Time to relax and enjoy the ride

WHILE it is not exactly deck chairs and cigars time, the feeling that Ipswich are Premiership-bound is inescapable.The Blues would have to commit major hara-kiri to blow automatic promotion now and after three and a half years of hurt it is time for Town fans to relax and enjoy themselves.

By Derek Davis

WHILE it is not exactly deck chairs and cigars time, the feeling that Ipswich are Premiership-bound is inescapable.

The Blues would have to commit major hara-kiri to blow automatic promotion now and after three and a half years of hurt it is time for Town fans to relax and enjoy themselves.

Not just for the next four months of the Championship run-in - but for the next 18 months.


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Almost 4,000 Town fans will head down the M4 to Reading in good heart after more proof that Ipswich's name is written, if not on the Championship trophy, then the runner's-up prize at least.

The worriers who look far enough ahead and groan 'but we will come straight back down again' should get an attitude adjustment of the same proportion as those who used to mock and knock Shefki Kuqi.

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Yes, it would be great if Town could survive, and you never know, although common sense and a few million quid tell you otherwise, but even if they don't this time round, everyone should enjoy the ride. They should enjoy being back with the big boys and look forward to having more than a few pounds tucked away in the bank ready for an even better prepared challenge the following season.

How many of this side, this glorious few who have done so much with so little for so many, will be gracing the likes of Anfield, Old Trafford, St James' Park, Highbury and Stamford Bridge next season is another matter.

But for now the 19 players who have been involved in getting Town to the top and staying there since before Christmas are doing a splendid job.

Of course they also continue to have Lady Luck looking over them.

How on earth did Coventry allow themselves to be beaten by a freak goal supplied by Kelvin Davis? The keeper's shank-come-grubber kick somehow made its way through the entire 20 outfield players to Kuqi, who burst past the painfully slow Richard Shaw before positively drilling his left-footed shot past a stunned Luke Steele.

Flukey build-up maybe but you can't argue with the finish from the Finn, who had scorned a couple of better chances, gave away a penalty for Coventry to equalise, after they had opened the scoring in the first place, and generally did more work than some Premiership teams' strikers over a season.

Kuqi epitomises what Ipswich are all about this season, glimpses of quality, mountains of spirit and unpredictability.

For the 10th time this season the Blues came from behind and after a tepid first half produced a far more convincing second half.

Those who dip into the Championship now and again for a look will be wondering how Town are top. Certainly their capacity to make things hard for themselves is almost unique. Even though they knew that Coventry would load the midfield with five players, two who can turn quickly into attacking wingers, the Blues looked totally devoid of ideas on how to deal with it.

Jim Magilton and Kevin Horlock could not get on the ball and City got the better of that battle. They also turned their attention to Danny Karbassiyoon, who struggled when forced to defend, although looked comfortable going forward.

The Arsenal loanee lost the ball for City to score after 12 minutes as Fulham loanee Dean Leacock pounced to play a terrific through pass for Stern John.

The Trinidad & Tobago international found himself onside and ran square to go away from the despairing Davis and tucked away his fifth goal of the campaign.

Although Fabian Wilnis almost scored his first goal of the season, denied by a solid save by Steele, and Kuqi volleyed a 16-yard shot powerfully but not accurately, Town had to wait until the stroke of half time before levelling.

Jason De Vos showed some neat work to keep the ball in play on the dead ball line, pulled it back for Wilnis and the Dutchman delivered a peach of a dipping cross which Darren Bent poked in from six yards.

It was an instinctive poacher's finish and a goal he so needed after a dry spell of five matches. Not a crisis really but an unusually long streak for Bent.

That he would score another now was almost inevitable and his second was pure class.

The irrepressible Magilton played a stunning pass through to Bent who worked to beat his marker, Shaw, and with Steele advancing he clipped his right-foot shot over and past him and the ball hit the inside of the far post to go in.

He knows he should have had a hat-trick but Bent stays on 13 goals despite a shoot-on-sight policy after that goal.

City almost scored straight away with Davis once again saving well from the lively Gary McSheffrey.

The equaliser came in unfortunate circumstances as Micky Doyle's not very well hit corner bounced up awkwardly and struck Kuqi's arm and the rookie referee Mick Russell rightly awarded a penalty.

McSheffrey's finish was emphatic as the ball powered into a top corner.

Kuqi almost did the same thing again moments later but got away with it. He was clearly rattled and conceded a free-kick by pulling Doyle back. Steve Staunton's free-kick was headed just over the bar by John.

Then came the Davis-Kuqi combination and City knew it was game over.

It remains to be seen when the rest of the division accepts it is Championship over. Although Sunderland refuse to be shaken, Reading are looking a little rattled, and it is only Wigan that look the real worry.

Like Town they have maintained a decent consistency and it is unlikely that either team will lose too many more matches, and that will be that.

Equally, while Town fans will party from now to May you can rest assured that the team will keep them on the toes with unconvincing displays, outstanding performances with an entertainment value taken to a new level.

Whatever the twists and turns, if the maintain an average of two points a game, then they are home and dry except for the Champagne soaking.

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