Season ends on a high note

IPSWICH Town ended the season on a high note with a total demolition of George Burley's Derby County in the Pride Park sunshine yesterday.The match was meaningless other than for the fact that it confirmed Ipswich would finish ahead of East Anglian rivals Norwich in the Division One table.

IPSWICH Town ended the season on a high note with a total demolition of George Burley's Derby County in the Pride Park sunshine yesterday.

The match was meaningless other than for the fact that it confirmed Ipswich would finish ahead of East Anglian rivals Norwich in the Division One table. This is, of course, important for so many fans.

On paper, Derby County looked powerful with ageing former Premiership players like Rob Lee, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Craig Burley and Giorgi Kinkladze in their starting line-up. For a while the Rams looked to have the upper hand – it was no great surprise when, after 23 minutes of pretty but punchless football, Lee put them ahead. He rode a tackle from Chris Makin and moved menacingly into the penalty area on the right. He chipped the ball over Andy Marshall's head from a narrow angle. It struck the inside of the far post and ended in the net.

Nine minutes later Ipswich, going up a couple of gears, were on terms. Jim Magilton supplied a glorious ball for Pablo Counago to chase down the right. The Spaniard jinked past Paul Ritchie on the edge of the penalty area and drilled the ball low across the goalmouth. Ian Evatt, an early deputy for veteran skipper Warren Barton, could only turn the ball into his own net with Darren Bent breathing down his neck.

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In the 37th minute, Fabian Wilnis sent Tommy Miller on a powerful surge down the right. His low, driven cross left the Derby defence all at sea. Darren Bent's first strike was blocked by Andy Oakes but the Ipswich teenager was first to the rebound and made no mistake.

The third Ipswich goal came after Evatt fouled Marcus Bent just outside the penalty area down the inside-left channel. Matt Holland and Magilton stood over the ball. It was Magilton who spotted a huge gap to the left of the goal and curled his shot into the net, well out of the reach of Oakes.

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It all looked so simple.

There were chants of "Super Jim" from the large Town following and he responded by giving a classy display. If he leaves in the summer, as seems probable, he will be sadly missed.

Ipswich waited until injury time at the very end for their fourth goal. How fitting it was that Holland should have cracked the ball into the net from 15 yards after Martijn Reuser and Counago had created the opening. Although Ipswich hope that they might be able to afford to keep Holland next season the matter seems very much up in the air.

Even though there was an end-of- season feeling about the match, Ipswich outclassed the home side once they were back on terms.

The skills of Kinkladze were a sheer joy to watch. It was sad to see Ravanelli, said to be paid £40,000 a week, so ineffective. The Italian won a few flicked headers, early on but Makin marked him tightly to make life difficult. By the end Ravanelli was being barracked, which was sad for a player who was once so good.

There seemed little chance of a Derby revival after the interval even though Ipswich became sloppy in defence in the closing stages.

Andy Marshall had very little to do as Ravanelli and Tommy Mooney were given little freedom. It became different when George Burley introduced the fresh legs of teenager Izale McLeod. He caught Thomas Gaardsoe napping, robbed the Dane and would have scored but for Marshall's swift reflexes. Then McLeod struck the post and the clearance was completed by 16-year-old Aidan Collins who made a tremendous impression on his brief debut. Collins won vital headers, used his long legs in well-timed tackles and could be another home-produced Town defender off a conveyer belt that has turned out Kevin Beattie, Russell Osman and Terry Butcher over the years.

There was a period in the second half when the crowd, becoming a shade bored, were cheering every successful pass. Then, on the hour, Town boss Joe Royle introduced Reuser from off the bench and the Dutchman provided a new urgency and fresh hope that Ipswich would add to their tally. He fired in a couple of fierce shots, one just wide and the other skimming the bar. He certainly kept Oakes on his toes.

It was strange for Ipswich fans to see George Burley in the opposition dugout. They called on him to give them a wave but he had enough on his plate trying to liven the Derby display.

It could be the end of an era at both Derby and Ipswich with many of the best known names on top money having to make way for newcomers on more realistic incomes. If Burley is given the Derby job on a permanent basis he certainly has plenty of scope for improvement. Royle, apart from the sorry home defeat against Wimbledon, has Ipswich playing constructive football in addition to taking the chance to blood youngsters.

Another teenager to make his debut late on was Antonio Murray but nine minutes was hardly enough to enable him to do himself justice.

The season is over, Ipswich just missed out on the play-offs but there will be hope for the future so long as there is an indication of support by a quick renewal of season tickets. Ipswich Town are desperate for a cash boost.

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