Play-offs for Town despite fine victory
Ipswich Town fulfilled their part of the bargain with a comprehensive victory over Sheffield United, so often a bogey team, on a sunny drama-filled afternoon at Portman Road.
The atmosphere was supercharged, both sides were totally committed to attack and the opening 45 minutes were packed with incident.
Ipswich were three up by the interval, Sheffield United had hit the woodwork twice by then, and the ground was buzzing with anticipation.
Automatic promotion, though, could only be achieved with the help of Wolves. Holding Bradford City to a draw would have been enough, but the battling Yorkshire side held out for victory by the skin of their teeth.
In fact a huge roar went up at Portman Road after Paul Simpson had fired a free-kick against the inside of the Bradford post five minutes from the end. Ipswich fans thought it had gone in, but it was not to be.
A television monitor showing the Wolves v Bradford match was hanging above the Press Box. For 45 minutes no-one could afford to take their eyes off the action at Portman Road for a single moment.
In the second-half, when what was happening at Molineux became all-important, it became a problem following the action at both venues.
Ipswich, whose tactical approach had been somewhat predictable over the past few weeks, opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Bobby Petta wide on the left wing and the third of the central defenders, Manuel Thetis, on the bench.
United, with nothing to lose and their pride hurt that bookmakers were offering 8-1 against them winning, fielded three front runners.
It made for an explosive start to the match. Ipswich won their first corner in the opening minute when Petta passed wide to Jamie Clapham. Jonathan Hunt, who had been on loan to Ipswich in the Autumn, was happy to put the ball behind.
In the fourth minute David Johnson, clearly fired up, clattered into Alan Kelly in pursuit of a back header from Olivier Tebily.
In the fifth minute Johnson sent an angled left footer just too high. Then Kieron Dyer picked up a clearance from Rob Kozluk but had his angled shot punched away by Kelly. The ball was picked up by Petta on the left but his cross was just in front of the lunging Johnson.
There was no trace of nerves in the Ipswich ranks although Richard Wright needed to be alert to cut out a cross from Paul Devlin after the Greek international, George Donis, had skipped past Clapham.
Anders Jacobsen did not look too comfortable at the heart the Blades' defence, he was no David Holdsworth, although he recovered from his own slip to tackle Johnson.
In the ninth minute there was an anxious moment in the Ipswich penalty area. Lee Morris sped past Tony Mowbray, Wright narrowed the angle and Morris fired against the near post.
Now the Blades were surging forward. Mowbray stopped Morris in full flight but in the 11th minute Donis cracked a shot against the post.
The rebound flew out to the Brazilian Marcelo whose well struck effort was cleared off the line by Clapham. Marcelo thought the ball was over, but few shared his opinion and Ipswich were able to breath freely again when Devlin blazed the loose ball over the bar.
Ipswich could easily have been trailing but the pace of the game never flagged. Johnson was flattened by Kelly in another 50-50 challenge and then Wright made a smart save from Trainos Dellas, the 6ft 5ins midfield man who had captained the Greek Under 21 side when they beat England last season.
In the 15th minute Kozluk weaved his way past Dyer and Fabian Wilnis, but this time Matt Holland made a vital clearance.
Had it been a boxing match Sheffield United would have been ahead on points at this stage, especially after Devlin had cut across the penalty area and put in a drive that Wright could only hold at the second attempt.
In the 18th minute Ipswich went ahead. Dyer worked the ball down the right, pulled it back and Jim Magilton let fly with a left foot drive that took a deflection and flew low inside Kelly's far post.
At this stage there was a temptation to loosen the champagne corks because Wolves were also one up and it looked as though everything was going to work out just perfectly.
By the 25th minute the tension had returned. Bradford were on level terms and Morris had a shot deflected for a corner.
One felt that the Sheffield fire was gradually subsiding as Magilton knocked the ball forward, James Scowcroft headed it back for Dyer to drive just wide.
In the 31st minute there was more joy for Ipswich. Petta accelerated past Devlin on the left only to be brought down. Devlin was booked. The free-kick was touched to Petta whose cross found Scowcroft unmarked to head home.
Now Ipswich were on top as Marcelo fouled Magilton just outside the penalty area three minutes later. Mark Venus spotted a gap but his scorching low left foot drive was smothered on the line by Kelly.
Soon after came the stunning news that Bradford were ahead soon followed by the taunts of the Sheffield fans of "You're not going up."
In injury time before the interval Ipswich added a third goal. Jim Magilton made the opening and it was Dyer who chipped with great accuracy into goal.
Manager George Burley had emphasised last week that goals must come from all areas of the field so it was good to see Magilton and Dyer combining so well with a goal each.
Play after the interval lost its bite while so many thoughts were on what was going on in the Black Country.
Ipswich had a reminder not to take things easy in the 48th minute when Donis, trying to impress to earn a contract for next season, hit the bar from just outside the penalty area. It was the third time Sheffield had hit the woodwork so they had every reason to feel that luck was deserting them.
Kozluk was booked for a late tackle on Petta after 51 minutes after the Dutchman had accelerated past the defender in pursuit of a pass from Magilton.
Sheffield reshuffled their defence with the introduction of Wayne Quinn for the second-half, but by the end both teams had used all their substitutes in a cat and mouse game that had begun to look a foregone conclusion.
In the 62nd minute the Blades brought on Petr Katchouro, the Belarus international. His first touch led to a goal. He broke down the right and played in Donis whose low shot was well struck just inside the near post.
News of a third Bradford goal did not help the mood of the party but Ipswich were unlucky when Dyer, latching onto a shrewd pass from Johnson, fired against the inside of the far post.
Richard Naylor was given a run out in place of Johnson but it was only a matter of time before Ipswich decided to close things up with Thetis forming the usual wall of three central defenders. Petta was withdrawn having played a key role in the victory. It was good to see him back in such lively form.
Magilton went off, his knee jarred by a challenge from Dellas. Ipswich found all about bruises from players from Aris Salonika many years ago.
The departure of Kozluk, red-carded for a second bookable offence, was a pity. Ipswich cashed in against the 10 men in the 79th minute when Dyer fed Naylor who finished with panache.
Town fans were taking the grim news from Molineux stoically. They started to sing "Que sera, sera" when Bradford missed a penalty and Wolves pulled a goal back.
It was all ears to radio and eyes to television screens but the information somehow became confused. Maybe it was wishful thinking that Wolves had equalised. The sad fact was that they hadn't.
East Anglian Daily Times