Town too hot for Wolves

Ipswich Town 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1TWO out of three ain't bad, as Ipswich Town cemented their position near the top of the Coca-Cola Championship table.

Ipswich Town 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

TWO out of three ain't bad, as Ipswich Town cemented their position near the top of the Coca-Cola Championship table.

Their aims before yesterday's Bank Holiday kick-off against Wolverhampton Wanderers were to extend their current winning run to four matches, maintain a 100 per cent home record and make it three consecutive matches without conceding a goal.

One lapse in concentration ruined the hat-trick, but otherwise it was another thoroughly satisfying day with the players being applauded from the field at the end.


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Getting to the summit requires more effort than staying there, and now that the rungs of the ladder have been climbed there is every reason to suggest that Town will not be knocked off their lofty perch.

The style of football Ipswich played - until they allowed Wolves back into the game through one piece of poor defending - was outstanding and on another day they could have been four goals ahead at the interval.

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The defeat at Derby County was like a poke in the eye. And few Ipswich supporters came away from Pride Park predicting that their team would be second in the table just over two weeks later. Since then the defence has knitted together as a unit, Jim Magilton has returned to marshal the midfield and the forward line has continued to prosper.

Manager Joe Royle had no problem in naming an unchanged side from the one that tore Rotherham apart in the second period at Millmoor on Saturday.

And with Magilton - and Tony Dinning - now offering extra bodies in midfield the boss was happy to play 4-4-2 at Portman Road for the first time this campaign.

Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi carried on up front with the former showing no signs of any wayward thoughts. There is always the possibility that a Premiership club will come in with a late panic bid today to try and prise the 20-year-old away, but it looks as though Bent's skills will be benefiting Ipswich until January at least.

And by then, if the Blues are where they are now, chairman David Sheepshanks will start to count on the millions from the Premiership blowing away any remaining financial concerns.

Bent will brighten the top flight. What about Kuqi? There is no doubt he is a one-off, and it is very early days yet to be concerning ourselves too much with games against Arsenal and Chelsea.

But what sort of impression would the Finland international make in the Premiership? A 20-yard screamer or a three-yard miss?

The man, as honest as the day is long, answers his critics on the pitch and who can argue with the worth of a striker who scored 18 goals last season for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich.

Kuqi's general play yesterday was fine as Wolves were put on the back foot right from the start.

The visitors did have two opportunities with Shaun Newton and Kenny Miller missing good first period chances in what was an open contest right the way through.

Bent struck with his third goal of the season in the 28th minute and it then became virtually all one way traffic. Town played some of their best football for a long while, and at a level that did not seem possible just 16 days ago.

Tommy Miller struck the underside of the bar, and Paul Jones was called into action to make a couple of fine saves, and there was always a concern that Wolves would get back up off the floor if the knife was not inserted.

Kuqi struck the post sliding in to meet a Bent cross just after the interval to cause more frustration, but once Tommy Miller had shown no mercy with his 49th minute penalty nerves were settled.

The game had been won; the three points were in the bag. But when Kevin Horlock was penalised for a foul in the 54th minute he was not back in time to take hold of the man he was meant to be marking, and Seyi Olofinjana was able to convert a free header from right in front of goal.

From being down and out and looking rather like a rabble, Wolves were now roused and Ipswich had to set about winning the match for the second time.

For a while it looked touch and go with Ipswich's passing going awry, but Davis' goal was not seriously threatened again and long before the end a 2-1 result looked a certainty.

Wigan top the league - giving Jason De Vos and Dinning an extra incentive - but there appears to be precious little else of any great worth in the Championship.

Of the relegated clubs, Wolves on this performance are going to struggle, Leicester appear to have lost their way and Leeds United are now just an also ran.

So keep going Ipswich Town, Royle knows how to get teams promoted and Portman Road is proving a graveyard for visiting teams.

De Vos, Bent and Ian Westlake have headed off on international duty and Royle will let his players unwind over the next few days.

The next match is not until Sunday week when UEFA Cup participants Millwall will be in town, and by then there could be an addition to the Town playing strength.

It was Meat Loaf who sang 'Two out of three ain't bad.' There could be plenty to feast on over the coming months.

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