Keane's Tangerine dream

THEY say that good things are worth waiting for, and Ipswich Town supporters have certainly had to be patient to celebrate their team's escape from the relegation zone.

Carl Marston

Ipswich Town 3 Blackpool 1

THEY say that good things are worth waiting for, and Ipswich Town supporters have certainly had to be patient to celebrate their team's escape from the relegation zone.

Manager Roy Keane, and his players, have been embarrassed by Town's lowly position in the bottom three for the bulk of this season. In fact, they have been wallowing in this area for all bar the first fortnight.


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But after nearly four months of anguish, harping back to the 2-0 defeat at West Brom on August 22, Keane's men are finally out of the drop zone. Hopefully, they will not return.

Town were good value for their win over Blackpool, the surprise package of the Championship this season.

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There were still missed chances aplenty, some of them amazing misses, and yet three good goals from Jon Stead, Jack Colback and Gareth McAuley ensured a third win of the campaign.

An unbeaten run, stretching to 10 games, and yielding 16 points from a possible 30, has at least propelled Town up to the heady heights of 20th in the table.

Having achieved their first two targets - initially clambering off the basement and then exiting the bottom three - Town will now be looking longer term at making dramatic advances up the table.

On the evidence of Saturday, there is no reason why mid-table security cannot be achieved by the start of next year.

A dearth of goals, in the back-to-back goalless draws at Bristol City and against Peterborough, was soon forgotten as Stead broke the deadlock with Town's very first attack after 29 seconds.

Jaime Peters, recalled to the starting line-up down the right wing, was involved in the build-up. His cross was missed by David Vaughan and then only half-cleared, but Stead still had much to do as he had made room for himself, just outside the box, before guiding a left-footed shot past keeper Matthew Gilks and in at the near post.

Keane has been appealing for his attackers to stake a claim to be the club's No. 1 striker, and Stead has at least responded with four goals in the last eight games.

Blackpool looked dangerous in the first half, but Town doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time, something they had only managed once before, when leading 3-1 at Sheffield United.

The second goal was a personal triumph for Colback, who was starting only his second game for nearly three months.

The impressive Damien Delaney won an aerial battle and Stead slid a wonderful pass through for the onrushing Colback. The Sunderland loanee showed no nerves as he advanced a few yards before tucking home his shot past Gilks.

The Seasiders enjoyed a purple patch during the first half of the second period, and sensed a route back into the game when defender Ian Evatt headed powerfully home from Neal Eardley's cross in the 67th minute.

But Ipswich were not going to blow this one. No doubt fed up of kissing goodbye to so many potential points, in recent weeks, McAuley restored the two-goal advantage just four minutes later.

Man of the match McAuley headed clinically home from Grant Leadbitter's corner. It was his third goal of the campaign, and it killed off the game.

The only negatives for Town, on an otherwise afternoon of positives, was second-half yellow cards for Leadbitter and Jon Walters. In both cases, it was their fifth bookings of the season, meaning that both will miss next Saturday's trip to Scunthorpe.

But they are concerns for another day. Saturday was all about celebrating.

Stead's early strike set the tone for a very open first period, crammed full of chances. Blackpool looked threatening on the break, but Town were well worth their two-goal half-time lead.

The Seasiders could have been level with just two minutes on the clock, but Leadbitter was in the right place to clear centre-half Evatt's firm header off the goal-line.

Fellow centre-half Rob Edwards squandered an even better opportunity on 11 minutes. He was completely unmarked from Eardley's cross, but failed to get any power or direction in his header - the ball skimmed off his head and ballooned well wide.

Holloway's men threatened just once more before the break. Jason Euell looked poised to ram home at the far post, from Hameur Bouazza's pass, but McAuley closed him down to make a vital block.

At the other end, Town peppered the target at regular intervals, especially from Walters and Owen Garvan.

On another day, Walters could have chalked up a hat-trick. His finishing was the only down-side to his game, although he was unlucky to see his header, from Garvan's cross, thud back off the post in the 42nd minute.

Into the second half and Walters somehow managed to slice wide, from point bank range, following Leadbitter's measured ball across the face of goal.

McAuley's goal, to make it 3-1, eased the tension during the last 20 minutes.

Town could afford to squander further chances - Peters blasted over and Walters failed to bury a one-on-one chance with the keeper.

But, for once, it didn't really matter.

This was Town's first home league win, by more than a one-goal margin, for just over a year (367 days). It could be the springboard for some good times ahead.

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