Routine victory over ragged Owls

IPSWICH Town took three points from Hillsborough on Saturday with a well-worked corner routine in the 17th minute. Jim Magilton fired in the flag-kick from the right, Darren Bent nodded the ball forward and Matt Holland headed home from close range.

IPSWICH Town took three points from Hillsborough on Saturday with a well-worked corner routine in the 17th minute. Jim Magilton fired in the flag-kick from the right, Darren Bent nodded the ball forward and Matt Holland headed home from close range, writes Tony Garnett.

It looked simple enough, in fact almost a carbon copy of Holland's effort at Crystal Palace last Tuesday that was touched over the bar by the goalkeeper.

The costly corner resulted from a back-pass by Garry Monk, on loan from Southampton, that completely beat goalkeeper Paul Evans.

Ipswich were vastly superior to a ragged Sheffield Wednesday side who look destined for life in Division Two. The only frustration was that Town were unable to increase their margin of victory to make life less tense in the closing stages.

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A second Ipswich goal looked probable just before the interval. In the 37th minute Darren Bent headed wide from a cross by Matt Richards. Then Darren Bent, set up by Fabian Wilnis and Holland, grazed the bar with a close-range shot.

At that stage Darren Bent was perhaps still feeling the effects of a crunching late challenge by goalkeeper Evans who had raced out of his penalty area to send the young Town striker tumbling when in pursuit of a pass from Richards down the left. Evans was rightly booked by referee Frazer Stretton who controlled an often physical match with good sense.

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Ipswich seemed content to play a containing game for much of the second half although Evans saved well from Marcus Bent who showed once again that he possesses Premiership quality.

The ball flew to Martijn Reuser but the flag was up for offside from the cross. Town were caught out 10 times, some of them marginal.

It would be misleading to suggest that this was in any way a classic football match. The worn pitch and tricky breeze made it difficult to produce stylish football.

Suffice to say that Ipswich tried to pass the ball around as much as possible while Wednesday were more intent on hoisting long balls for their dual battering rams, Lee Bradbury and Shefki Kuqi, to pursue.

The main exception was little Irishman Alan Quinn who often set off like a whippet at the Ipswich defence only to find he was running up blind alleyways. Michael Reddy, on loan from Sunderland, started brightly but disappeared into his shell.

It is sad to see a great club like Sheffield Wednesday in such rapid decline. They looked to have the potential for survival in Division One when they lost 2-1, somewhat unluckily, at Portman Road in October under Terry Yorath. On Saturday one was left wondering how they managed to beat Coventry City 5-1 in their last home match and then force a 1-1 draw at Leicester. Hope of staying up must be fading fast.

Wednesday were too predictable. Andy Marshall had little trouble coping with long shots, mainly from Kuqi. The fear for Town was that, with such a slender lead, they might be robbed by a deflection or ricochet as they absorbed pressure.

In the end Ipswich held out safely enough just as hundreds of disheartened Wednesday fans, who had made an early departure from the ground, felt sure they would. There was little to suggest that Wednesday would break through on merit.

Now the fear at Hillsborough must be of embarrassment next season if Hartlepool United, manager Chris Turner's former club, prove too good for the Owls. That would be a real kick in the teeth for supporters brought up on a classy fare supplied by the likes of Chris Waddell, Paolo Di Canio, Des Walker and Benito Carbone.

It was a great result for Ipswich, especially in view of the fact that seven first-team regulars were ruled out by injury. Marcus Bent limped off with a tight hamstring and is now a doubt for tomorrow's home match with Reading.

Four teenagers were involved in the Ipswich triumph. Darren Bent and Richards both started while Ian Westlake and 16-year-old Dean Bowditch appeared in the closing stages. These are worrying times for Ipswich Town because of their financial troubles but it is exciting to see so much youthful talent emerge.

Manager Joe Royle was delighted by the composure all his youngsters displayed. He could not resist telling the press that they would be hearing much more of Bowditch before long.

Holland, who would have played in central defence had Tommy Miller not failed a late fitness test, was outstanding in central midfield. Royle is keeping his fingers crossed that he is able to keep all his present staff until after the transfer deadline fast approaching.

How Sheffield Wednesday must now be regretting their decision in 1999 to let Magilton join Ipswich. They could do with his creativity at the moment.

The other pleasing aspect for Ipswich was to keep a clean sheet. This was made possible by the fact Thomas Gaardsoe and Richard Naylor held firm through the middle without the need to resort to a sweeper system.

Wilnis, one of the Town players whose contract expires at the end of the season, is giving everything to a club who offered him a free transfer last summer. Richards is starting to look a sound prospect in a back four. He will become stronger and grow in confidence. Town's Academy is bearing fruit when most needed.

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