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On this day in Ipswich Town’s history: Dreadful start is finally over, thanks to Bent

PUBLISHED: 11:41 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:42 16 September 2020

Ipswich Town in a huddle to celebrate a goal during their 2-1 win over Walsall, from 17 years ago. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Ipswich Town in a huddle to celebrate a goal during their 2-1 win over Walsall, from 17 years ago. Picture: SIMON PARKER

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In this regular feature, we take a look at what happened on this day in Ipswich Town’s history, selecting one particular year, this time from 17 years ago when Joe Royle’s side finally won a game at the seventh attempt,,

Town players celebrate after Darren Bent scores in a 2-1 success over Walsall on September 16, 2003.Town players celebrate after Darren Bent scores in a 2-1 success over Walsall on September 16, 2003.

Town had one of the best offensive records in the old First Division in 2003-04, but Joe Royle’s men missed out on promotion chiefly due to a dreadful defensive record.

Although Town finished in fifth spot, and eventually lost to West Ham in the play-off semi-finals (not an unusual feeling), they were lumbered with the third worst goals conceded record in the second tier, with 72 goals leaked and 84 scored.

Thank goodness for some free-scoring Town attackers and midfielders, led by Darren Bent, who bagged what proved to be the winner in a 2-1 home success over Walsall on September 16, 2003.

This might not sound a very remarkable result, a penalty by Alun Armstrong, and one of Bent’s 15 league goals for the season, condemning the Saddlers to a narrow away defeat, but it was a landmark moment for Royle’s side.

Alun Amrstrong sends James Walker the wrong way from the penalty spot, during Town's win over Walsall from 17 years agoAlun Amrstrong sends James Walker the wrong way from the penalty spot, during Town's win over Walsall from 17 years ago

Town had endured a torrid start to the campaign, and in fact had not won any of their first six league fixtures, including losing their last three at the hands of Wigan (1-0 away), West Ham (2-1 at home) and West Brom (4-1 away).

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Chris Bart-Williams challenges Vinnie Samways as Paul Merson looks on during the Blues 2-1 against Walsall in September 2003Chris Bart-Williams challenges Vinnie Samways as Paul Merson looks on during the Blues 2-1 against Walsall in September 2003

Results picked up, however, after the Walsall success, helped by an impressive four players reaching double figures for goals scored.

In addition to Bent’s 15 league goals, the trio of Tommy Miller, Shefki Kuqi and Pablo Counago all scored 12 goals during a season when 20,000-plus crowds were the norm at Portman Road.

It was perhaps not surprising that Town suffered such a sluggish start, when you look at all the players who left Portman Road during the summer.

The likes of Matt Holland (£750,000 move to Charlton), Findi George (free agent), Mark Venus (to Cambridge), Matteo Sereni (to Lazio), Ultrich Le Pen (to Strasbourg) and Thomas Gaardsoe (to West Brom) all left, so there was plenty of early-season disruption.

Meanwhile, Walsall ended up being relegated on goal difference, with Gillingham just above them. Bradford City and Wimbledon also went down to the third tier.


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