By George...Town win a thriller

BY George, Ipswich Town look on their way to a thrilling end to the season.George Burley has been responsible for much of Town's glory this century.And the former Blues manager played his part on Saturday, even though now in successful charge of opponents Derby County.

BY George, Ipswich Town look on their way to a thrilling end to the season.

George Burley has been responsible for much of Town's glory this century.

And the former Blues manager played his part on Saturday, even though now in successful charge of opponents Derby County.

Burley has always been admired for the positive nature of his sides and this attacking approach allowed the Blues to express themselves in a pulsating Coca-Cola Championship contest.

The Tractor Boys knocked the ball around in convincing style once they had been brought to life by the shock of an early Marcus Tudgay goal.

With the shackles off, Ipswich are formidable opponents and they won more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.

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They moved the ball around like a well-oiled machine and manufactured three fine goals to look every bit automatic promotion material.

But Blues fans should not expect Rotherham boss Alan Knill to provide any such assistance when the virtually relegated Yorkshire outfit visit Portman Road tomorrow.

They may be heading for League One, but they will be fighting for their lives and will string a line of men across the back.

Unlike Derby they will not field five players whose natural instincts are to go forward.

Ipswich have found similar tactics difficult to break down and whether or not they can escape from a stranglehold the Millers will try to employ could well determine whether Joe Royle's men gain automatic promotion to the Premiership.

With leaders Sunderland playing at Wigan tomorrow, Ipswich are bound to gain an advantage if they can wrestle three more points from Rotherham.

And then it will be even Stevens for the last five games with Ipswich's run-in looking a tad more favourable than their two rivals.

Wolverhampton have publicly given up on the play-offs which means Monday's visit to Molyneux may not be so taxing as it might have been a couple of weeks ago, while Ipswich then have the advantage of playing Sunderland at home.

Like Wolves, Leeds will also have nothing but pride to play for when Town visit Elland Road and when a forward-minded Crewe visit Suffolk their confidence is likely to be low after failing to find any form since the transfer of Dean Ashton to Norwich City.

This then leaves Brighton away to complete the job. Let's not kid ourselves - it is likely to go down to the last day of the regular season and Ipswich will need to be running on all cylinders at the Withdean athletics stadium to escape the mayhem that is the play-offs.

If they played Derby every week, Town would be racing a cert for automatic promotion.

With no one seriously buzzing around them, Town's midfield are more than a match for anyone - and Saturday's scoreline could easily have equalled the half-dozen mark that Ipswich reached in the previous home match against an equally mellow Nottingham Forest.

Royle has a similar approach to Burley and Portman Road has rarely been dull this season.

In warm spring sunshine, this clash of equal minds led to an absorbing contest with Ipswich on this evidence looking well equipped to cross the finishing line in a gold or silver medal position.

They had to show character as well as skill after Derby - with six wins and one draw in the previous seven away games - threatened to run riot in the early stages.

For the 11th time this campaign Ipswich had to come from behind to gain some reward in a game they dominated as shown by the corner count of 13-2.

Derby were handicapped by injuries to their regular central defenders and this told as Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi made hay.

They both won more than their fair share of high balls and their combined pace was often too much for the Rams to handle.

Bent looked every inch a Premiership performer and he sealed a great day by beating England

Under-21 team mate Lee Camp ten seconds after the restart.

Royle reserved most of his praise for his front two on a day when the manager reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation.

And the former striker knows full well that one-on-ones are the hardest goals to convert when the time taken to run the ball towards goal adds to the pressure.

Bent does not have the best of records in these situations, but on this occasion he dealt what turned out to be a killer blow with a sweet low finish.

Kuqi struck the bar when fed by Bent and also impressed, while Tommy Miller's admirable scoring record continued with another measured goal that put the home team 3-1 ahead - and cruising.

Miller has taken time to progress from being a leading light at Hartlepool to becoming an Ipswich star, but he is now on course to serve the club wholesomely for the next eight or nine years.

Ian Westlake's contribution cannot be ignored as he supplies the engine to the Ipswich midfield and he became increasingly effective on Saturday.

Darren Currie, who supplied a series of probing corners, had his most influential game for a while.

Skipper Jim Magilton continues to serve the club well, scoring his first goal for 19 months with the aid of a deflection. Give 'Magic' space and he will tear you apart.

Richard Naylor headed against the bar and against a defender on the line,while the Ipswich defence stuck to their task after being given the runaround early on.

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