Defenders the difference
Tuesday January 1st
CHAMPIONSHIP goal kings West Bromwich Albion failed to score for only the third time this season and ultimately paid the penalty, conceding two late goals to an Ipswich Town side that boasts the best home record in the division.
Had Albion taken some of their early chances it might have been a different story.
The Baggies just about edged a first half in which chances were created at both ends, with Kevin Phillips bouncing a vicious dipping volley off the Ipswich crossbar in response to Pablo Counago striking Dean Kiely`s post.
Ishmael Miller, making his first start since recovering from the knee injury sustained in the Wolves game back on November 25, headed over from a clear opportunity set up by Robert Koren`s cross.
Albion continued their good work early in the second half but the pattern of the game changed after manager Tony Mowbray decided on a double substitution in the 66th minute, replacing both strikers, Phillips and Miller, with Craig Beattie and Roman Bednar.
It was the signal for the Tractor Boys to take control of the match, taking the lead nine minutes later when full back David Wright`s surging run saw him arrive at the near post just in time to get on the end of Liam Trotter`s left-wing cross and direct a glancing header just inside the far post.
Ipswich sealed the points in the 84th minute when Jason De Vos found himself unmarked at the far post to head in a Gavin Williams free kick.
It was one of those games that could have gone either way, though for once Albion found their pace and industry in midfield more than matched by an equally hard-working Ipswich side.
And for all the much-vaunted goal-scoring prowess of both teams, the result ultimately hinged on defenders, with Albion failing to deal with a full back breaking into the box and a centre back stealing in at the far post.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Alexander; Castro, De Vos, Bruce, Wright; Haynes, Garvan, Williams, Trotter (Lee 82); Counago (Clarke 88), Walters. Subs not used: Supple, Wilnis, Legwinski.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kiely; Hoefkens, Pele, Cesar, Robinson; Gera, Koren, Greening, Morrison (Teixeira 78); Miller (Beattie 67), Phillips (Bednar 67). Subs not used: Albrechtsen, Brunt.
Goals: Ipswich - Wright 75, De Vos 84.
Bookings - Ipswich: Williams, Counago; Albion: Hoefkens, Cesar.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).
Made his usual excellent all-round contribution in a generally subdued Albion midfield.