Blues ready for final push
Cardiff 0 Ipswich Town 1While other teams in the Coca-Cola Championship are fighting for a place in the play-offs, Ipswich Town are battling to avoid them.
Cardiff 0 Ipswich Town 1
While other teams in the Coca-Cola Championship are fighting for a place in the play-offs, Ipswich Town are battling to avoid them.
And Tommy Miller's penalty at Ninian Park last night may well have gone some way to ensure that the Blues do not need to make a return to Cardiff to win their place in the Premiership next season.
With both Wigan Athletic and Sunderland also gaining three points, it was imperative that Town kept in touch with a victory at the home of the Bluebirds in the Welsh capital.
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Although nothing like as fluent or as incisive as they were in the 6-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest at Portman Road on Saturday, Ipswich still deserved their victory and the fact that they kept a second successive clean sheet underlines the success of manager Joe Royle's switch to a 3-5-2 formation.
The visiting defence was in commanding form with Jason De Vos - acting as skipper after Jim Magilton was sidelined by a calf strain - outstanding, while either side of him Richard Naylor and David Unsworth also knew too much for the Cardiff attack.
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The home side are in trouble near the foot of the table, mainly because they can't find the net often enough, but in a frantic finale they pushed men forward and it was all hands to the pump for the Town defence.
They did such a good job that keeper Kelvin Davis was rarely troubled and the travelling band of 500 or so Ipswich fans travelled back to East Anglia in good heart.
While their front two of Lee Bullock and Cameron Jerome may not be the most dangerous in the division, Cardiff's central defensive pairing of Daniel Gabbidon and James Collins are redoubtable opponents.
They stuck to their task well and Ipswich's considered build-up did not create any openings until Shefki Kuqi turned Gabbidon and saw his close-range effort beaten away by the keeper just before the interval.
After the break, with news coming through that both Wigan and Sunderland already had commanding leads, it was important that Town could unlock the City defence.
The vital moment came in the 62nd minute when Fabian Wilnis made ground down the right and found Miller with a pass that enabled the number eight to make progress just inside the penalty area.
Miller did a swivel and was sent tumbling to the ground by a challenge from Gabbidon.
A perfectly-placed referee immediately pointed to the spot and, after a few minor protests by the Cardiff players, Miller stepped up to stretch his unbeaten penalty record with a well-struck shot that beat the keeper's dive to his left.
With the ice broken and with Darren Currie, Ian Westlake and Miller giving powerful displays in midfield, it looked game, set and match to the visitors.
But desperately needing points to stay out of the relegation positions, Cardiff rolled up their sleeves and ensured that it was a rather nervous final 28 minutes for the Tractor Boys.
This is the fourth game running Ipswich have won at Cardiff and the Bluebirds were no pushovers as it was only their third defeat since Boxing Day.
Confidence was high in the Town camp following their big win over Forest and Darren Bent had a lively opening period finding space down both flanks.
Kuqi did not have the best of games, and when he was substituted in the 57th minute, James Scowcroft came on to give Ipswich some valiant service.
The thoroughbreds in action at Cheltenham this week have many hurdles to jump to reach the finishing line in a winning position.
Ipswich find themselves in the same position, with eight crunch games to come and if they can negotiate them with the same degree of professionalism they showed last night then Town will be ready to take advantage if the two sides above them show any signs of slipping up.
Cardiff did their best to close Ipswich down at every opportunity, but in the opening half Currie caught the eye with his ability to create space for himself to deliver long telling balls forward.
Currie has been used mainly as a wide player, but the former Brighton man showed last night that he is versatile enough to fill the central midfield role in the current system even if Magilton is missing for a while.
Having beaten Cardiff at home on a summer's afternoon in August, Ipswich achieved a double and, after flying back from Cardiff to Stansted airport last night, they will resume training tomorrow to prepare themselves for another important encounter at lowly Gillingham on Saturday.
Westlake covered every blade of grass on the Ninian Park pitch while Miller was always a threat and made some vital contributions at both ends of the park as well as scoring the only goal.
Matt Richards did himself more good with another sound display and was able to find acres of room in which to put over some teasing crosses.
After losing three games on the bounce, Town's hopes of automatic promotion looked bleak, but the situation is now much brighter, although Royle's men can't afford to take their foot off the pedal.
They appear to have found a winning formula and with the final furlong to be run Royle has a squad that has been paced well and has a huge carrot dangling in front of them to ensure that they keep on top form between now and the finishing line.