Ipswich Town 3 Watford 2
IPSWICH TOWN'S stealthy climb towards the Premiership continued unabated last night, their fifth win in six League games taking them into the second automatic promotion place.
However, their stay will have been a brief one if Bradford City win at Barnsley tonight, and their celebrations were tempered by unconfirmed reports that Kieron Dyer, their influential midfielder, had broken his leg.
Ipswich's form of late had been of sufficient quality to win George Burley the Nationwide Manager of the Month award, announced yesterday. It had also won international recognition, with England call-ups for goalkeeper Richard Wright and Dyer at the start of a memorable February.
Watford had clearly marked out Dyer as the potential source of their night's irritation. He took heavy challenges from Tony Daley and Allan Smart inside the first eight minutes, and was hobbling noticeably after the second. But he recovered sufficiently to put Ipswich ahead, turning on the edge of the area after Richard Naylor had back-heeled Mark Venus's through-ball.
By the time Venus scored Ipswich's second midway through the first half - driving the ball into the top corner - Dyer was prematurely departing the fray.
Ipswich continued to threaten despite Dyer's absence - Alec Chamberlain made an outstanding close-range save from Naylor's powerful header. The goalkeeper, though, was left spreadeagled when David Johnson rounded him to score the third in the 74th minute.
That should have been it, especially as Ipswich had kept 19 clean sheets to date in the First Division. But two goals in as many minutes by Tommy Smith and Tommy Mooney, both on as substitutes, gave Ipswich a worrying two minutes at the end.