Ipswich Town 3 Sheffield United 1
NEIL Gregory, an unlikely addition to the scramble for promotion places at the head of Division One, scored a first-half hat-trick at Portman Road to confirm the power behind Ipswich's recent rise.
Loaned out to Torquay before Christmas and a long way down the list of manager George Burley's preferred strikers, Gregory took his chances with aplomb to lift his side into fifth position, three points behind last night's opponents.
United could not believe the force behind Ipswich's start, which produced a goal after 19 seconds and a 2-0 lead by the 11th minute. On both occasions their defence was caught woefully square as Gregory streaked away to finish decisively past Simon Tracey.
Howard Kendall took immediate action, withdrawing Nigel Spackman and sending on David White. The visitors began to find their own spaces in attack and were back in it by the 21st minute, when Jan Fjortoft punished a badly misdirected header by Steve Sedgley to score from a testing angle.
However, they continued to look vulnerable to Gregory's pace, and his hat-trick came in the 37th minute after another incisive through-ball from Paul Mason. From an almost identical shooting position he again carried too much power for Tracey.
United, who had also conceded three to Ipswich at Bramall Lane, later threw on Andy Walker, but an Ipswich defence showing composure to match the confidence displayed elsewhere, easily withstood the visitors' final attacks.