Ipswich step closer to play-off safety
HOCKEY: Ipswich 5 City of Portsmouth 3. A goal after just 15 seconds put Ipswich on the way to victory in their second game of the inter-league play-offs. The importance of a good result in order to keep alive their hopes of remaining in Division Two of the English Hockey League was not lost on the Henley Road side and their performance underlined their desire to stay.
Ipswich 5 City of Portsmouth 3
A GOAL after just 15 seconds put Ipswich on the way to victory in their second game of the inter-league play-offs.
The importance of a good result in order to keep alive their hopes of remaining in Division Two of the English Hockey League was not lost on the Henley Road side and their performance underlined their desire to stay.
The result puts Ipswich top of the six-team group on goal difference and in good heart for when they play the remaining three fixtures at Milton Keynes during the May bank holiday weekend.
In the first attack, Ian Driver's superb pass found Oliver Didham who beat Portsmouth defenders before crossing for Ivan Smith to slot the ball home.
Inspired by the start, Ipswich did not allow the visitors to settle. Didham and Simon Miller were a constant threat up front and received great service from Smith, John Cuff, Chris Palmer and Andy Cook.
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Portsmouth, who had deflated Bath the previous weekend, were not allowed to create any chances by a solid Ipswich defence with Asif Rais and Nick Fry keeping things tight while Driver and Paul Calver worked the flanks.
Didham increased the Ipswich lead after 15 minutes after taking on the Portsmouth defence and making no mistake with a clinical finish and seven minutes before the interval, he added the third from a short corner.
Portsmouth gave themselves a glimmer of hope four minutes later when a hotly-disputed free hit was deflected past keeper Stuart Hendy.
Ipswich stuck to their game plan during the second half and maintained confidence in their display which was rewarded after 50 minutes when Rais was on hand to force home a short corner rebound.
The visitors refused to give up the fight and reduced the arrears after getting behind the Ipswich defence and forcing the ball over the line after the initial save by Hendy.
A good move down the right between Richard Stainthorpe, Driver and Smith saw Cook restore their three-goal lead and further chances fell to Stainthorpe, Richard Fox and Miller as the home side continued their assault.
With five minutes left, Portsmouth added their third, but Ipswich were rarely troubled after that as they held on to gain a much-deserved victory.