Mediocre Town suffer cup agony

Notts County 2 Ipswich Town 1NOTTS County, the oldest club in the Football League, took advantage of a very useful Ipswich side to progress into the third round of the Carling Cup.

By Mel Henderson

Notts County 2 Ipswich Town 1

NOTTS County, the oldest club in the Football League, took advantage of a very useful Ipswich side to progress into the third round of the Carling Cup.

The visitors failed to rise above a mediocre display and can have no complaints about losing to a lowly second division outfit.

County, without a home victory this campaign, scored twice early on, helped by a controversial penalty decision by referee Paul Taylor that saw them regain the lead in the 12th minute.

The official from Hull was lenient to the home central defender Nick Fenton when a cynical foul on Matt Richards received only a lecture.

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The Notts County number two had been cautioned early on and his second offence, in the 48th minute, must have come close to deserving a second yellow.

If this decision had gone Town's way, and they had been spared a surprising penalty decision when Fabian Wilnis appeared at worse to obstruct Mark Stallard, things could have been so different.

The Notts County number nine, who wears the shirt formerly the property of legendary England centre-forward Tommy Lawton, carries nothing like the threat of his predecessor.

But he did enough to see off Town with a confident conversion of the penalty kick. And it was Stallard who showed up the continuing inadequacies of the Town defence when County took the lead as early as the fourth minute.

He waltzed in from the left side and was not closed down with Kelvin Davis making a splendid save to his left, but the ball rolled to Simon Baldry to tap in from close-range.

Ipswich were depleted because of injuries with a class full of teenagers in their side. This shows the threadbare nature of the Town squad and although the experience will have done the youngsters good, they were unable to punish their lower league opponents and force what was expected to be Town's first away victory of the season.

Some of the Notts County players did not look capable of rising any higher in the game and it was easy to see why they have struggled this campaign.

But like any side faced with a giant killing possibility they upped their horizons and rode their luck.

For Ipswich it was a case of being brought down to earth after two wins last week had raised hopes of better times for the Portman Road club.

They will now know that there is still much work to be done if this is to turn out to be a worthwhile season. Sides like Notts County should be there to be beaten even if the manager is missing four or five of his more experienced campaigners.

Royle will hope that the return of Chris Bart-Williams on Saturday at Watford after Charlton Athletic refused permission for the loan signing to play last night, will pep up the Suffolk side.

And also that injuries that forced Mahon and Richards to leave the pitch early do not prove severe enough to make them miss the trip to Watford this weekend.

The referee may have made some strange decisions, although his general handling of the game was good, but this could not hide the fact that Ipswich failed to make County goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall work hard enough.

They were unlucky when Alan Mahon limped off after 36 minutes with a groin injury.

The lively loanee from Blackburn Rovers was in impressive form striking the post seconds before Pablo Counago was brought down by Steve Jenkins for an eighth minute Ipswich penalty.

Referee Taylor waved play on but was then forced into changing his mind when an assistant placed his flag across his chest.

Counago picked himself up from what looked like a clear foul to stroke the ball into the net from the penalty spot.

Perhaps Mr Taylor was still harbouring doubts about Town's spot-kick when he decided that Wilnis had made an unfair challenge on Stallard. It certainly stunned the Ipswich players, and their following of fans who took their positions in the stand behind that goal.

Dean Bowditch made his full debut, and came out of the match with credit, showing his pace and control of the ball to good effect.

But with a young side on the field much depended on whether the more experienced members of the Ipswich team could do sufficient to wrestle control over a home team who raised their game against their superior opponents.

Jim Magilton controlled his troops as best he could and Jermaine Wright did well as Magilton's partner in the middle of midfield.

At the back Ipswich threw caution to the wind in the latter stages with Richard Naylor having to hold the fort on his own in the final desperate minutes.

Georges Santos had another good game in defence until being pushed forward in the latter stages and looked to have won a penalty when he was pushed from behind with only seconds remaining.

Fabian Wilnis was unable to raid forward because of the commitment of the home side who defended manfully and won most of the high balls.

Counago began well as the game commenced in a hectic fashion, but was unable to stamp his authority when Town needed to step up a gear and get back into the match.

Sam Morrow missed an absolute sitter to equalise following a cross by Wright when it looked easier to score and when Magilton was waiting also at the far post to convert into what was virtually an open goal from two yards.

Morrow will learn from that experience on a night when Matt Bloomfield also made his first team debut. The number 27 ran about in his usual energetic style, but did not shine as he would have liked. However, he gave a whole-hearted display and the former England Under-19 international kept going to the very end.

Stannard won the game with two runs at the heart of the Ipswich defence on a night when the chance of making inroads in a cup competition that Ipswich can do well in was lost.

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