Watford's double blast for Blues
WATFORD did to Ipswich what they have been doing to other teams for so long now, and gave them a kick up the backside for good measure.
Ipswich Town 2
WATFORD did to Ipswich what they have been doing to other teams for so long now, and gave them a kick up the backside for good measure, writes Derek Davis.
Two goals up and cruising there was no way Ipswich should have let this slip and in the process sink a little further away from the two automatic places.
Their fourth draw in five games has seen them ship eight points in a month and tread water in the Championship table.
Third place is still more than reasonable and the Blues have not lost in the league since going to Stoke on September 14. But with two home games coming up, Town will be looking to put pressure on the leading pair of Wigan and Reading.
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They will need Ian Westlake to continue his recent improvement, and no doubt he will be aiming for his third goal in as many matches.
After netting the opener at Leicester after just 40 seconds, the amphibian-like midfielder snatched the opener at Vicarage Road five minutes after the break.
He latched on to a long goal kick from Lewis Price, nodded into his own path before unleashing a low shot past the luckless Richard Lee, who had up until that point kept the Blues at bay.
Westlake was integral in Town's second nine minutes later, setting up Darren Bent for his first Town goal since the win over Millwall at the beginning of September.
The move started with some cool defending by Shefki Kuqi and the ball was played up to the centre circle where Pablo Counago showed his strength and ability to play with his back to goal. The Spaniard played a clever ball wide and forward into Bent's path, and he fed Westlake.
The midfielder had a touch of fortune as the ball ran for him when he cut inside Sean Dyche before feeding Bent on the edge of the area, and his low shot across goal beat Lee low to his right.
Counago was replaced by an eager Dean Bowditch but the old Ipswich affliction of not being able to defend from the front resulted almost immediately in Waford enjoying a purple patch.
Neal Ardley had been a pain in Town's side all game, indeed if he had chosen to shoot early on instead of passing to no one in the first half, the Hornets could have been ahead.
Instead he showed what a good provider he can be by setting up two Watford goals in six ill-disciplined defensive minutes for Ipswich.
He played in a near-post corner and Heidar Helguson lost his marker to head in from five yards.
Westlake then played an unwanted part in another goal as he was booked for a foul 30 yards out, central to goal.
Gavin Mahon touched the ball square for Ardley to hit a rasping low shot which bounced up wickedly in front of Price who saw it late and spilled it.
Although Richard Naylor blocked the first follow-up, the ball squirmed out to 19-year-old Frenchman Hameur Bouazza who finished well.
Good defending by a combination of Drissa Diallo and Jason De Vos denied Bouazza the opportunity of hitting a winner, which would have been extremely hard on Town.
Moments before time Dyche made an excellent tackle on Kevin Horlock who had stolen into an advance position to get on the end of a good Fabian Wilnis ball.
Horlock had been Town's main inspiration in the first half, spraying a series of wonderful long balls from deep for Bent to race on to.
The England Under-21 striker was toasting Jermaine Darlington and hit a post with one effort and whizzed another shot just wide.
The frustrated Darlington tripped Bent as he was going into the area but the referee either did not see it or just ignored the appeal.
Clever passing football was at a premium, and the best move of the first half involved a skilful piece of interplay between Counago and Tommy Miller bursting through from midfield and surging on to the return ball into the area.
His run was blocked and the young keeper made an excellent save to turn Kuqi's follow up shot around a post.
Counago was the provider once more in the second half when he played Bent in but his shot curled wide.
Watford had their moments; Danny Webber was denied by De Vos, and Wilnis, with an improvised hook over the bar, stopped the top-scoring former Manchester United youngster.
All in all it was an enthralling scrap in awful conditions as the constant downpour was compounded by a strong, swirling wind.
Both teams coped admirably with the elements but no doubt Ipswich will rue not battening down the hatches before the Hornets provided a sting in the tail.
While they will have been pleased with salvaging last-minute draws against Burnley and Leicester, this was two more points thrown away.