.

But Ipswich were also playing to their strengths and a fabulous passing move put them in front after Town won a loose ball in midfield.

Tommy Miller played a slide-rule pass across field into the area for Bent, who squared the ball for his club and country partner Westlake to side-foot in from eight yards.

Davis had to be sharp straight away as City looked for an instant reply with the Town keeper saving an Akinbiyi shot with his knees.

The Championship player of the month for August had a penalty claim ignored by the referee when he went down under a solid, but fair, Naylor tackle.

Town broke themselves later and Bent's unbelievable pace took him clear of two defenders before his low cross was cut out by substitute keeper Steve Simonsen before Westlake could pounce again.

Tony Pulis then unleashed new signing Steve Guppy and he provided the cross for Thomas to head in his second equaliser.

Moments earlier City were appealing for a penalty, claiming Naylor had handled a Clarke shot, which he probably did but unavoidably.

And then an already pulsating game exploded to another level.

John Halls was booked for persistent fouling and then two minutes later was late on Wilnis, who reacted. Both were shown a yellow card, with the Stoke defender also seeing a red.

Fired-up City then grabbed the lead for the first time after an aerial collision between Clarke and De Vos.

From the resulting free-kick Diallo headed back towards goal but the ball seemed to catch in the wind, causing confusion between Naylor and Davis, and Akinbiyi gleefully pounced to tap in.

Royle threw on Dean Bowditch in place of Wilnis in a last-ditch effort to salvage at least one deserved point but it was not to be as once again set pieces and mistakes foiled a gutsy Town.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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