Town turn on style after interval
IF this had been a play at a theatre, then half the audience would not have bothered coming back from the interval.But in football you never know quite what you will get, and the 2,500 travelling Town fans will have been delighted they stayed to the sweet end.
By Derek Davis
IF this had been a play at a theatre, then half the audience would not have bothered coming back from the interval.
But in football you never know quite what you will get, and the 2,500 travelling Town fans will have been delighted they stayed to the sweet end.
After complete dross in the first half the game turned, bizarrely enough after Watford took the lead.
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The Hornets tried to take the sting out of the game but sat back and allowed Town, who had changed to a 4-3-3 at half-time from the staid 4-4-2, to come back at them.
Watford could not cope with the switch in strategy as Jim Magilton was unleashed to an attacking role, with Jermaine Wright coming into his own working from deep with Chris Bart-Williams in the holding role.
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Of late, Wright has certainly looked more like the player we have been promised but rarely seen and was effective at tidying up and getting things going, which allowed Magilton to pull the strings in midfield. Certainly, Neal Ardley and Gavin Mahon found him to be a will-o'-the-wisp operating behind the front three.
The Blues had made an inspired double substitution with the ineffective Alun Armstrong replaced by Pablo Counago, and the busy but lightweight Ian Westlake giving way to debut-making Shekfi Kuqi.
The introduction of those two, and in particular Counago, sparked a lacklustre Darren Bent as the Spaniard held the ball up well, took players on and fed his strik partners.
But that was all after Watford had given Town a fright. They came out buzzing in the second half, and only last-ditch defending by Richard Naylor prevented them scoring before they did.
The goal came a couple of minutes after the break when Davis made a brilliant one-handed save to turn away a Lee Cook free kick for a corner. The flag kick worked its way back out to Cook who mis-hit his 25-yard shot but it fell kindly for Scott Fitzgerald.
The youngster, picked up from non-league Northwood, in turn scuffed his eight-yard shot, deceiving the luckless Davis.
But instead of pressing home their advantage the hosts sat back and allowed Ipswich to take control.
The equaliser came from Kuqi with only his second touch for Town after signing on loan from Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.
Georges Santos had made a solid block before quickly delivering the ball to an unmarked Magilton. The skipper swivelled before picking out the Finland striker with a sublime 40-yard diagonal pass from the outside of his right boot, and Kuqi got past Paul Robinson before hitting the ball low past the advancing Chamberlain.
Kuqi missed a relatively simple headed chance when Fabian Wilnis picked him out with a deep cross and the powerful Finn drove another effort wide, to the anger of the well-placed Counago and Bent in the area.
It mattered little as Counago worked his way into the area but Robinson tackled, only to send the ball back to Magilton who, after seeing Chamberlain off his line, deliberately chipped the ball over the keeper from the edge of the 18-yard box.
It was an exquisite finish which gave Town their third league win on the trot. Last season's victory at Vicarage Road sparked a Town revival, and hopefully this will be a good omen. But there were plenty of worrying signs in the first half, when both teams played like nervous, lowly Division One clubs.
The return of Alan Mahon will boost the Blues at Sunderland tomorrow night, while Kuqi's arrival will offer more choice up front if the attack is as flat as it was for a while on Saturday.
The Blues' fans were the star turn in the first half with their constant urging and chanting, but for 45 minutes it fell on deaf ears.
Even assistant manager Willie Donachie's constant chastisement from the edge of the technical area did not seem to have any effect.
Ipswich were even more appalling than Watford, who at least engineered some attacking moves. A Neal Ardley corner was headed towards his own goal by Magilton, but Matt Richards cleared off the line after just two minutes. Wright cracked a shot against the crossbar from 20 yards and Robinson blocked an Armstrong shot.
But on the whole Chamberlain did not have a save to make in the first half and had time to contemplate the days when he was a trainee at Portman Road before going on to ply his trade at Colchester United and then onwards once more.
His counterpart, on the other hand, was far busier, as Davis looked to celebrate his 27th birthday today with his first league clean sheet for Town.
He made a fabulous save from Scott Fitzgerald, and then a standard stop when the Watford striker shot straight to him.
It all looked pretty worrying until the half-time change-around and Town have now beaten three of the bottom six and drawn against one. But even with an impressive second half there is a long way to go to a top-six place.