Sheepshanks hails academy rewards

DAVID Sheepshanks today looked ahead to steady growth for Ipswich Town.A hat-trick by 20-year-old Darren Bent at Walsall last night brought a smile to the face of the chairman as the Blues - packed with home-grown talent - rekindled their promotion hopes.

DAVID Sheepshanks today looked ahead to steady growth for Ipswich Town.

A hat-trick by 20-year-old Darren Bent at Walsall last night brought a smile to the face of the chairman as the Blues - packed with home-grown talent - rekindled their promotion hopes.

Sheepshanks watched proudly from the Bescot Stadium stands as an injury-hit side proved far too good for struggling Walsall in a 3-1 victory.

The win - the first in four matches - moved Ipswich to within three points of third-placed Sheffield United in the race for a First Division play-off place.

“We have invested in our future, and it was encouraging to see our youngsters do so well,” said Sheepshanks.

“Including Richard Naylor, nine of last night's squad came through the youth schemes at Portman Road. The Academy is where we are building for the future, and we saw another youngster make a big statement with Dean Bowditch having a highly encouraging full league debut.

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“As long as we keep producing talented players from Bryan Klug's Academy we will remain a force in English football.

“It was very satisfying to watch and we must build on this win. This is one victory we have picked up - nine to go.”

Manager Joe Royle decided enough was enough with out-of-form Shefki Kuqi and brought in 17-year old Bowditch to partner Bent up front.

And aided and abetted by a sterling display by all four midfield players the energetic youngsters ran the home defence ragged, with Bent scoring his first senior hat-trick for the club.

“Joe knows his players, and he knows when to blood his youngsters,” added the often under fire Sheepshanks, who sat next to Royle for most of the game until the manager moved down to the technical area towards the finish.

Despite the disappointments of previous weeks, hundreds of Town fans made the trip to the midlands making their presence felt behind the goal where Bent struck his three fine second-half goals.

They were praised by a chairman who is only too aware of the need for Ipswich to get back to the riches of the Premiership as soon as possible.

Loan signing Matt Elliott made a big impact on his Town debut after the Scottish international's initial one-month move from Leicester City. He added much needed security at the back, and brought the best out of his fellow defenders.

One swallow does not make a summer, but more wins over Watford at home on Saturday and at bottom-placed Wimbledon a week later and the situation will be much sunnier for Town - and their chairman.

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