Mahon drives Tractor Boys to new heights
One year into his tenure as manager of Ipswich, all the indications are that Joe Royle is starting to get things right.
Sir Bobby Robson may have been wearing blue-and-white tinted glasses when he recently insisted Ipswich are the best First Division side he has seen this season, but this latest victory lifts them comfortably into the top half of the table and, in Alan Mahon and Jim Magilton, Royle boasts individuals possessing sufficient flair to ensure a top-six finish next May.
Bradford have been debilitated by even more serious pecuniary plight than the East Anglians in the aftermath of relegation from the Premiership and are hovering on the brink of another drop zone but, judging by this hard-working, spirited showing from Nicky Law's side, mid-table respectability might not be beyond them.
Premiership players may earn astronomical sums but, as Julian Rhodes, Bradford's chief executive, pointed out yesterday, Law's 13 best-paid First Division performers average just £750 per week.
Nicky Summerbee is certainly earning significantly less than during his heyday at Sunderland but, after spending months seeking a permanent club, the right winger is simply relieved to have found himself a home in West Yorkshire.
While yesterday's first half saw the man, whose crosses not only created goal after goal for Kevin Phillips but rivalled David Beckham's deliveries for accuracy, generally well policed by Ipswich, it was significant that one of Summerbee's rare, but typically precise, dispatches very nearly produced a goal for Luke Cornwall.
Similarly accurate distribution is one of Mahon's fortes and the Ipswich midfielder illuminated proceedings courtesy of some inventive left-foot passing.
Appropriately, it was Mahon who gave Royle's side the points with the winner shortly before half-time. The goal originated with a long ball out of defence, flicked into the scorer's path by Pablo Counago's head.
All that remained was for Mahon to unleash a low, left-foot, shot from just outside the area, which completely eluded Bradford keeper Marlon Beresford en route to the bottom corner.
Beresford had earlier experienced something of a reprieve when he spilled a shot from the muscular Shefki Kuqi but, with David Wetherall using his considerable experience to impressive effect at the heart of Law's defence, visiting chances were at a premium.
Royle had barely settled into his dugout at the outset of the second half when he saw Kuqi, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, spurn a wonderful opportunity to double Ipswich's advantage when the Finland striker proved his left foot is somewhat less reliable than Mahon's by using it to direct a shot against a post from six yards.
Yet as Magilton and Chris-Bart Williams steadily tightened their grip on central midfield, Ipswich looked increasingly in control and Beresford did well to repel a Mahon free-kick, which was bent in adroitly from 25 yards radius.
With Mahon and Magilton sharing responsibility for set piece execution, the Tractor Boys menaced from dead balls. Counago though was left cursing after missing one from 12 yards, Beresford saving his penalty awarded following Wetherall's foul on Kuqi.
Beresford's heroics seemed to inspire Bradford and, with Summerbee making his presence felt down the right, they attacked with a new found vigour which suddenly threatened to produce an equaliser.
Danny Forrest duly beat the ground in what was evidently considerable frustration after his shot fractionally failed to evade Kelvin Davis's grasp as Ipswich, hitherto coasting to victory, found themselves forced into some pretty desperate backpedalling.
Seconds before the final whistle Richard Naylor somehow scooped the ball off the line after a Summerbee cross had provoked chaos among Royle's rearguard and it seemed small wonder that Counago's expression was one of sheer relief as the teams trudged off.
Louise Taylor (Sunday Telegraph)