Richards closes the door on Ipswich

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The Independent Football

Both of these teams have FA Cup glory and upsets in their not-so-distant past, with Ipswich having lifted the trophy in 1978, when they beat the favourites Arsenal in the final, while Southampton made a similar mockery of the odds two years earlier when they beat Manchester United.

Both of these teams have FA Cup glory and upsets in their not-so-distant past, with Ipswich having lifted the trophy in 1978, when they beat the favourites Arsenal in the final, while Southampton made a similar mockery of the odds two years earlier when they beat Manchester United.

Now, some 20-odd years on from those heady days, it is Southampton, a poor 16th in the Premiership, who have progressed to the fourth round of the Cup and earn an all-Premiership tie at Aston Villa. After a weekend of upsets, when four Premiership teams succumbed to lower-league opposition, Southampton must have looked to be a possible fifth against Ipswich, who are fourth in the First Division.

Southampton's recent form has been abysmal, with only one win in their last 10 matches, but they approached this tie with a confident manner that served them throughout and helped keep Ipswich at arm's length for most of the game.

Goalscoring has not been the south coast side's forte in recent games, with no goal registered in their last three League games, and it seemed to sum up their forwards' problems that Dean Richards, their imposing central defender, scored the only goal of the night after 39 minutes with a header, and went close to a second with another header after 66 minutes that rebounded off the crossbar with Richard Wright flat-footed in the Ipswich goal.

Yet once Richards' goal went in, the Southampton manager, Dave Jones, joked that he could relax for the rest of the evening. "When he scores we tend not to lose," Jones quipped.

"We were very pleased to win and did a good professional job," he added. "It wasn't pretty at times but that's what was needed. Some people expected an upset tonight, and that's why there were the television cameras here as well."

The spectre of an upset loomed as early as the first minute when David Johnson, Ipswich's lively striker, sent a shot just wide of Paul Jones in the Southampton goal. The Saints goalkeeper was then left flailing after eight minutes, when another attack down their left flank brought a cross from Jim Magilton, but Matt Holland sent his volley only fractions wide of the post.

It took that to stir the Saints into action and they began to threaten through their striker Marian Pahars. The Latvian began to display his range of tricks and after 15 minutes he went close to goal as he twisted and turned through the Ipswich defence, only to shoot tamely at Wright. Ten minutes later Pahars then claimed a penalty as he nutmegged Tony Mowbray and fell to the ground, only to have his claims waved away.

But it was just five minutes before the break when Richards gave Southampton the lead. From a seemingly innocuous position, the right-back Jo Tessem launched a ball from near the halfway line that an unmarked Richards met with a fierce header beyond Wright. As if to underline how close these teams were in the first half, a minute earlier Jamie Scowcroft had forced a flying save from Jones after he let loose from 20 yards.

Southampton were content to sit on their slender lead after the break as Ipswich probed but hardly forced Jones into a save. However, Southampton were looking to hit Ipswich on the break and they came close to doubling their lead when they forced a corner. From the set-piece Tessem swung the ball in and Richards, again unmarked, drilled his header only to see it rebound off the crossbar.

That added further urgency to Ipswich's attacks and in the dying moments Scowcroft fell under pressure from the full-back Wayne Bridge, but he, too, had his appeal dismissed by the referee Graham Barber.

George Burley, the Ipswich manager, said: We fell asleep for the goal and if you give Premiership teams that sort of opportunity, they'll probably take it. We had opportunities and we only started hurting them late on. Unfortunately, we didn't take one of them."

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): R Wright; McGreal, Mowbray, Brown; Wilnis (J Wright, 46), Stockwell (Naylor, 72), Holland, Magilton; Johnson (Axeldal, 65), Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Salmon (gk), Holster.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Richards, Lundekvam, Tessem; Oakley, Hughes (Beattie, 77), Soltvedt, Bridge; Pahars, Ripley. Substitutes not used: Le Tissier, Moss (gk), Boa Morte, Benali.

Referee: G Barber (Tring).

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