The Uefa Cup millstone that their new manager, Joe Royle, has identified as an impediment to their progress up the First Division table weighed down Ipswich yesterday, whereas Crystal Palace are a team playing with freedom and confidence, prepared to indulge their attacking instincts.
Having watched Ipswich closely in Thursday's European win over Slovan Liberec, the Palace manager, Trevor Francis, decided to employ three front-runners at Portman Road and was repaid with a third successive victory courtesy of an unlikely winning goal from Danny Butterfield.
It may well have been Butterfield's intention to drive the ball across into the area rather than going for goal. It had no impact, however, on the joyous celebration of his first goal for the club he joined from Grimsby on a free transfer last season, but undoubtedly it caused Andy Marshall to reflect on the cruel vagaries of the goalkeeping position. Being beaten at his near post 12 minutes from time was harsh on the Ipswich man who had pulled off two spectacular saves early in the second half.
"We wanted to put their back four under as much pressure as possible,'' said Francis. "It was probably a good time to play Ipswich.''
With Johnson, who had scored back-to-back hat-tricks, ably supported by Dougie Freedman and Dele Adebola the visitors always looked likely to fashion the lion's share of goals-scoring opportunities.
In contrast, Royle has walked into a club where the shortage of attacking options is alarming. A hamstring injury that forced Alun Armstrong's removal before half-time has added urgency to his need for a loan signing.
Johnson scored the opening goal in the 18th minute when Adebola skilfully laid the ball square along the 18-yard line. Ipswich were producing little of comparable penetration, but in the 37th minute Jamie Clapham's cross was nodded back at the far post by Jermaine Wright. Ambrose's twisting header confirmed that he is a player with a Premiership future.
Freedman came close on two occasions before half-time and was then foiled by the first of Marshall's eye-catching stops. Tony Popovic suffered the same fate, but the heroics were in vain when the perseverance of Julian Gray and Aki Riihilahti kept the ball moving and when it was eventually turned into Butterfield's path Palace's adventure found a rightful conclusion.
Goals: Johnson (19) 0-1; Ambrose (39) 1-1; Butterfield (78) 1-2.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Marshall; Makin (George, 80), Gaardsoe, Brown, Hreidarsson; Ambrose, Magilton, Holland, Clapham; Armstrong (Wright, 32), D Bent. Substitutes not used: Pullen (gk), Wilnis, Venus.
Crystal Palace (3-4-3): Kolinko; Powell, Popovic, Mullins; Butterfield, Derry, Riihilahti (Symons, 78), Granville (Gray, h-t); Freedman, Johnson, Adebola (Black, 67). Substitutes not used: Michopoulos (gk), Antwi.
Referee: C Webster (Gateshead).
Bookings: Ipswich: Makin. Crystal Palace: Butterfield.
Man of the match: Mullins.
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