Tide turns for Town in promotion stakes

IPSWICH Town fans today have renewed hope of promotion to the Premier League's promised land.Shefki Kuqi may have only played for 14 minutes, but his impact on Ipswich Town's season could be immense.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town fans today have renewed hope of promotion to the Premier League's promised land.

Shefki Kuqi may have only played for 14 minutes, but his impact on Ipswich Town's season could be immense.

His return after completing a loan deal with Crystal Palace was abruptly halted when he pulled up lame with a hamstring tear in the 2-0 Coca-Cola Championship win over Charlton on Saturday.


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But, while the doom merchants have being out in force for the last few weeks, it is time to put the champagne back on ice again in this unpredictable campaign.

And Kuqi can take much of the credit.

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While his footballing ability may be limited, there is an honesty and desire about the flying Finn that he remains a darling of the Blues faithful.

His 20 goals in 2004/05 when Ipswich finished third in the table proved his worth on the field.

But without really kicking a ball in earnest - he chased and harried but got in no notable touches - Kuqi played a vital part in Saturday's win that resurrected dreams of promotion.

Magilton said: "Football can be so cruel. You can see what he means to people by the wonderful ovation he got.”

Town full back Sito Castro also feels the tide is turning in the right direction for Town's promotion prospects.

He said: “Pablo Counago said to me before the start that we could do this one. And there was a special feel in the squad before the game. Perhaps it was the arrival of Shefki Kuqi, as his reception was amazing.

Once likened as a 'pub player' during his previous stint with Town, Kuqi - the Kosovan-born muscle man - may have been out of the top ten of manager Jim Magilton's top striker loan targets.

Unable to claim a place in a rival Championship side he is hardly a David Nugent when it comes to stature.

But he is miles above the likes of Nugent when it comes to character - and the Suffolk public realise it.

They warmed to him more readily than any other fresh face and his presence engendered an atmosphere that carried the Blues through to a notable victory.

Although a fast healer hamstring pulls or tears can take time to heal, and Kuqi's season could be over. He left the ground on crutches, distraught and close to tears.

His injury put a dampener on the day as a Kuqi/Alan Lee robust front-running partnership could have given Town an edge that carried Watford through to promotion a couple of years ago.

It was a cruel, almost surreal, sight to see Kuqi carried off the ground on a stretcher after so much excitement about his return.

He been given a thunderous reception when he stepped off the bench.

Magilton said: “The big man warms up properly, he takes his time getting himself ready, and his injury is obviously a big concern for us.”

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