Two sensational long-range strikes from Paul Furlong may remain in the memory of Queens Park Rangers' fans. But the club's manager, Ian Holloway, will concentrate more on the fact that his team threw away a 2-1 advantage to an Ipswich side that in the end emphasised the difference in resilience and determination between the two.
In recent matches, Ipswich had created many more chances than they had converted but without jeopardising their place in the running for automatic promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship. Unpredictable Rangers had been going from moderately impressive to miserably inept and back again. It was not a day on which to forecast the outcome.
In a testing first 10 minutes, Rangers had to rely on the quality of their goalkeeper Chris Day, who three times rescued them from an embarrassing opening. He frustrated a low, powerful shot from Ian Westlake, turned a higher one from Tommy Miller away for a corner with an outstretched right hand and pushed a drive from Richard Naylor over the crossbar.
Rangers were left hoping they could hit Ipswich on the break, but were themselves vulnerable to the pace at which their opponents counter-attacked. Day had to remain alert, repelling a strong header from Darren Bent whose strength and bright movement proved a constant threat.
Ipswich finally turned opportunities into substance when, after 24 minutes, Rangers failed to clear a centre and left Jason De Vos to head past an understandably frustrated Day. You would have predicted that the pattern had been set. Wrong. Paul Furlong quickly rearranged it with two unstoppable shots.
Both were struck from outside the penalty area and both from clearances. Both flashed low inside the far post before Kelvin Davis could respond.
Kevin Gallen, whose quick thinking and timely pass had set up Furlong's second goal, then spoiled his good work with a volley and a lob both of which could, perhaps should, have increased Rangers' advantage.
He lived to regret both misses all the more when, in the 58th minute, Ipswich equalised. Darren Currie, nephew of the former Rangers' favourite Tony, had only just come on for his first appearance since joining Ipswich from Brighton in midweek. It was his instinctive pass that allowed Shefki Kuqi to set up Bent, who had room to thrash a shot past Day with the help of a deflection.
Ipswich were beginning to take a grip of the game and on 72 minutes they scored again. New boy Currie, who said later that as a youngster "Rangers were my team" and that he had even been their mascot, took possession 25 yards out and attempted a shot that would probably have gone wide had another deflection not sent it inside the far post.
Four minutes later Ipswich sealed the game when De Vos swivelled close to goal and released the ball to Kuqi. He slammed it beyond Day, who deserved better.
Rangers, who had looked upon this match as a pointer to their potential this season, cannot allow a lead to slip at home if they are to gain a play-off position.Reuse content