Town unlucky to lose at Stadium of Light

DEFEATED but not disgraced.No one really expected Town to come to the Stadium of Light and record their first victory in their six visits but after 90 rip-roaring minutes it was a travesty they did not get at least their second draw, writes Derek Davis.

DEFEATED but not disgraced.

No one really expected Town to come to the Stadium of Light and record their first victory in their six visits but after 90 rip-roaring minutes it was a travesty they did not get at least their second draw, writes Derek Davis.

Sunderland had to stretch every sinew before escaping by a whisker with the win which takes them into the top five.

The Blues gave by far their best showing of the season which may be of little comfort but will give heart to every Town fan whether they were here or not.

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Darren Bent had a lot of help with a Gary Breen deflection to open the scoring but the Sunderland defender equalised before half-time.

John Oster put Sunderland ahead but gutsy Town replied through Richard Naylor before Kevin Kyle headed the Mackems' winner late on.

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While it was a bit Black Cat and not-so-timid mouse in the first half, it was like two tigers ripping into each other in the second.

Town's attacking intent was evident straight away though they had little in the way of penetration in a caget first half.

Skipper Jim Magilton was again pulling the strings and getting forward well. He tried another of his special chips from the edge of the area, again the keeper was beaten but this time he clipped the top of the crossbar.

Joe Royle stuck with the three up front which had brought second-half success at Watford on Saturday and it worked a treat.

He resisted the temptation to bring back fit-again Alan Mahon as he had not trained for a week.

So with Pablo Counago in the middle, Darren Bent and Shekqi Kuqi alternated on the left and the Black Cats struggled to cope.

The trio combined to get Town's opener in the 36th minute. Kuqi chested the ball down and Counago showed deft touch to slip a diagonal ball in to the speedy Bent, whose low shot across goal was deflected in by Breen.

Town were once keen to sign the central defender who showed he can also get among the goals.

He atoned for his own goal to equalise for the Black Cats a couple of minutes before the break.

Julio Arca delivered a free-kick from wide, Oster flicked on with his head and Breen just got ahead of Kuqi to dink the ball in past Kelvin Davis from close range.

It was tough on Town who just about deserved to go in ahead in what was probably their best first half this season – so far.

It was even tougher on them to fall behind four minutes after the break when Darren Williams took advantage of Town's failure to clear a loose ball and delivered it deep from the right to the far post where Thomas Butler headed back across goal for the unmarked Oster to finish.

But this is a spirited Ipswich and the players showed their resilience and character to bounce back almost immediately.

Magilton swung his corner towards the penalty spot and Naylor powered a header low past Mart Poom in front of the stand housing the terrific Town travelling support.

Much to the Spaniard's chagrin Counago was sacrificed as Royle went to a 4-4-2 and Mahon went into midfield.

While the Blues punched and probed it was Sunderland who had the clearer chances. A curling shot by Breen from 18 yards was brilliantly tipped away by the agile Davis. Kyle missed from 16 yards and went looking for a penalty when he sprawled over Davis's legs, which got the Mackems excited but the referee uninterested. Davis further infuriated the home crowd by taking his time replacing a boot and a glove before taking the goal-kick.

But they can not deny his ability as he made another wonderful tip-over save, this time from Sunderland's new signing from Watford, Tommy Smith.

Jermaine Wright was warned about being too ferocious in his tackling and this epitomised just how committed this team was.

And so it was heartbreaking to see Kyle leap high above everyone to reach an Arca cross from the dead-ball line and head in from close range and ensure Town did not break their Stadium of Light duck.

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