Blues suffer Sky shocker

Ipswich 1 Wigan 3IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle will no doubt be seeking reinforcements to his squad after they were outplayed by an impressive Wigan side at Portman Road.

Ipswich 1 Wigan 3

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle will no doubt be seeking reinforcements to his squad after they were outplayed by an impressive Wigan side at Portman Road.

It was the first time Town have been doubled this season and was their fifth home league defeat and their sixth in total.

Royle, whose incomings are restricted by the club's financial situation, has been unable to find a defensive set-up that works.

Ipswich have now conceded nine goals in their last three home games and will need to show considerable improvement on this form if they are to gain any reward this term.

They slipped out of the play-off positions as Wigan leapfrogged them and very few players in a Blue shirt performed anything like their best.

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Wigan controlled from the start and scored through Roberts in the 17th minute, Ellington with a simple tap-in in the 32nd minute and a thunderbolt from Teale after 53 minutes.

Kuqi gave Town some late hope with a 60th minute goal before Baines was sent off nine minutes from the end following a second yellow card.

Royle made two changes, one enforced. Fabian Wilnis hurt his shoulder in the 1-1 draw at Coventry seven days earlier while Georges Santos was left out.

Into the team came Chris Bart-Williams and Pablo Counago, with the 12-goal leading scorer partnering Shefki Kuqi up front as the manager reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.

The game was going out live on Sky television with a 5.35pm kick-off, which meant that Town were aware that three points would see them rise up the Nationwide League Division One table into third position.

If the game ended level the Blues would stay sixth, while a defeat would see Wigan leapfrog the Suffolk club with Ipswich dropping out of the play-off positions.

Alan Mahon was included in the visitors' starting line-up having been purchased from Blackburn Rovers late this week with the Lancashire club having the necessary financial clout to satisfy his salary requirements.

Mahon proved a big hit when on loan to Ipswich in the autumn and he started the last televised Saturday evening game from Portman Road when Town beat Stoke City 1-0 in October.

The teams fought out a 1-0 victory for Wigan in the corresponding fixture which Royle described as Ipswich's worst display of the season.

The Blues boss had declared last Saturday's stalemate at Coventry to be the second worst and was looking for a considerable improvement.

Ipswich could either rise into a top two position during the remainder of the campaign or slip down into mid-table – and much may depend on the result of this game to see whether they can collect the confidence to mount an extended unbeaten run.

Dean Bowditch was restored to the Ipswich bench after missing out last week with midfielder Tommy Miller passing a test on an injured groin. Central defender Drissa Diallo started a home match for the first time since September 20 having undergone a knee operation during his fight to regain fitness.

The visitors started like an express train and the Blues, who were attacking the South Stand, hardly had a look in during the early stages.

Inside two minutes Wigan's Gary Teale outpaced Martijn Reuser and crossed to the unmarked Jason Roberts. Just when the number 30 was about to shoot from a great position Diallo arrived in the nick of time to make a challenge.

The ball fell to Mahon whose low effort went a yard wide.

There were a few boos for Mahon when the number 14 touched the ball, with Diallo needing to be alert again to clear when Jimmy Bullard got into a shooting position. A corner for Wigan resulted in Ian Breckin having a shot from inside the penalty area but he scooped this well wide of the goal.

In the seventh minute Roberts beat Kelvin Davis to a through ball and rounded the Blues keeper. It looked a goal all the way but Matt Richards had sized up the situation and ran back to cover the goal-line, making a good stop when the shot came in.

Before the danger was cleared Diallo had to make another tackle to deny Wigan a second bite of the cherry.

In a brief raid to the other end Kuqi went running free down the right channel and collided into John Filan as the Latics keeper rushed out from goal. The flag was up for offside and the keeper was able to carry on after receiving treatment.

It remained all Wigan with Roberts having an angled shot stopped by a diving Davis after the striker had again beaten the keeper to the ball.

Ipswich's frustrations were showing in the 12th minute when Kuqi was shown a yellow card – his third of the season following a hard challenge on Leighton Baines. The Wigan full-back tried to persuade the referee that it was nothing serious but Mr Taylor was adamant.

It was no great surprise when Wigan's enterprising play led to them opening the scoring.

The goal came in the 17th minute and followed a head forward by their captain De Bos when he was stationed inside his own half.

Diallo slipped on the halfway line in his attempt to stop the ball and this left ROBERTS with a free run on goal.

He had time to assess the situation and placed his shot low to the keeper's left just before the backtracking Richards arrived. Davis had no chance as the effort curled inside the far post.

Diallo had been impressive as Ipswich held out Wigan's early onslaught, but the Guinea international could have no excuse for his costly error.

Soon afterwards Davis had to dive full-length to his right to fingertip a shot from Teale around a post and then it was Richards turn to come to the rescue when Roberts was waiting to convert Nathan Ellington's pass at the far post until the Town defender got a vital touch.

There was moans from Town fans as their side struggled to gain any control with Wigan looking to put their fast raiding strikers away with piercing balls from their own half.

Creative Town players Bart-Williams and Reuser had hardly got into the contest as Wigan's midfield looked lively and well organised.

Wright had taken over Wilnis' right back position and Town were now short of full backs with the Dutchman possibly out for six weeks and Makin having an injection within the next few days to determine whether he needs an operation that will keep him on the sidelines until next season.

