BARNSLEY boss Keith Hill was left perplexed after his side were rocked my a stunning comeback that ended their impressive four-match unbeaten run.
The Reds were cruising at 2-0 ahead against the Tractor Boys in front of a buoyant Oakwell crowd.
But then it all went pear-shaped for the hosts as their opponents hit back with a courageous second-half comeback.
No-one would have seen the fightback coming, especially from a side who had lost their last seven matches and whose manager, Paul Jewell, was seemingly clinging on to his job for dear life.
“One hundred per cent I couldn’t see that coming - I don’t think anyone could,” admitted Hill.
“I can’t fault our players, though. It was totally down to the response of the Ipswich players.
“When you look down the team sheet you can see only Premier League quality, but something must have happened in their dressing room at half-time.
“Whether they realised that they had finally reached rock bottom I don’t know, but they ended up showing us exactly how much of a good team they are.
“I was disappointed with the way we defended for three of their goals, but that’s not taking anything away from Ipswich. Massive credit to them.
“From my point of view, we’ve been beaten by a really good side and so I have to take our performance in isolation.
“The quality of their players means they can punish us and that’s exactly what happened. We’ve just got to move on now.”
The Reds could have moved up to seventh in the table with a victory – and they were well set to do that after Craig Davies had given them a 13th-minute lead from the penalty spot, before fellow forward Ricardo Vaz Te doubled the lead with a close-range header five minutes from half-time.
But whatever former Wigan boss Jewell said at half-time worked as his struggling side called on every ounce of their quality to upset the Reds.
It took the visitors just over 22 seconds to pull a goal back after the break when midfielder Keith Andrews slotted home.
And by the 49th minute Ipswich were level when Blackburn Rovers loan signing Andrews silenced the home supporters with a smart header.
It soon got even better for Jewell’s charges as Danny Collins put them ahead shortly after the hour mark and then Michael Chopra and Jason Scotland got in on the scoring act to leave the Reds reeling.
Davies bagged his eighth goal in eight games with two minutes remaining to salvage a slice of pride, but there was no papering over the cracks.
“Despite the result, I was really pleased with the players,” maintained Hill. “Don’t forget a game is never won at 2-0, and an opposition with as much quality as Ipswich will punish us.
“Maybe some of the players are running out of legs a bit, and if that is the case it is a bit concerning.
“In two of our recent games we’ve conceded eight second-half goals so that’s something I’m going to have to sit down and deliberate over.
“There are one or two things to work out, but having said that I won’t over-egg the pudding so to speak.
“The players have still been excellent and it was always going to be difficult against Ipswich.
“The players are hurting, but we’ve got plenty of time to prepare for the West Ham game.”
Hill made one change to his starting 11 that had toasted a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Oakwell five days earlier, with defender Scott Wiseman promoted from the bench and Nile Ranger, the Newcastle United loan striker, dropped.
Wiseman slotted in at left-back with Jay McEveley still missing with a thigh injury, with David Perkins – who had played in that position for 45 minutes against the Eagles in midweek – moving into a more preferred central midfield role. And it was the home side who started the better as they went in search of their first run of five successive victories since 1996-97.
Portuguese hjtman Vaz Te and Jim O’Brien had both gone close before the on-song Davies extended his rich vein of form. The former Chesterfield striker made no mistake from the spot after Manchester United loanee Danny Drinkwater had been sent sprawling by Ipswich keeper David Stockdale.
Drinkwater latched on to skipper Jacob Butterfield’s inch-perfect through-ball, Stockdale was caught out and Davies cooly slotted home. Drinkwater didn’t last long after the challenge, substituted with an injury and Matt Done introduced as Hill was forced to shuffle his pack.
Martin hit the bar in the 38th minute.
Then Butterfield swung in a corner-kick and Vaz Te was on hand to nod in at the near post for his fifth goal in his last four matches.
However Andrews volleyed in superbly from 20 yards straight after the beak, then three minutes later the skipper headed home Aaron Cresswell’s cross for his eighth goal of the season.
A quite breathtaking comeback was completed in the 66th minute, centre-back Collins clinically heading home Martin’s corner.
Chopra slid home past Reds keeper Luke Steele to make it 4-2, then Scotland tapped in from close range to wrap up a quite amazing victory.
Davies curled in a sweet free-kick for the hosts in the last minute, but Ipswich were worthy winners following a devastating effort in the second half.