Sunderland 1 Ipswich Town 0: Bold investment looks to be well judged

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The Independent Online

The shutters have barely come off this month's transfer window but Roy Keane has done brisk business as a previously untried, but clearly ambitious, buyer and seller.

If the immediate impact of his three January signings offers a measure of the Irishman's potential as a prime mover in the sporting marketplace then Sunderland supporters can look forward to a bright future at the Stadium of Light.

The Scottish Premier League's leading scorer, Anthony Stokes, was the name on the lips of the majority of the club's fans before the visit of Ipswich Town but it was the performance of Johnny Evans, the Manchester United trainee, that had Wearside buzzing. A player with poise and power, the Belfast-born central defender is reminiscent of Gary Pallister and it is little wonder he signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford immediately before he joined Roy Keane on loan until the end of the season.

"It was an important day for us in terms of the players making their home debuts," said Keane, who also handed a first start to the former Luton Town playmaker Carlos Edwards. "All three of them did well. Anthony led the line with determination, Carlos was a threat and I thought Jonny was magnificent. The conditions weren't easy, and when it's like that you're looking at your players, new and old, to dig deep. It was a very long afternoon but a good one."

At 18 Stokes lacks experience, but his goalscoring record with unfashionable Falkirk before Christmas demanded attention, and within 13 minutes of his Black Cats' debut the Irishman demonstrated his rich potential. Set free down Ipswich's left flank, Stokes rounded Town's full-back Dan Harding and cut out the covering defender, Jason de Vos, at the near post with a perfect cross. David Connolly, also Irish, scored his sixth goal of the season at the far post. The newly fashioned strike pairing celebrated as if they had clinched promotion.

The addition of Stokes, Edwards and Evans may enable the Wearsiders to do just that. Ipswich's manager, Jim Magilton, can only dream of a return to the top flight, and where Keane now boasts attacking options in abundance his counterpart said: "We need another front-line striker. We took the game to Sunderland after the break but we had no end product."

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