Arsenal. . . . 4
A GRUDGING, goal-shy tie was anticipated, but that was far from what was delivered. This was a vibrant sixth-round FA Cup match won in the end by Arsenal's power, yet they were a shade flattered by their total and Ipswich were poorly rewarded for their spirit.
For Ipswich, the big day came on the echo of the jeers that they heard only a few days before when losing at home to Middlesbrough. League form had ebbed, chances kept disappearing and injuries had amplified the difficulties. Not that Arsenal's approach to the tie had been any more heartening. A draw at Norwich and a defeat at Chelsea in the same week had left them marooned in mid-table, making yesterday's game their most important of the season but still one that had looked unlikely to be as good as it was.
If anyone had it in his power to shed goals on the occasion, it had to be Ian Wright, and if there was a player who could take advantage of Arsenal's usually anonymous midfield, it had to be Jason Dozzell.
Ipswich's hopes also rested to a large extent on Chris Kiwomya's ability to make pedestrians out of Tony Adams and Andy Linighan. When he threatened to do so early on, Linighan dragged him to the ground and was mighty fortunate to concede nothing more harmful to his immediate future than a free-kick simply because the referee seemed not to see the incident and had to take the advice of a linesman. Arsenal's fears about Kiwomya were fully justified. When, after 16 minutes, Neil Thompson's corner instigated a prolonged, chaotic scramble in the Arsenal goal area, Kiwomya backed off the melee giving himself space to lift a successful shot over the crowd of players and force Arsenal into taking a more positive attitude.
Seeing Alan Smith fail with a header that really ought to have found the net, Adams decided it was not too early to trundle upfield. After 29 minutes, Paul Merson waited to take a free-kick while Adams, characteristically, blustered into the goal area, pulled and pushed his way behind defenders at the far post and got his bandaged forehead to the ball, which went over the stretching Clive Baker and under the bar.
So the tie that had almost been damned before it began was turned into a proper, end-to-end struggle decorated by some moments of attractive football, not least those inspired by Dozzell. Wright was well marshalled by Phil Whelan and John Wark, and it became a matter of whether his frustration or his appetite for scoring would surface first.
On the first occasion that Wright found himself in some clear space his dipping volley dropped over the bar, but there was fresh aggression in Arsenal's second-half approach as Wright began to pull wide to drag defenders with him and allow Merson to exploit the clearer ground and it was Merson's influence that became the greatest threat to an ever more retreating Ipswich defence.
Just after the hour Merson's ability to grasp opportunities created the opening Arsenal had been working to achieve. His finely judged forward pass into the penalty area gave Wright every chance to move through and score. Wark saw the danger quickly enough but in prodding the ball away simultaneously brought down Wright who slammed in the inevitable penalty.
Arsenal had by now subdued the midfield efforts of Dozzell and Geraint Williams. Nevertheless Dozzell had a splendid early second-half chance but hit his shot straight at David Seaman. His disappointment was compounded when Wright again burst through the Ipswich defence and was in an equal race with Whelan who, in his haste, stuck out his foot and thrust the ball past his own goalkeeper. Of course, Wright celebrated the goal in his usual immodest way.
With Kiwomya struggling with a leg injury, Ipswich seemed lost. But then Boncho Genchev at last made a positive intervention by stabbing in a shot from three yards out. Ipswich suddenly found renewed strength. Williams, so impressive throughout, began to attack from midfield but it was too late and the Arsenal substitute Kevin Campbell capitalised on tired Ipswich midfield play to score the fourth in the last minute.
Ipswich Town: C Baker; G Johnson, N Thompson (P Goddard 73 min), M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, B Genchev, P Whelan, J Dozzell, C Kiwomya. Sub not used: E Youds, Team Manager: M McGiven.
Arsenal: D Seaman; L Dixon, N Winterburn, P Davis, A Linighan, T Adams, J Carter (D Hillier 76 min), I Wright, A Smith (K Campbell 77 min), P Merson, S Morrow. Manager: G Graham.
Referee: A Wilkie (Durham).
Goals: Kiwomya (1-0, 16 min); Adams (1-1, 29 min); Wright pen (1-2, 61 min); Whelan og (1-3, 72 min); Genchev (2-3, 77 min); Campbell (2-4, 89 min).
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