Ipswich Town 1 Crewe Alexandra 2
A RETURN to the Premier League for Ipswich will have to go on hold for the time being as George Burley's side were deservedly beaten by a resilient Crewe team, bottom of the division at the start of the day and certainties for relegation.
Even the late dismissal of Germaine Wright could not prevent Crewe recording a rare away victory. With only games against Birmingham and Sheffield United left, the last thing Ipswich needed yesterday was a defeat.
After returning for the midweek win over Stockport, his first game in two months since suffering a broken leg, Ipswich's impressive midfielder Kieron Dyer kept his place, forming a solid partnership with Jim Magilton.
Needing a win to keep up their hopes of automatic promotion, Ipswich faced a Crewe side with only one win from their last six.
On a sodden pitch, the visitors held their own in a first half. With St Vincent international Rodney Jack often alone up front, they flooded the midfield making things very difficult for Burley's charges.
Ipswich did manage to beat Jason Kearton twice in the first half but both efforts were ruled off-side. David Johnson released Scowcroft, whose shot went in off the post, and later full-back Manuel Phetis's fierce effort struck the back of the net. But both were to no avail.
No doubt buoyed on by strong words from their manager during the interval, Ipswich came out for the second half a more assured proposition. Though they pressed and harried Crewe, there were still few openings. Matt Holland made a firm connection with Magilton's cross but again Kearton was equal to the task.
As so often happens when a side are under constant pressure, Crewe's first serious attack of the half resulted in them taking the lead. Surrounded by blue shirts, Jack delivered a magnificent ball for Mark Rivers in acres of space on the right. The young forward evaded the challenge of Jamie Clapham and convincingly beat Richard Wright.
Their lead, though, lasted only a few minutes. Johnson used his pace to force an illegal challenge from Dave Walton and Mark Venus confidently dispatched his sixth penalty of the season.
As Ipswich rearranged, bringing on Fabian Wilnis for Thetis, Crewe coped admirably until Wright was dismissed for his second bookable offence on 78 minutes. It will come as no surprise to learn that Wright's cousin Ian is West Ham's temperamental forward.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Crewe still had enough in them to take the lead and win the match with eight minutes left. An unmarked Steve MacAuley met Shaun Smith's corner and easily beat Wright.