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Bent must make memorable Derby debut if they hope to beat Ipswich

Norwich City are the only side to defeat Ipswich Town at Portman Road this term, so fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Derby County face a difficult assignment is they are to leapfrog their hosts into an automatic ascension spot.

Coral make Mick McCarthy’s men 8/5 favourites for victory, though, ahead of Steve McClaren’s Rams (9/5), as the Suffolk side have recorded five straight victories in front of their own fans. A draw between the sides that second and third in this division comes in at 23/10.

Like so many Championship stories, this clash of Premier League wannabes has the potential to be a tail of two strikers. For hosts Ipswich, they can field the division’s leading marksman Daryl Murphy, who has six in his last five league outings and 17 for the season. Back him at 6/5 in the anytime market, or a better 9/2 to score first.

Backed up by David McGoldrick (two in his last three home appearances and 6/4 to net here), plus the Hunt brothers Stephen (7/2) and new signing Noel as well as a rejuvenated Darren Ambrose (5/1), there is plenty for the County defence to be concerned with. Punters also have the Tractor Boys’ set-piece threat to consider.

Behind Murphy and McGoldrick, Ipswich’s next top scorer is Scotland defender Christophe Berra on five, and he netted in the reverse fixture back in August. New Zealand counterpart Tommy Smith, meanwhile, has two in his last two league matches, and joins Berra as 7/1 shots to net anytime.

McClaren is set to unleash Ipswich old boy Darren Bent on the ex-England striker’s former club here, however, and that touch of Premier League class might be a difference maker. On loan with Derby from Aston Villa, Bent is 5/4 to cap his bow with a goal, and 5/1 to grab the opener.

Starting Bent ahead of Rams and Scotland hotshot Chris Martin, who has 14 league strikes to his credit, may not be wise, though, as the former Norwich frontman was on target in the reverse fixture. You can back Martin at the same prices as Bent in the above markets.

Compatriot Johnny Russell has also been in fine form, and is a tastier 2/1 anytime scorer chance. In spite of Ipswich’s strong defensive home record, odds of 21/5 on victory for McCarthy’s men and both teams netting are tempting, so back the Tractor Boys to extend their advantage in the race for automatic promotion.