Town show their resolve
IF – sorry, when – Ipswich get into the play-offs then one thing above all else will have got them there – resolve.Yes, they can score goals for fun; yes, they have an enviable quality, especially in midfield; and yes, they have a managerial team who can think on their feet to make tactical and personnel changes that prove crucial.
By Derek Davis
IF – sorry, when – Ipswich get into the play-offs then one thing above all else will have got them there – resolve.
Yes, they can score goals for fun; yes, they have an enviable quality, especially in midfield; and yes, they have a managerial team who can think on their feet to make tactical and personnel changes that prove crucial.
They also have individuals who can make a difference.
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Martijn Reuser was the hero at Priestfield with two swings of his right boot that first equalised, and then provided the winner.
Darren Bent again came up with the goods. Despite not playing particularly well up front he showed perfect positioning and technique to head in the winner and his determination almost led to another for the England Under-21 striker when he hit a post.
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They also have a squad with enough strength in depth to handle most setbacks, as Lewis Price showed when he was called upon to make his debut after Kelvin Davis went down sick.
And in Richard Naylor they have a player who epitomises the Blues' resolve.
After failing to deal with the expected Gills onslaught and going behind to a John Hills penalty, Town showed a resoluteness to not only win this game but also to suggest they could win the six left which would take them into the Premiership.
They steadfastly refused to give up, and in the end showed enough determination, skill and fitness to overcome relegation-threatened Gillingham.
For quite a while it looked as if it was going to be one of those days.
Davis was sent home after failing to shake off a stomach bug which had earlier plagued Jermaine Wright. Wright himself had recovered sufficiently to play, but despite giving his all was still suffering.
In came 19-year-old Price whose first touch was an easy take from Nicky Southall – his second was to pick the ball out of the net after Matt Elliott had been done for pace by Patrick Agyemang and conceded a penalty.
Although the Gills had missed three previous spot-kicks, Hills made no mistake this time when he drove straight down the middle as Price went to the kicker's right.
Elliott was baled out more than once by partner John McGreal as he struggled with Agyemang and Mamady Sidibe, while Matt Richards and Fabian Wilnis were also being hard-pressed.
So much so that the whole back four were booked before half-time by stand-in referee Steve Dunn. The Bristol official replaced Paul Durkin, who had cried off injured the day before.
Led by player/manager Andy Hessenthaler and Ipswich-supporting Gills skipper Paul Smith, the Kent side hustled Town so much they could never get into their stride.
Shefki Kuqi might have had a penalty when Hessenthaler took him from behind as he tried to finish a Jim Magilton corner, but quite often the Kosovan's first touch deserted him and he was hauled off 10 minutes before the break and replaced by Naylor.
That steadied things a little but it was at half-time that Royle once again worked his magic.
Drissa Diallo went on in place of Wilnis, and Town reverted to three centre-backs, with the Frenchman given the task of nullifying Sidibe's threat, which he did superbly.
The coup de grace came 10 minutes after the break, when Reuser replaced a hamstrung Tommy Miller.
Seven minutes later the Dutchman curled an exquisite free kick over the wall from fully 30 yards, which was described by more than one as Beckhamesque.
Although the Gills threatened occasionally, it was Ipswich who showed more purpose and when Matt Richards and Reuser combined the end result was almost inevitable.
From near the left wing corner flag Reuser crossed to the far post and Bent rose to head back across goal and in for his 15th of the season.
There was still time for more action as Reuser slipped a ball into Richards' path and his thunderous drive was superbly saved one-handed by Steve Banks.
There would have still been time to drop points but Wright averted danger with a good tackle and Price smothered a couple of half chances.
Ipswich have now won six out of their last seven games and their ability to switch from strugglers to match-winners is down to their resoluteness as much as anything else.
More resolve will be needed in the weeks to come, and by the look of it the Blues have it in abundance, though it would be less stressful for all concerned if they didn't keep doing things the hard way and just killed teams off early.