Town win again
THAT was better – now the Blues must kick on.After three performances all disappointing in varying degrees, Ipswich finally stepped up a gear and blew away a mediocre-looking Cardiff City outfit.
THAT was better – now the Blues must kick on.
After three performances all disappointing in varying degrees, Ipswich finally stepped up a gear and blew away a mediocre-looking Cardiff City outfit.
Lennie Lawrence's expensively-gathered team had no answer to Joe Royle's scintillating side, of which only two (Tommy Miller, £1million, and Fabian Wilnis, £200,000) actually cost anything.
Both managers tinkered with their sides but Royle undoubtedly won that battle with his 4-3-3 which had Fabian Wilnis in place of the injured Matt Richards at left back and Jason De Vos playing after all.
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There was no Jim Magilton but, after missing him so much in the previous three games, he would be hard pressed to dislodge any of the present incumbents and will hope Royle reverts to a four-man midfield again soon.
This game was effectively won in midfield where the three of Tommy Miller, Ian Westlake and Kevin Horlock, swamped the two-man force of Richard Langley and Graham Kavanagh.
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Lawrence had stunned Cardiff followers by omitting Lee Bullock in favour of Langley, his acquisition from QPR, and playing Newcastle and Palace target Daniel Gabbidon at right back instead of in the middle of defence and it backfired horribly.
Miller and Westlake won any loose balls in a scrappy first half, made worse by a referee who thought he and his whistle were the main attraction. The game got better as a spectacle in the second half and the Town duo merely stepped up the pace with some terrific movement and passing.
Horlock swept up any danger and instigated many of Town's attacks. His ball for the Blues' opener was simply awesome. He volleyed left-footed from the halfway line straight to Darren Bent on the edge of the 18-yard box. The England Under-21 star controlled the pass, strode into the area and, ignoring James Collins's challenge, hit a powerful drive which Tony Warner will be unhappy about – beaten at his near post.
The free transfer from Millwall, who once played in trial game for Town against Colchester United, atoned for that error with a brilliant reflex save from Jason De Vos, who headed on a Horlock corner and Naylor nodded the rebound over the bar.
At that point many expected Town to go on and win comfortably. But that is to forget the self-destruct button the Blues have. The mistake that allowed Alan Lee to equalise, with Cardiff's only attempt on target in the whole 90 minutes, came from the unlikeliest of sources.
Richard Naylor had been quite superb until he played a soft back pass, and the Republic of Ireland international proved too quick for De Vos to catch and hit a vicious shot into the roof of the net.
Cardiff relief was short-lived as the lively Dean Bowditch curled a shot wide and the game resumed its usual pattern of Town attacking.
Pablo Counago replaced fellow transfer-listed striker Shefki Kuqi and produced a lovely bit of skill to turn his man, and lay the ball off for Bowditch.
The England Under-19 forward ignored one runner to play the ball square for Miller to run onto and perfectly hammer in with pace.
The Spanish striker had a wonderful opportunity to grab a confidence-boosting goal for himself after Bent rounded Warner but found his route to goal blocked so laid the ball into Counago's path 10 yards out.
Bent found himself on the dead ball line again after a terrific flowing Town move started by Naylor in his own half and this time picked out Westlake, whose left-footed shot on the run went in off a post.
The goal epitomised Town's performance –one of excellent team work, top-class movement and a desire by the midfield to follow up after winning the battle in the centre of the park.
Despite their wealth, City did not look one of the better sides in this division and certainly didn't play with the passion and belief expected of a Welsh side, but still Town did a job on them.
They dug in early on to gain superiority and allowed Kavanagh no chance to create anything, therefore cutting off the supply to Rob Earnshaw and Lee. Wilnis and Diallo were quick to close down wide men John Robinson and Jobi McAnuff, although the £300,000 signing from West Ham did show glimpses of his ability and Robinson was not afraid to get stuck in. The result of Town's hard work and tight control was that Kelvin Davis had virtually nothing to do all afternoon.
Certainly the physio Dave Williams saw more action than the keeper and showed all the training he does paid off, although Royle joked he needs to work on his sprinting.
Town were fortunate the injuries to Naylor, who had a cut near an eye, and Horlock, who needed stitches to a split lip, were not too serious. There were worrying moment when Wilnis, Miller and Diallo, went down but thankfully all finished healthy enough.
The Blues will now look to build from this and with a potential morale-boosting home win expected against Brentford in the Carling Cup on Tuesday and a 100% home record start for the season.
That is followed by a trip to lowly, but tricky Rotherham United. In this sort of form Town are capable of staying in the top group, but they need to continue gathering points.
They picked up two more booking on Saturday and come December suspensions may loom. We have seen already how thin the squad is when a couple of injuries crop up.
But for the moment, a standard has been set. There are things that could be improved but on this sort of form Town look scintillating.