Kuqi made three unforced errors with Ipswich still unable to show anything like their true form. It was a worrying position for the manager as three points were vital if Town were to remain in the driving seat for a play-off place.

Naylor did well after 30 minutes to get in the way of a cross from the right as the dangerous Roberts was lurking behind him and waiting to pounce.

The willing Kuqi chased a long ball forcing Filan to come a long way out. Counago collected the clearance just inside the Wigan half and attempted a spectacular effort aimed at the vacant goal but his sliced effort simply ballooned into the air.

Bart-Willliams found himself on the left touch line and his teasing cross saw Kuqi race in to climb for a free header. But his direction was awry and the ball cleared the bar by a foot.

The Wigan fans were cheering again in the 32nd minute when the visitors scored for the second time.

Eaden played a long ball forward over the head of Richards and into the path of the pacy Teale.

The number 20 looked inside and saw ELLINGTON waiting alone and in front of goal. The pass was accurate and the number 9 had only to tuck the ball under an exposed Davis to put the visitors very much in the driving seat.

Ipswich had been cut to ribbons with Diallo pulled over to his left and Naylor unable to intervene as he ran back.

The home defence were failing to cope with passes played in front of the Wigan front players and it was turning into a nightmare half for Ipswich who were being outplayed in every department.

Their plight was summed up when the hapless Kuqi slipped over when under no pressure although there were a few signs that Bart-Williams and Jim Magilton were beginning to exert some influence in midfield.

In the 38th minute Mahon tried a left-footed 25-yard shot that went over the bar before Ipswich manufactured their best chance of the opening period with Jermaine Wright finding Miller 12 yards from goal. Miller is normally deadly from this range, but Breckin stepped in to deflect the shot for a corner.

Diallo, whose Guinea side had lost 2-1 to Mali in the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations, could only watch when Ellington prepared to receive yet another cross from the right. Fortunately for Ipswich the former Bristol Rovers marksman's control let him down and Ipswich were relieved.

When referee Taylor brought the half to an end there were boos from most sections of the ground with Blues fans looking for a huge improvement if their favourites were to stand a chance of gathering any points.

Royle no doubt had a few stern words at the interval and he made changes with his team switching to a 3-5-2 formation. The ineffective Reuser and Counago were replaced by Santos and Darren Bent.

Santos went to the middle of the back three with Naylor to his right and Diallo to his left, releasing Wright to play as wing back on one side and Richards in a similar position on the other.

An early goal was needed to put Ipswich back in the match and Magilton was presented with a good opportunity within seconds of the restart.

A grounded Bart-Williams put the glove-wearing Bent clear down the right and the substitute pulled a perfect ball back but Magilton's side-footed effort was miles off target. Some fans showed their frustrations in letting their feelings known towards the Town skipper.

Kuqi then pulled a dangerous cross back, also from the right, and Bullard was happy to pump clear for a corner.

After 50 minutes Ellington raced ahead of an uncertain defence and he ran on and on with just Davis to beat. The Town keeper showed his class with an exceptional save low to his right.

But Town's chances of gaining something were hit again three minutes later when TEALE volleyed home Wigan's third goal.

This stemmed from a throw-in on the right and Diallo's challenge fell to the number 20 who touched the ball forward and then blasted a 16 yard shot into the net off the underside of the bar.

And it could have been worse moments later when Ellington beat Diallo's challenge and then rounded Naylor. Davis showed his bravery when he flew out of goal and smothered the ball on the by-line.

Magilton caused Filan to make his first save in the 58th minute with the keeper diving to his right to keep out a 20-yard shot. Kuqi followed up but could only half-hit his effort and Filan made a comfortable second stop.

Bart-Williams came off in the 59th minute to be replaced by Ian Westlake.

And in the 60th minute Ipswich pulled a goal back through KUQI, his eighth of the season.

This came from a through ball by Magilton with the scorer holding off a challenge by Breckin as he used his strength and the goal was claimed with a left-foot effort that went under the keeper.

Wigan, who had looked impressive as any team seen at Portman Road this season, were denied again by Davis when the Town keeper flung himself to his left to tip away a header by De Bos.

In the 68th minute Town came within an inch or two of getting right back into the match. Bent chased a ball into the penalty area and De Bos was forced to step in with an intervention that thumped against the bar before rebounding back into play.

There was still a glimmer of hope for Town although Wigan were still looking a side capable of carrying on and gaining a promotion place.

The visitors replaced Jarrett with McClouch in the 70th minute and three minutes later Baines went into the referee's book following a dive as he went past Wright.

There was no belly flop from Kuqi after he scored his goal as he just hurried to collect the ball from the net to carry on the game as quickly as possible.

Ipswich were showing more enterprise at this stage without really troubling Filan in the Wigan goal.

With nine minutes remaining Baines was shown a second yellow card following a foul on Bent. The left back knew what was coming and was already heading for the dressing room when a red card followed.

This gave Ipswich an extra incentive in the final minutes but they had been second best throughout.

As soon as Baines left the field Ellington went with him to be replaced by substitute McMillan.

Ipswich players queued up along the six-yard box in the two minutes of stoppage-time played with Kuqi, always willing, sending a far post effort high and wide.

De Bos appeared to handle the ball inside the penalty area when challenged by Bent in the final seconds but the referee saw nothing wrong.

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