WHEN so many of a team's players are on top of their game, as Ipswich's were against Derby, then they take some stopping.The all-round team performance may have fallen a little short of that against Nottingham Forest, who they whipped 6-0, but it was still more than good enough to beat a decent Derby side.
WHEN so many of a team's players are on top of their game, as Ipswich's were against Derby, then they take some stopping.
The all-round team performance may have fallen a little short of that against Nottingham Forest, who they whipped 6-0, but it was still more than good enough to beat a decent Derby side.
Rams boss George Burley will now know how much further his side has to go to get anyway near parity with the Blues but there are positive signs for Derby.
As was fitting, Burley was given a standing ovation as he made his way down the touchline to take his place in the dugout before the game and his team gave him a hopeful start with a seventh-minute goal.
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But the warm feeling was not to last long as Town responded for the 11th time this season to come from behind and earn a result.
All teams are only as good as their weakest link and the central defensive pairing of Pablo Mills and the woefully disappointing Tom Huddlestone proved to be Derby's undoing.
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They could not cope with the pace and power of Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi who in turn were given the sort of service all strikers dream of.
If the Finn had been at his sharpest, he would have put away two relatively simple chances in the first half, with the mercurial Bent and Ian Westlake providing the ammunition.
Those two scorned opportunities marred an otherwise good display as Kuqi worked well in tandem with his partner, who was extremely lively.
Kuqi's powerful surge down Town's right wing after dispossessing Inigo Idiakez and leaving the hapless Mills in his wake helped set up the first goal.
His low cross for Bent was well controlled and the youngster showed great composure to turn and lay the ball into Jim Magilton's path. The skipper's side-footed shot from 15-yards took a deflection off Derby captain Jeff Kenna to wrong-foot Lee Camp. That gave the Irishman his first goal since September 27, 2003 when he helped win the game at Watford.
The 24th-minute equaliser against the Rams was just about deserved after the Blues were punished for sloppy early play.
With Matt Richards dropped, it didn't appear in the opening minutes as if Town knew what system they were playing. David Unsworth looked exposed with no cover in front of him as Darren Currie went to do what he is good at and attack. Idiakez and Tommy Smith combined to cut a swathe down that flank and Smith surged virtually unopposed for 30 yards before Fabian Wilnis blocked his attempted shot. Unfortunately, the ball rebounded fortuitously up for an unmarked Marcus Tudgay to loop his 10-yard header over the despairing Kelvin Davis.
Smith then headed wide from six yards while Idiakez made a right mess of a 20-yard shot, as Derby outnumbered Town on a counter. But the Blues were soon clawing their way on top.
They went ahead straight from Derby's second half kick-off when Adam Bolder lost the ball to Tommy Miller.
The former Hartlepool midfielder hit an exquisite through-ball from his own half straight into the path of Bent. The young striker raced clear and beat his England international team-mate Camp with a confident 20-yard finish to notch his 16th goal of the season.
Derby could not live with the rampant Ipswich side who poured forward with confidence and some lovely football.
The third was inevitable and stemmed from a Darren Currie corner. Mills cleared Kuqi's diving header off the line but the ball fell to the predatory Miller who was lurking just outside the area. Although it went to him awkwardly, Miller caught the ball superbly and his shot skipped up past Camp.
Ipswich should have killed the game off for the remaining 20 minutes but Idiakez was allowed to get in a free header from another good Smith delivery to set up a tense final five minutes.
It can only be hoped that another needlessly conceded late goal doesn't come back to hurt them if things come down to goal difference.
On the whole, Kelvin Davis had little to do all afternoon but what he did do was crucial. A save from a wonderfully-taken 35-yard Idiakez free kick kept the Rams at bay, and in the dying seconds he made a fantastic low catch to deny a Morten Bisgaard header.
If that equaliser had gone in it would have been tough on an Ipswich side that might have had at least six more goals.
Apart from the two glaring misses, Kuqi also thundered a shot across the crossbar. Richard Naylor did likewise with a diving header from a corner and had another effort cleared off the line by Bolder.
The Blues will need to match this level of performance in midfield and attack, while tightening up a little at the back, against Rotherham tomorrow or the whole effort will have been wasted.
It is no good beating the better teams and then losing points to sides who they should beat, as has happened in the past.
Promotion beckons and if all the players reach the levels they are capable of then there is no reason why Town can't achieve their stated aim of winning all their remaining six games.