Promotion dream lives on

Dare we start believing? Joint top, four wins on the bounce, three clean sheets in four games, unbeaten in 11 games and have not failed to score at home in almost a year.

By Derek Davis

Dare we start believing? Joint top, four wins on the bounce, three clean sheets in four games, unbeaten in 11 games and have not failed to score at home in almost a year.

What is the catch?

Ipswich fans have been here before only for something to go wrong. Well, there are still six months, and 27 games of this season to go so of course it all could go pear-shaped.

How many more broken bones can the Town heroes carry on playing on with?

How are they going to cope when Kevin Horlock gets booked the next time and is subsequently suspended?

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What if Benty suffers a dip in form?

What if…?

Yeah, and a comet could crash to earth tomorrow and we will all be dead.

There is no point in worrying, let us all just celebrate a terrific team playing well most of the time, and getting results when they fall below their usual high standards.

For 45 minutes on Saturday, in front of an almost capacity 30,000 crowd, Town were second best.

Leeds' game plan worked perfectly. They strung five in midfield when they didn't have the ball, pressed Town's midfield so they did not have time or space to provide any service for Darren Bent or Shefki Kuqi.

Then when they had the ball, Leeds pushed David Healy and John Oster in from the flanks to support Brian Deane in a three-man attack and had the Blues rocking back on the heels.

Kelvin Davis made a super save to push away a stinging Oster drive as the on-loan Sunderland winger exploited Town's high defensive line. The Blues keeper made another equally important save at the death to deny Brian Deane and even though he didn't have a great deal to do in the intervening hour, Davis once again underlined his importance to the side with his second clean sheet in succession since returning from injury.

Richard Naylor enjoyed another good day, highlighted in the first half when he nicked the ball away from Healy's toe as the recent signing from Preston, bore down on goal.

Town's only real first-half chance came when Kevin Horlock delivered a left-footed inswinging free kick for Bent but his header went directly to Neil Sullivan.

The veteran keeper was fortunate to stay on the pitch in the second half when he deliberately, cowardly and needlessly stamped down on Kuqi's calf.

But by then a few of the Leeds players were unnecessarily losing their cool. Jermaine Wright was booked for a late challenge on Fabian Wilnis and lunged wildly at Ian Westlake, while Deane, Sean Gregan and Gary Kelly were also reckless, bordering on thugish, in some of their challenges.

They were frustrated after playing so well in the first half that they went a goal down and were impotent after that.

The change came three minutes after the break when Tommy Miller was forced off with an injured arm and Dean Bowditch made his first appearance this month.

Town went to a mirror image of Leeds' formation and the United defence could not cope particularly well with Bent's and Bowditch's pace and invention.

The Blues perked up, the crowd started roaring and the switch paid dividends almost immediately with Bent notching his eighth goal of the season three minutes later.

Horlock played a clever ball into the area and defenders Clarke Carlisle and Kelly collided with each other. The ball went through for Kuqi to hit a superb right-footed shot that Sullivan saved well. But Bent pounced on the loose ball, wriggled past Danny Pugh and touched it into the net as the keeper tried to recover.

Not the prettiest of his 44 Town goals but one of the most important, as Town go level with Wigan at the top of the Championship with only a three-goal difference separating the two teams.

Town threatened to swamp Leeds after that and were relentless in their attacks.

Bowditch, who will be away playing for the England Under-19s against France this week at Barnsley, was clearly enjoying tormenting Leeds with his weaving runs and clever play.

He was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet when he tried to get on the end of a terrific low cross by Bent but the experienced Kelly was back to scoop over the bar from close range.

After an indifferent first half, Horlock was once again pulling the strings while Jim Magilton enjoyed more possession and Town evaded the Leeds midfield.

But United have the makings of a very good side and once they gel they will look capable of going on a run to become late promotion challengers.

United exerted more pressure in the final 10 minutes, but this is a more astute Town defensive unit these days.

Jason De Vos and Naylor were solid sentinels in front of Davis, while Drissa Diallo settled to his task after an uncomfortable opening half hour, and Fabian Wilnis once again executed his duties brilliantly.

No one should get too carried away this early but, yes, perhaps we can start to dare to believe.

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