Bent pulls leaders back into shape

Ipswich Town 3 - Coventry City 2
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two goals from their resurgent striker Darren Bent and a fortunate late winner from Finnish forward Shefki Kuqi kept Ipswich Town top of the Championship table ­ yet Coventry, with a performance of guts and guile, deserved more than this narrow defeat.

Two goals from their resurgent striker Darren Bent and a fortunate late winner from Finnish forward Shefki Kuqi kept Ipswich Town top of the Championship table ­ yet Coventry, with a performance of guts and guile, deserved more than this narrow defeat.

Adrian Heath, the caretaker Coventry manager, had warned before the game that any supporters masochistic enough to make the journey to the League leaders should prepare themselves for either a drubbing or a backs-to-the-wall battle. But Coventry took the lead and then fought back from 2-1 down before Kuqi netted 13 minutes from time, scoring after the Ipswich goalkeeper Kelvin Davis's clearance had somehow eluded the whole of the visiting defence.

"I'm devastated to lose it in the manner we lost it," said Heath, who demanded in his post-match comments that the Highfield Road board should make a decision within the next week as to who should succeed Peter Reid as manager on a permanent basis. "It was bizarre, the last goal. The keeper miskicked it from their penalty spot and next thing it's in the back of the net without anyone touching it apart from Kuqi.

"It was a pathetic goal really, but hard because we deserved something from the performance. We've come to a team that will probably go up and dominated for long periods ­ but the results are why we are where we are."

Coventry took a deserved 12th-minute lead after dominating the opening period when Stern John broke a poor Ipswich offside trap to latch on to Dean Leacock's flick before rounding Davis and firing home.

Coventry were buzzing, and their five-man midfield clearly held the advantage until Ipswich switched the focus of their play down the wings and earned a number of half-chances, with Kuqi guilty of wastefulness on three occasions. But Bent was not so careless when presented with his first opening on the stroke of half-time, stabbing home Fabian Wilnis's cross for his first goal in five games.

Coventry were again the better side at the start of the second half before Bent hit them with a sucker punch on the hour. His run behind Richard Shaw was picked out by the Ipswich captain, Jim Magilton, and Bent twisted to chip the ball over Luke Steele from the corner of the six-yard box for his second.

Ipswich did not deserve to be ahead and, a minute later, there was a sense that justice had been done when Kuqi handled in his own area after Micky Doyle's corner-kick had bobbled. Gary McSheffrey blasted home from the spot, his fifth in seven matches.

The quickfire exchange opened the game up as both sides chased the win, but the home supporters were becoming irritated with their side's lack of sharpness until Kuqi's freak winner on 77 minutes. As Coventry tired, Bent and Kuqi both had clear chances to add to their respective tallies, which now stand at 13 apiece. But Joe Royle, the Ipswich manager, admitted his side had been fortunate to take all three points.

"Coventry played well and credit to them," said Royle. "If they had played like that all season, my mate Reidy would still be in a job. But Adrian has galvanised them and I think he deserves a shot at it."

Comments