Bent grabs crucial
grabbed a crucial hat-trick as Ipswich got their play-off challenge back on
track with a 3-1 Nationwide One win at Walsall.
After a poor first
half Bent fired home just four minutes after the restart to put the Tractor
Boys in front and then added a second on 59 minutes before rounding off the
scoring on the final whistle after Keith Andrews had clawed a goal back with
only two minutes remaining to threaten a comeback.
But although Bent
may grab the headlines, England youth international Dean Bowditch, making his
first start for Ipswich, had a major say in the outcome of a game with a part
to play in two of the visitors' goals.
Ipswich were desperate
to bounce back from the weekend's home defeat to Millwall and that showed as
they made the brighter start with Tommy Miller creating space for himself out
wide, only for his cross-cum-shot to fly over the crossbar.
to break down an Ipswich back-line bolstered by the arrival of Matt Elliott
on loan from Leicester, despite the inclusion of playmaker Paul Merson who returned
after a month-long absence.
The home side,
buoyed by the 1-0 success over Wimbledon at the weekend for their first win
in 11 league games, slowly grew in confidence with Steve Corica and Simon Osborn
both whipping in dangerous crosses but Elliott was there to clear the danger.
starting in place of experienced frontman Shefki Kuqi, got a sight of goal on
31 minutes but his drilled effort only forced Walker into a routine save.
Town were starting
to get on top and Miller had the best chance of the half 10 minutes before the
break when he forced Walker to parry his stinging left-foot shot away for a
But there was
little Walker could do just four minutes after the restart when Ipswich went
In a slick move
Bowditch did well to link up the play before feeding Jermaine Wright on the
left and his ball into the box was neatly swept home by Bent for his second
goal in as many games.
to hit back immediately with Zigor Aranalde having a shot charged down before
Corica's effort was wide of the mark.
But Ipswich made
the game all but safe on 59 minutes and Bowditch was again involved, this time
finding a defence-splitting pass which Bent ran on to before shooting home from
the edge of the area, despite Walker getting a hand to the ball.
Ipswich were now
rampant and Miller crashed a shot against the woodwork on 70 minutes, Elliott's
header was well-saved by Walker and then Miller forced the Walsall goalkeeper
into another fine stop.
Walsall then looked
as though they might grab an unlikely point as Andrews stroked home a beautifully
executed free-kick two minutes from time.
But any hopes of
a fightback were quickly extinguished as Bent completed his hat-trick, sweeping
home Ian Westlake's cross.