Horsfield strikes late
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, WE CAN DO - well, if not better, then just as effectively. Norwich City, the first division leaders, came from behind to win away on Saturday, and West Bromwich Albion followed their example yesterday at Portman Road, drawing level on points at the top thanks to a goal by Geoff Horsfield three minutes and forty seconds into injury time.
It was Albion's fifth successive win, ending Ipswich's own run of three victories, and showed the resilience that has been Albion's hallmark all season. Outplayed and a goal down in the first half, they raised their game in the second, assisted by astute substitutions from Gary Megson, the manager: Jason Koumas and Lloyd Dyer each came off the bench to score.
"At times they played better than we did, but the one thing we have is great character," Megson said. "In the second half we looked like a team that was trying to get itself promoted. In the first half we looked like a team that was just hoping to get promoted."
Ipswich remain only one point behind fourth place, but the reasons why they are no higher than ninth were plain yesterday. The top scorers in the division, they have also conceded more than any team outside the bottom five. "We can play to a level no-one else can in this division, but we don't defend properly as a team," Joe Royle, the manager, said. "Norwich and West Brom defend to a level we don't. Too many players don't seem to think that defending is in their contract."
The positive side of Ipswich was to the fore in the first half, Jim Magilton, the captain, directing a series of slick passing moves as his side dominated. They might have had more than their single goal three minutes before the interval, Tommy Miller touching Matt Richards' cross past Darren Moore with his right foot and hitting it low past Russell Hoult with his left.
Hoult, who had sustained a hip injury, was replaced by Joe Murphy at half-time, but the more significant change was the introduction of Koumas, the creative force Albion had lacked, and the scorer of the equaliser after 72 minutes. Matt Elliott complained that he had been fouled by Horsfield, but the free kick was awarded in Albion's favour, and Koumas bent it past Kelvin Davis and in off a post from 25 yards.
Once level, Albion lost no time in going ahead. Andy Johnson won the ball, Horsfield ushered it into the path of Dyer, and he whacked it between Davis and his near post. However, Ipswich regrouped and equalised five minutes later, with assists from two of their own substitutes, Shefki Kuqi and Martijn Reuser. Kuqi beat Murphy to Reuser's cross, and Darren Bent, despite the challenge of Thomas Gaardsoe, got enough of a touch to roll the loose ball over the line.
That looked enough for a point but, with time running out, Koumas found Hughes on the right and his low cross was swept in by Horsfield, who had been offside but inactive when Koumas found Hughes. "Very frustrating," Royle said. "We've played them twice, conceding seven goals, but in neither game have we been inferior."
Nick Szczepanik (The Times)