Town stand up to aggressive tactics

FIRST they won the battle - then they won the game.Ipswich Town showed a new steel and determination to see off a Sunderland side that reflected their new manager's personality.

By Derek Davis

FIRST they won the battle - then they won the game.

Ipswich Town showed a new steel and determination to see off a Sunderland side that reflected their new manager's personality.

But while the Black Cats were all hissing and snarling, the Blues refused to be intimidated and gave as good as they got and then some more.


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There is no doubt that Ipswich would have buckled under such a physical approach not so long ago but the team ethos and a new-found edge means that the message is loud and clear - Ipswich are no longer a soft touch.

When Chris Brown was overly aggressive in a challenge on Sito Castro, the Spaniard's team-mates' reaction was instant and collective.

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Of course, violence can not be condoned but when one of your own is apparently getting kicked and elbowed, as Sito was, as were Darren Currie and Mark Noble, the team has to show they will not allow it to happen and will stick together.

They stood up, they stood strong and they stood together.

At the same time, Dan Harding's two-footed lunge on Ross Wallace was over the top and he was fortunate not to be dismissed. As it was, the referee did not even give a foul.

No wonder Roy Keane, his bench and the Sunderland players were so incensed but the Mackem manager was gracious in defeat afterwards and refused to condemn any of the tackles. Instead he said: “If you don't like tackles don't watch football, go and watch snooker.”

Fair enough, because no quarter was asked, nor given, by either side and the whipped-up Portman Road crowd backed their boys to the full.

The full-blooded approach inevitable led to numerous free- kicks and bookings that would eventually hurt Sunderland the most. It was Town though that went behind after conceding a free-kick and lack of communication meant skipper Jason De Vos putting through his own goal, with as well struck right-footed drive as you will see. Perhaps the commanding Canadian will do it at the other end next time.

Ill-discipline by Sunderland skipper Dean Whitehead, who gave away a needless free-kick by jumping at Darren Currie, was suitably punished.

Darren had been looking to curry favour after being left out of the starting line-up five times out of six previously.

He curled in a 35-yard free-kick around the wall and past a despairing Ben Alnwick, who should have done a lot better.

Currie was involved in Alan Lee's first goal, which gave the Blues the lead. Mark Noble, a warrior in midfield, had tricked his way past a couple of Sunderland players and laid back for Currie who crossed. Neil Collins could only head the ball upwards, and while Alnwick stayed rooted to his line, Lee glanced a looping header back into the empty space.

Two minutes later, the former Republic of Ireland team-mate of Keane's wrapped up the game as he charged onto a long, headed clearance by De Vos. He got the better of Stanislav Varga, who slipped to the ground, and then rounded the keeper before sliding the ball in.

Sunderland had no answer. After their bully-boy tactics failed, they had little in the way of quality to trouble Town.

Dwight Yorke looked lost in his first start since signing from Terry Butcher's side Sydney FC in Australia for £200,000 and Lewis Price did not have a save to make all afternoon. Brown had the best chance but volleyed off target in the first half, while Robbie Elliott let fly from range without reward.

The Blues midfield ran the game, with Noble, in particular not putting up with any nonsense, allowing Gavin Williams to play and Currie, especially first half, to delivere good ball after good ball.

The raft of bookings eventually led to Ross Wallace being dismissed four minutes from time after picking up his second caution when he slid into a busy Billy Clarke.

Referee Mike Russell did a good job in lively circumstances and, like all officials over the weekend, was wearing a black armband on his yellow shirt as a mark of respect for former referee Peter Foakes, from Clacton, who died while playing badminton last Monday.

Russell called both captains together in the first half to tell the players to cool it, although it had little effect because moments later Wallace picked up his first booking for a wild swing.

It made for good entertainment, an old fashioned rip-roarer of a game, but the bottom line was Town were tough enough and good enough to win while ending Roy Keane's unbeaten run as a manager takes their league run without loss to six.

It also sets up a mouth-watering local derby with Colchester United, the first time the teams have met in the league for almost 50 years, and with the added spice being that both bosses are in with a chance to be September's Manager of the Month.

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