Ipswich Town 0 Portsmouth 1
THE chorus of boos which rang round Portman Road at the final whistle told its own story after Ipswich had surrendered an 18-game unbeaten League run against struggling Portsmouth.
George Burley's side, once again involved in the scramble for promotion to the Premiership, have set the alarm bells ringing among the restless natives with their first home defeat since October.
It is widely accepted that their defeat against Crewe at Portman Road in the latter stages of last season cost them an automatic spot. The worry is that they have once again pushed the self-destruct button.
Their destiny has now been taken out of their hands after Manchester City, with a game in hand on the Suffolk club, regained the initiative by earning a point at Crystal Palace.
Whether Ipswich have the stomach to fight Joe Royle's side all the way to the finish remains to be seen but they failed to see off relegation-threatened Portsmouth.
Marcus Stewart, who signed for Ipswich last month in a £2.5 million deal from Huddersfield Town, looked to be carrying the burden of his price tag with a catalogue of missed chances. Strike partner David Johnson fared little better.
"The fans expect us to win every game because we've been on such a good run," admitted Burley. "We knew it would end, but to go 18 League games unbeaten is a tremendous achievement."
Portsmouth have been linked with several Premiership players in the past week and long-serving Tottenham defender Justin Edinburgh, 30, is expected to complete a £200,000 transfer in time to make his debut against Birmingham City on Tuesday.
Manager Tony Pulis also hopes to sign Luton's Irish youngster, Gary Doherty, but has failed with bids for Coventry City striker John Aloisi, West Ham's Neil Ruddock and Birmingham's Dele Adebola.
Despite the talk of big names, however, it was old warhorse Steve Claridge who earned only Portsmouth's third victory away from home this season with a header midway through the first half. Later this month the talismanic striker must face the FA after admitting betting on his side to beat Barnsley in February.