Mason builds up Ipswich

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The Independent Online

Ipswich Town 1 Walsall 0

Ipswich, whose third-round victory at Blackburn Rovers last month has already passed into Portman Road folklore, earned an early opportunity for further glory last night. A largely untroubled victory over Second Division opponents in this twice-postponed FA Cup fourth-round tie assured them of another crack at the Premiership's reputation on Saturday in the form of a home game against Walsall's posh neighbours, Aston Villa.

Ipswich's opponents had reached this stage of the competition in a less exalted fashion, with a win over Wigan, but they came with the kind of defensive record one might expect of a side managed by the craggy former Northern Ireland centre-back, Chris Nicholl.

For all that, the visitors were undone after just six minutes as Simon Milton, clearly unaffected by a recently drained and heavily sanded pitch, weighted a through ball perfectly for Paul Mason to run between two defenders and score with a handsome drive.

The incursions of Scott Houghton on the left wing offered Walsall flickering hope, but Ipswich, with the 38-year-old John Wark a piece of living, tackling, club history at the back, remained in control.

After 28 minutes, Ian Marshall had a shot tipped on to the bar but his effort was ruled out for offside. As the break approached, however, Walsall - as if relieved they had conceded no further goals - seriously threatened an equaliser.

After 36 minutes, Kyle Lightbourne drove narrowly over after dispossessing Tony Mowbray. Within a minute the Walsall centre-forward had the opportunity to do even better when Kevin Wilson's pass put him through in an almost identical manner to the move which had created Ipswich's goal. Lightbourne, however, pushed the ball too close to the diving keeper.

The First Division side might have put the result beyond doubt after 52 minutes when, after James Scowcroft's shot had been deflected to Marshall on the edge of the box, the ungainly Ipswich forward produced a lob of startling daintiness which rebounded gently off the bar before being cleared.

The tide was all one way, and Mason surfed in on the next blue wave before driving the ball the wrong side of the post after 65 minutes. Marshall, capitalising on a mistake by Adrian Viveash, had another opportunity 15 minutes from time, but pulled his shot wide.

Ipswich Town (5-3-2): Wright; Stockwell (Uhlenbeek, 68), Wark, Sedgley, Mowbray, Taricco; Milton, Williams, Mason; Scowcroft, Marshall. Substitutes not used: Gregory, Vaughan.

Walsall (4-4-2): Wood; Ntamark (Evans, 20), Roper, Viveash, Daniel; Marsh, Bradley, O'Connor, Houghton; Lightbourne (Kerr, 74), Wilson. Substitute not used: Butler.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury)