Ipswich Town fan Russell Claydon hails The Tractor Boys on and off the pitch at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium

PAUL Jewell may have felt a bit of a fraud had he been toasting a second Carling Cup final, days into his reign at Portman Road, but there is no doubt the boys in blue gave the multi-millionaire Gunners a hell of a run for their money.

For 151 minutes of the semi-final tie, Ipswich managed to shut out world-class opposition, while the Town faithful, criticised by Roy Keane, proved to be worth their weight in gold.

The cup run, which ended in a brave 3-0 defeat at the impressive Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, has been great for the club’s coffers, but also invaluable for fragile confidence among a squad who have visibly grown over the 180 minutes - one which forged cult status for caretaker manager Ian ‘Charlie’ McParland.

The Town goal may have led a charmed life as Van Persie and Fabregas (twice) demonstrated profligacy on Tuesday, but to a man the heart and hunger of the Ipswich players made me proud to be associated with the Tractor Boys.

Frustrating the opposition, which drew the accusation from Fabregas we played like a rugby team and became the subject of much banter in the Emirates, is the antithesis of ‘the Ipswich way’.

But had we tried to play football against Arsene Wenger’s pass-masters, we would have been on the receiving end of a result much closer to a whitewash rugby score.

Moments such as Priskin stroking the ball past Szczesny and Wickham dancing his way past two players on the wing in the first leg to Leadbitter having the audacity to shoot from the kick-off and Delaney and McAuely throwing themselves through every tackle of the second leg, will live long in the memory - and I’ll certainly never forget my trip to the Emirates.

But, in last week’s column, I called the three points against Doncaster Rovers, ‘the Arsenal of the Championship’, as ultimately more priceless than even a Wembley final, and I stick by that.

Had we not have come from behind against Sean O’Driscoll’s side on Saturday, to win 3-2, thanks to goals from Norris, Wickham and Edwards, we could have been counting a far greater cost come the end of the season.

As it is, we will travel to Derby County’s Pride Park on Tuesday night (without a game this weekend due to FA Cup action) a full five points above the Championship drop zone.

It looks a great time to be facing Robbie Savage and co, with the Rams having lost their last three games, including a giant-killing at the hands of Crawley Town.

And Town fans should have at least one new addition to look forward to cheering on.