Football: Ipswich are too strong

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Ipswich Town. . . 3

Manchester City. .1

WHILE Norwich faltered, the other unlikely story developing in East Anglia this season gained fresh credibility yesterday. Ipswich, a goal down at half-time, recovered to overpower Manchester City and loom into view among the pack chasing their neighbours.

Ipswich, promoted as champions of the Second Division, have lost only twice in the Premier League and are unbeaten in seven starts since Chelsea defeated them on 10 October. But for an extraordinary proportion of draws, they would already be snapping at the heels of the leaders, who they meet at Carrow Road tomorrow week in the most important derby confrontation in these parts for some years.

For much of the first half yesterday, however, one imagined another day of shared spoils might be the best they could hope for, especially when City deservedly took the lead. While City had hardly been impressive, they were worthy of the advantage given them when 20-year-old Gary Flitcroft steered home Terry Phelan's low cross for his first senior goal.

But there was much more aggression about Ipswich in the second half and City, who might be a force themselves should they find some consistency, could not resist. Two goals in the space of three minutes took Ipswich into the lead and left their opponents looking shell-shocked.

The first involved Boncho Genchev, the Bulgarian striker signed from Sporting Lisbon. If the pace, typically frantic, was a problem for him he certainly has the touch that the Ipswich management like. His deft return pass enabled Neil Thompson to cross for Mick Stockwell to nod home at the right-hand post.

Sensing City's rockiness, Ipswich stepped up another gear and were rewarded again. Niall Quinn performed heroics to clear Phil Whelan's header from under the crossbar but when Gavin Johnson struck the ball back towards the goal it evaded everyone, including Tony Coton.

After that, City rarely looked like avoiding a third consecutive defeat and when Steve Whitton headed down Thompson's free-kick with three minutes left, Paul Goddard, without a goal since 1 September, easily converted his chance.

Before the showdown at Norwich, Ipswich face a replay this Tuesday of their Coca-Cola Cup tie against Aston Villa, a test which promises to be just as difficult. However, if they can reproduce the self-belief which enabled them to turn City over, neither Villa nor Norwich will find them easy to overcome.

Ipswich Town: C Baker; P Whelan, N Thompson, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Johnson, P Goddard, S Whitton, J Dozzell, B Genchev (E Youds, 84 min). Subs not used: V Bozinoski, J Winters (gk). Team manager: M McGiven.

Manchester City: T Coton; I Brightwell, T Phelan, S McMahon, K Curle, A Hill (M Sheron, 88 min), D White, P Reid, N Quinn, G Flitcroft, R Holden. Subs not used: F Simpson, M Margetson (gk). Player-manager: P Reid.

Referee: R Lewis (Great Bookham).

Goals: Flitcroft (0-1, 37 min), Stockwell (1-1, 58 min), Johnson (2-1, 61 min), Goddard (3-1, 87 min).