Arsenal reap the fruits of hard labour

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Ipswich Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Arsenal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

AS George Graham surveyed the media army, all puff and pant, advancing towards him, he insisted we should go back up six flights of stairs to hear his victory address. For those of us also completing our third Arsenal game in six days the lack of conditioning was embarrassing, yet sympathy from the manager was in short supply.

But then why should he care? On Wednesday it will be four games in 10 days for his team as they look to complete against Crystal Palace the formality of a place in the Coca- Cola Cup final. On Saturday at Coventry it will be five in 13. The 'Danger, men at work' signs beside the A12 leading to Portman Road should have been dressed in red and white with a cannon pinned to their chest.

Arsenal are being seriously over- employed by the fixture programmers but they were the ones to emerge smiling at the final whistle with the thought of more hard labour to come in the FA Cup semi- final; their odds for a unique Wembley double shortened to 7-2.

They are not attractive odds and no wonder. Complain at Ian Wright's ill-discipline, poke fun at the recurring banana skin which recently brought Tony Adams down again. Accepting all their warts, Arsenal remain first and foremost a team to be respected, admired and feared.

It can only have been kidology for Graham to claim in advance that Arsenal were the underdogs. Granted Ipswich were looking down on them in the League but their remarkable first season back in the big time could not mask the fact that on the important occasions, with Wembley in view, you must back experience and the team with the greater resource and will.

Mick McGiven, the Ipswich team manager, was the first to acknowledge afterwards the road that still lies ahead of his side. 'We can take confidence from the fact that we had young players on the pitch and hopefully they can learn from Arsenal and from the mistakes we made,' he said.

Arsenal were keen to exploit Clive Baker's vulnerability in the air but David Seaman was the first to err as Boncho Genchev's corner found him less than decisive, Chris Kiwomya finally ramming the ball home after it had pinballed around the area.

That was the best we saw of Ipswich as the visitors wasted little time in turning disadvantage to good effect, cranking up their determination and industry until a free-kick from Paul Merson was steered home at the far post by that half of Adams's forehead unprotected by plaster.

It enabled them to arrive all- square at the half-way stage of a quarter-final tie that was always entertaining and full of incident, even if craft and technique left something to be desired. For that an unfriendly surface - what became of Portman Road's reputation as the best in the land? - must take its share of the blame.

After the break, however, there was only going to be one outcome as Arsenal condemned Ipswich's midfield to defensive positions and isolated the threat from Kiwomya and Genchev. Polarised, Ipswich's clearances kept coming back to haunt them. John Wark's header was one of many that did not reach its destination and when it was returned he was stranded by Wright's speed, fouled him, and the striker executed the penalty for his 50th goal for the club in 68 games.

From 2-1 it quickly became 3-1 as Phil Whelan, worried to distraction by another Wright thrust, clipped the ball past his keeper and although Genchev's nimble penalty- box skills offered Ipswich a late reprieve, Kevin Campbell, the substitute, went on to satisfy Graham's demand for a sharing around of the goals.

The workload has caused him problems but Graham has used the situation wisely, moving players around and granting a breather where it was most needed. Places have been earned and here Graham selected a midfield threesome from his reserves - Jimmy Carter, Steve Morrow and Paul Davis.

Davis has genuine passing ability but paid a heavy price for criticising Graham. Arsenal look the better for his return. 'I have always championed Paul's cause,' Graham said, denying again that a personality clash lay behind the player's absence from the team for 14 months. 'He has been lacking a bit of strength but he was excellent at Norwich in midweek and I thought he deserved to be in again today.'

Goals: Kiwomya (17) 1-0; Adams (29) 1-1; Wright pen (62) 1-2; Whelan og (73) 1-3; Genchev (77) 2-3; Campbell (90) 2-4).

Ipswich Town: Baker; Stockwell, D Linighan, Whelan, Wark, Thompson (Goddard, 74), Williams, Dozzell, Johnson, Genchev, Kiwomya. Substitute not used: Youds.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, A Linighan, Adams, Winterburn, Carter (Hillier, 76), Davis, Morrow, Merson, Wright, Smith (Campbell, 78).

Referee: A Wilkie (Co Durham).