Irish driving Tractor Boys’ bid for promotion

Irish driving Tractor Boys’ bid for promotion


DEEP into the last minute of stoppage time at Vicarage Road on Saturday former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy skipped a few paces in the technical area.

Ipswich Town were being presented with a last gasp chance to earn the full complement of spoils by Watford. When the ball was beautifully worked through to substitute Richard Chaplow the finish was sweet, visiting supporters spilled on to the pitch as the celebrations were wild and utterly justified. There is no better time to score.

The patient way McCarthy has transformed Ipswich without an open cheque book tells much about the character and commitment in his squad. Ipswich came to Watford, though, requiring a result as the margin for error is quickly reducing with each passing week. Points need to be put on the board; that is just the way it is at this time of the footballing year.

Following Chaplow’s cool intervention Ipswich’s campaign had suddenly been injected with hope and arguably the greatest ingredient of the lot for a promotion chaser: momentum.  Under the Elton John Stand McCarthy embraced his lieutenant Terry Connor. Stephen Hunt, an unused replacement on this occasion, but central to the Ipswich cause dashed 80 yards to join the fans and thrilled players. The full-time whistle hadn't even been blasted, but it was that sort of moment when the jubilance is merited and the relevance of the team matters most of all.

Within seconds referee Andy D'urso called a halt to proceedings and unsurprisingly the Ipswich players were given a rapturous reception by the animated away fans.

Almost unnoticed McCarthy quietly remained on the side of the pitch. Every single Ipswich member of the matchday squad was greeted by their boss. It might only have been a small gesture, but it appeared to carry a certain weight. The Ipswich players trotted off the park contented that another victory had been posted as the blistering race for a play/off berth continues.

This has been a gruelling and particularly fascinating few months in the Championship.  Watford have stitched a splendid run together playing an attractive brand of football that has them edging towards the promised land of the Premier League. Interest surrounds the future of versatile defender Tommie Hoban, who can be counted on to produce wholehearted and honest displays. Republic of Ireland under 21 international Hoban, usually a centre half, has been pressed into service at left full for Watford recently.

Injury deprived Ipswich of David McGoldrick, who is also ruled out of Sunday's UEFA European Championships qualifier against Poland at the Aviva Stadium. Daryl Murphy, though, flickered on Saturday, while Jay Tabb's unsung, but gritty career story goes on. The Hunt brothers craft and character is always worthy of the utmost respect. Watching Stephen Hunt's reaction following the Ipswich Town goal was a valuable lesson to any young sportsperson about the importance of being earnest.