McGreal backs Town striker

IPSWICH defender John McGreal today insisted: "Shefki Kuqi's a key man for us."Kuqi showed both sides of hischaracter as the Blues got theirpromotion bid back on track with a 3-1 First Division win over weekend visitors Bradford.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH defender John McGreal today insisted: "Shefki Kuqi's a key man for us."

Kuqi showed both sides of his

character as the Blues got their

promotion bid back on track with a 3-1 First Division win over weekend

visitors Bradford.

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The Finland international striker's stunning goal – and an incredible late miss – were the two main talking points as Joe Royle's men climbed to fourth spot.

But McGreal has no doubts over Kuqi's value to Town.

"Shefki is an invaluable player to play with," said the experienced centre back. "He runs all day long and when he connects no goalkeeper in the world stands any chance of making a save."

Kuqi crashed home an unstoppable 20-yard volley to put Ipswich ahead in the 28th minute. It gave Bradford keeper Nico Vaesen no chance – and left Blues' fans buzzing with excitement.

But 56 minutes later they were shuffling in their seats with embarrassment

as Kuqi, presented with an open goal after Vaesen lost possession, somehow contrived to shoot wide of a gaping target.

It was as bad a miss as the one at Coventry a fortnight earlier when Kuqi blasted high from four yards.

Kuqi's record of nine goals in 23 starts since his move from Sheffield Wednesday is one that Michael Owen would be pleased with, and as long as he keeps this ratio going Town fans will surely forgive his faults.

McGreal, one of three changes Royle made following the big defeat by Wigan a week earlier, also had praise for Town's other two goalscorers, Darren Bent and Ian Westlake.

"Darren has blistering pace and will prove crucial to us in the run-in to the end of the season," he said.

"And all credit to Ian for his goal. He took a gamble and ran half the length of the field to make his run into the box. He timed it beautifully and took his chance so well."

McGreal, Westlake and Bent replaced Chris Bart-Williams, Martijn Reuser and Pablo Counago as Ipswich stepped up several gears after their 3-1 defeat by Wigan.

Bradford were not in the same class as Wigan and Ipswich were only rarely seriously troubled at the back.

"We conceded another silly goal, but otherwise did well," added McGreal. "The cross struck my shin pad and flew up to the far post for Dean Windass to head in.

"We dominated the first period without putting Bradford under too much pressure, and it would have been harsh if we had gone in level at the interval.

"I was told last midweek that I would be back in the side, and that was a huge confidence boost."

Former Town skipper Matt Holland watched from the stands with Charlton Athletic not having a game as Ipswich collected their first double of the season.

It was Town's first win in four matches on a day when Drissa Diallo filled the troublesome right back berth. At left back, Matt Richards excelled in his 50th first team match.

This Saturday Town play a Burnley a side they scored six against at Portman Road earlier in the campaign. With a number of their promotion rivals playing each other it is a day when they can make up some substantial ground.

But it may depend on what mood Kuqi is in.

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