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Walsall (0) 1 - 3 (0) Ipswich Town

Nationwide League Division One 2003-04

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Referee: Carl Boyeson

Manager: Colin Lee

Bescot Stadium 19:45

Attendance: 6,762

Manager: Joe Royle

Match Number: 3048

Goals

Home
 Andrews (88)
Away
 Darren Bent (48)
 Darren Bent (59)
 Darren Bent (90)

Substitutions

Home
CoricaTaylor (79)
MersonFryatt (86)

Cards

Home
 
Away
 

Teams

Home

Walker

Ritchie

Bazeley

Aranalde

Roper

Osborn

Emblen

Corica

Andrews

Birch

Merson

Substitutes

Home

Matias

Fryatt

Taylor

Petterson

Carbon

Match Report

Bent grabs crucial hat-trick

Darren Bent 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.

Walsall struggled 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.

Teenager Bowditch, 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 corner.

But there was little Walker could do just four minutes after the restart when Ipswich went in front.

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.

Walsall looked 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.

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