Same again will be good enough

FOR the next couple of days there will be a host of lucky charm touching, the prayer mats will be out, mirrors and black cats will be avoided but if Ipswich are to get to the final then the answer is simple, writes Derek Davis.

FOR the next couple of days there will be a host of lucky charm touching, the prayer mats will be out, mirrors and black cats will be avoided but if Ipswich are to get to the final then the answer is simple, writes Derek Davis.

Same again lads.

A repeat of this level of performance will over-ride any heathen ceremony or rubbing of rosary beads.

Quite simply Ipswich were superb all over the park, while West Ham never really looked the footballing aristocrats their followers claim they still are.

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Town won the midfield battle as promised, nullifying the over-rated Michael Carrick and a past-his-best Steve Lomas.

Tommy Miller covered the right effectively, Jim Magilton came in from the left while Ian Westlake did the dog work in central midfield and Jermaine Wright pulled the strings.

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The Town defence matched the display they had put on against Sunderland just a month ago with John McGreal and Matt Elliott again providing the solid base sadly lacking for most of the season.

And while the attack has been more efficient, they did what they had to do when it mattered with Richard Naylor rattling the woodwork before Darren Bent pounced for his 16th goal of the season.

We wondered which Ipswich would turn up, well the right one did. The team kept its shape, worked their socks off, defended as a unit when they had to and sprung forward dangerously when they could.

The frightening thing for the Hammers is the Blues can be even better.

Certainly EADT/Powergen Player of the Year Bent can be a tad sharper, and a little more deadly in front of goal. If any of the aforesaid lucky charms had been operating then Town could easily have had a couple of more goals to take to east London tomorrow.

Supporters' Player of the Year Westlake was desperately unlucky to see Andy Melville clear off the line, via a post, after yet another magnificent Wright pass, left-footed from the centre circle, was chased down by the Bent.

The England Under-21 striker nipped past committed keeper Stephen Bywater, before pulling ball back for Westlake to see his shot from 16 yards cleared by the recovering Melville.

Players' Player of the Year Wright hit a volley from the edge of the area from a Magilton corner, on the stroke of half time, which, if it had gone in, would have rivalled the goal he struck at Rotherham. Instead it skimmed a post and rippled the side-netting.

The winner epitomised the terrific passing play and swift movement linking midfield and attack.

Skipper Magilton, who played out of his skin for 70 minutes, played a ball over the top for Bent to chase down the left flank. The young striker tried to pick out his captain who had raced into the area but the ball was cleared.

Fabian Wilnis reacted quickly to put in Wright, who looked for a shooting chance but then cleverly laid a little ball to his right. Naylor took it on before crashing a tremendous effort against the angle of post and cross bar and Tomas Repka failed to clear and instead deflected it to the predatory Bent, who was on hand to nod in from eight yards and spark delirium among the 28,000 crowd, with 33 minutes left to go.

Naylor's contribution made amends for a bad miss, when he made a clever run to get on the end of a Magilton free-kick but miscued the finish from six yards out.

The second half had been a little tighter after a terrific first half in which the play from both teams would have graced the Premiership with its quality, precision and pace.

The Hammers had their moments when Marlon Harewood put the ball in the net but the whistle had already gone for a foul on the sterling McGreal. The former Nottingham Forest striker's next opportunity went in to the side netting.

Bobby Zamora, a hot shot with Brighton but a failure in the Premiership with Tottenham, had a coupe of chances but dragged shots wide of the goal.

A failed free-kick by Carrick was followed by a dismal effort from David Connolly.

It wasn't until late in the second half that Kelvin Davis had to extend himself and as usual he acquitted himself superbly. A terrific push-away save from a Carrick free-kick was followed by an acrobatic and brave take when the ball was crossed back into a busy box.

Magilton went off to well-deserved rapturous applause, in complete contrast to the week before, and even had time to hand the captain's armband to worthy recipient Wright.

Dean Bowditch replaced Bent, who showed tremendous character to ignore the week's events to do a decent job, although the 17-year-old replacement never quite got into his stride.

Shefki Kuqi replaced McGreal, who went off as a precaution because of a calf strain, and the ultra-reliable Naylor dropped into the back line.

The disruptions barely bothered Ipswich, the Hammers could not upset them and if the Blues can find the same rhythm as quickly tomorrow then the Welsh valleys will resound to the singing of the Portman Road choir.

All it needs is for Town to do something they have not managed so far this season – two high-quality performances in a row.

The belief is they can do it but touch whatever it is you have to – just to make sure.

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