Town's game of cat and mouse

EVER seen a young cat after it's caught a mouse? Having got the thing in its paws, it will look confused as to what it should do next, and the poor rodent often suffers a long, lingering death as it gets transferred from paw to paw, sometimes allowed to escape before being dragged back again, and so on.

EVER seen a young cat after it's caught a mouse? Having got the thing in its paws, it will look confused as to what it should do next, and the poor rodent often suffers a long, lingering death as it gets transferred from paw to paw, sometimes allowed to escape before being dragged back again, and so on.

I know our club badge is a big horse, but for long periods on Saturday Town reminded me of that cat. At times the visitors were in danger of being swamped, but the second and third goals that would have snuffed out their afternoon never came, through a combination of poor finishing, bad choices in the final third and plain greediness.

Then, to extend the animal analogy a bit further, the mouse puffed out its cheeks, swelled to triple its normal size and came close to giving the cat a bloody nose.

But there we sit, top of the tree and proud as punch. The biggest crowd of the day in the division witnessed the best home record continued, and even if it wasn't vintage stuff, nobody would sniff at another clean sheet.


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We'll sit at the breakfast table this morning, or maybe on the train or bus, and drool over the league table, letting it burn into our minds. But, while it's all very well to revel in it, at the same time we have to be realistic.

This weekend we go to Crewe who, despite their lowly status, aren't far behind us in the goal-scoring stakes, and in Dean Ashton have the division's hottest striker on their books.

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Following that is the daunting trip to QPR, followed by a potentially titanic tussle against Wigan at Portman Road. Then come Millwall (away) and West Ham (home). There are some real tests coming up, and the fragile nature of the squad will be tested like never before this season.

The success of this campaign has come in spite of Royle's choices often being restricted. In an ideal world, we would add one or maybe even two new players to the side this week, and consolidate our position.

It doesn't work like that, of course, the club is at the mercy of market forces and wage demands, but one thing is for sure, the board can rest assured there will not be some disastrous fall in crowds, we've picked up the smell of success, and if anything attendances will continue to rise.

Back to Saturday though, when a grey afternoon was lit up by the Brighton keeper's outfit of red shirt and shorts to go with his bright white socks. Add in a white beard and he could have done a decent job as Santa, although he wasn't very generous in the second half, particularly when Tommy Miller burst through the middle to see his shot tipped aside.

It was a frustrating second 45. Kuqi could have killed off the Brighton challenge early on, had he squared the ball to Darren Bent rather than trying to go himself and, having looked less than impotent before the interval, the visitors gradually woke up and started to give us problems.

Substitute Leon Knight buzzed around and was a real pain for the latter stages of the match. It made you wonder why he was on the bench, while pensioner Steve Claridge risked a heart attack by playing the entire match.

There's something strange about seeing players who were scoring goals a decade ago still plodding on - it makes you stand and think of all the changes in your own life during their careers.

When Brian Deane was bumbling about for Leeds at Portman Road a fortnight ago, I mulled over the fact that I was doing my A-levels when he was ripping defences apart with Tony Agana at Bramall Lane.

On Saturday Claridge, who signed his first professional forms while I was in the womb, or at least it seems that way, toiled away, dragging his creaking bones up and down the pitch.

You could spot all the former Boy Scouts in the Portman Road crowd - they were the ones itching to get on the pitch, take his arm and help the old fellow out.

For us, Jim Magilton tried to rediscover his youth by going out on the right wing, where it would have been nice to see him skin a couple of players and recreate that goal against Bolton. He didn't; maybe next week.

When the referee put us out of our injury-time misery (you should have heard the gasp when the fourth official's board showed four minutes), everyone headed for the exits singing “we are top of the league” as the Brighton fans trilled out a ditty of their own towards the South Stand.

Worst support they've ever seen, apparently, although I bet they sing that every week.

They had a point.

The noise could have been better, but we're spoilt now, winning all the time at home, we sit back and wait to be entertained.

And even if the fans could do better, the team certainly can't. Even if they sometimes miss that killer instinct.

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