IT WAS hard to tell who was the most delighted about the winning goal against Oldham – scorer Alan Lee or creator Danny Cadamarteri!
Captain Peter Clarke was just glad the two thirtysomethings were able to combine late on to collect the three points.
“It was a great ball in from Cads, but Alan still had a lot to do to get the better of their guy (Zander Diamond) and put it in,” he reflected.
“To finish like he did was great and it shows that we can score from different areas and that we aren’t totally reliant on Jordan Rhodes!”
Town’s 27-goal top scorer, of course, has been hogging the headlines of late, but it’s widely accepted he has benefited from Lee’s muscular presence.
And Rhodes was among the first to congratulate his old Ipswich teammate after he notched his fifth goal of the season, leaving him just one away from the magic 100 in league football.
The 33-year-old Galway-born striker, who has 10 Republic of Ireland caps and 115 goals in all competitions at club level, got his first on Boxing Day 1998.
On loan to Torquay from his first club Aston Villa, he helped the Gulls claim a derby draw at Exeter in what is now League II.
He ended his Plainmoor stint with two league goals, going on to record the same tally during a loan spell at Port Vale later that season.
Having attended the famous rugby-playing college Blackrock near Dublin at the same time as future Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, Lee was snapped up by Villa in 1995.
He was unable to make the first team, and also struggled to make an impression at Burnley, who paid £200,000 for his services in July 1999.
But his career blossomed at Rotherham, who splashed out £150,000 for a player who was a key man in the side which went up from League I in 2001.
A promotion-clinching strike against today’s Galpharm visitors Brentford was among the 37 league goals he scored while at Millmoor.
Lee became a cult favourite with fans who were upset when he transferred to Cardiff for £850,000 in August 2003.
“I felt I had done a good job for Rotherham and the transfer brought a lot of money to the club, so I think all parties were happy,” he later explained.
The spell in Wales brought 10 league goals before, in January 2006, he joined Ipswich, where he played alongside current Town men Gary Roberts and Tommy Miller as well as Rhodes.
His 31 league goals for the Suffolk side included the dramatic effort at Elland Road which sealed Leeds’ relegation to League I in 2007.
And having moved to Crystal Palace for £600,000 in the summer of 2008, he was to claim one of the goals which saved the Londoners and sent Sheffield Wednesday down two years later.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing at cash-strapped Palace, for whom he notched 10 league goals, and they loaned him to Norwich in March 2009.
Lee’s experience and two goals couldn’t help the Canaries stave off relegation from the Championship, but at least Palace survived the year after.
With two goals in the first four games of the following campaign, it came as a surprise to Lee when Town boss Lee Clark came in as the August transfer window closed.
And after a tough first season, he’s really made his mark this time, with his only frustration the three-match ban which followed his controversial red card against Notts County in November.
“I’m really happy at the club and nicely settled in the town and I just want to play my part for as long as possible,” he said.
“I think I’ve been lucky. I’ve had no serious injuries and played more than 500 games. Training here is tough, but I really enjoy it.
“I work a lot harder now than I did in my younger days and I also look after myself better, so retirement feels a long way off!”
For 32-year-old Cadamarteri, in his second spell at Town after returning from Dundee United a year ago, it’s a case of coming in from the cold.
He had made just the one appearance, as a substitute in the FA Cup first-round defeat at Swindon, before his surprise inclusion in the starting XI in the 1-1 home draw against Carlisle on December 30, since when he’s featured in all three games, from kick-off in the draw at Notts County and from the bench in the wins at Wycombe and against Oldham.
“He’s a great character and a good bloke to have around the place,” said Clarke, who was himself coming through the ranks at Everton when Cadamarteri burst onto the scene at Goodison (he later played for Bradford, in two spells, Leeds, Sheffield United and Leicester).
“But he’s also a very good player with real pace and power, and when you add in the experience he has and the way he works so hard to keep himself in shape, he becomes a valuable member of the squad.”