Koumas rises above gloom
GENEROUS, or depending on your point of view, appalling refereeing and a moment of rare quality made the difference for West Brom in a match in which both teams looked to be feeling the effects of the ridiculous holiday schedule.
That Ipswich were unchanged for a fourth successive game probably said as much about manager Jim Magiltonís lack of options as it did about their inconsistent form. West Brom boss Tony Mowbray made two changes ó Neil Clement replacing the suspended Paul Robinson at full-back, and John Hartson, dropping to the bench. Diomansy Kamara joined Kevin Phillips up front, with Zoltan Gera, reported to have been the subject of a £1.5m bid from Middlesbrough last week, coming in on the right side of midfield.
The Hungarian captain would have been forgiven if the wide open spaces of the Premiership crossed his mind during an opening period of dismaying mediocrity. The rare moments of good football came from Ipswich; Gavin Williams and Alex Bruce combined neatly to set up an early chance that Jon Macken scuffed, and Gary Roberts, having wrong-footed two defenders, contrived to toe-poke his shot straight at West Brom goalkeeper Russell Hoult.
When Sylvain Legwinski was allowed to run unhindered from midfield and force Hoult to dive to his left to save, the home crowd began to voice their disapproval. It brought a response of sorts, Jason Koumas breaking clear to fire in a rising drive that brought a good save from Lewis Price.
It was the Ipswich skipper, Jason de Vos, who came closest to breaking the stalemate, though not as he would have liked. Rising to clear a Koumas corner under pressure, only another good save from Price prevented the Canadianís header going into his own net.
The second half was an improvement in terms of action if not quality. Phillips was superbly foiled by Price but two minutes later the strikerís blushes were spared when West Brom took the lead. They needed a distinctly controversial decision to do so, the referee deciding Legwinski had handled when Kamaraís cross hit him from short range. Price brilliantly saved Kamaraís penalty only for the rebound to fall perfectly for the forward to sidefoot into an empty net. The second goal was not long in coming. Koumas picked up the ball on the edge of the Ipswich area and with defenders standing off, struck a sweet drive beyond Price.
Substitute Danny Haynes missed a late sitter for the visitors and West Brom also missed chances to make the scoreline more emphatic. They could have done with a burst from Nathan Ellington, the scorer of two late goals in their last outing, but the striker was not in the squad. Flu was the official reason, though the reported interest from his former club Wigan will inevitably lead to speculation over his immediate future.
Star Man: Lewis Price (Ipswich)
Richard Rae (Sunday Times)