Resurgent Ipswich maintain upward movement

Everton 1 Ipswich Town 2
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The Independent Football

The 1,000th league victory of Ipswich's history hardly ranked as one of the most handsome, but, in the context of their steady trundle away from relegation, it was as valuable as most.

The 1,000th league victory of Ipswich's history hardly ranked as one of the most handsome, but, in the context of their steady trundle away from relegation, it was as valuable as most.

The Tractor Boys' change of gear since Christmas has been remarkable. Rock bottom when the presents were being unwrapped, they have stormed up the table to 12th whilst some are still waiting to be exchanged for a different size or colour.

Of eight Premiership games since Christmas, they have won seven. It should have been eight; they were 2-0 up at Charlton. This latest victory gave them a particularly handy elevation, taking them above both Everton and those other resurrection experts, Southampton.

In the dark days of December, George Burley maintained his belief that his team's plight was not due to playing badly, but to individual mistakes. They have simply cut those out, particularly at the back, where Burley's trio of John McGreal, Hermann Hreidarsson and Mark Venus were solidity itself at Goodison. If the 4-1 defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup had affected their burgeoning confidence, they disguised it well.

A midfield anchored by that most reliable of players, Matt Holland, always had a better shape about it than Everton's and, although it took two exceptional strikes to win the game, Ipswich were good value for all three points.

On this showing, other sides struggling towards the bottom of the table should not rely on Ipswich coming to their rescue. They look much more like the side that over-achieved last season than the one that stuttered through the early stages of this. A solid mid-table finish beckons, although Burley is no doubt right to warn that their run-in is tougher than most.

Everton's performance, however, was one to give all the other relegation candidates hope. Unbeaten in five games they might have been, but they had relied heavily during that run on Paul Gascoigne's ageing legs and it is simply unrealistic to expect him to produce the goods every time at this stage of his career.

Gazza got off on the wrong foot with a couple of badly misplaced passes and never really got into his stride. Without his contribution, the Everton midfield, though it had the bulk of possession for big chunks of the match, was a shapeless mess, incapable of providing a decent service for their front men.

Gascoigne seems to have taken on an extra job at Goodison. The cover of the programme featured him tying up the boot laces of a mascot – his son, Regan – and he was required for similar duties before kick-off on Saturday. The new signing, Tobias Linderoth, may at least be able to relieve some of the weight off Gascoigne's shoulders in midfield. He looked neat and enterprising when he came on for the second half.

But Everton could be glancing nervously at their feet for the rest of the season, worrying about whether they are about to be tripped up.

Goals: Unsworth pen (28) 1-0; Peralta (11) 1-1; Holland (44) 1-2.

Everton (4-4-2): Simonsen 5; Clarke 4 (Linderoth 5, h-t), Weir 5, Stubbs 6, Unsworth 4 (Moore, 82); Blomqvist 6, Gemmill 3, Gascoigne 4, Naysmith 4; Ferguson 6, Campbell 4. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Tal, Cleland.

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Marshall 6; McGreal 7, Hreidarsson 7, Venus 7; Makin 5, Wright 4 (Magilton 5, h-t), Holland 7, Peralta 6, Clapham 7; Armstrong 5 (Stewart 5, 55), Bent 6. Substitutes not used: Couñago, Reuser, Sereni (gk).

Referee: S.Dunn (Bristol) 5.

Booking: Everton: Stubbs.

Man of the match: Holland.

Attendance: 33,069.

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