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Saturday, April 30

River's looks for repeat of 99

Here we go. Down to the last two games of the season and Town must beat Crewe at FPR this afternoon to keep up the pressure on second place Wigan for the final automatic promotion spot. The Latics take on Preston at noon. Dario Gradi's Crewe could do with a win themselves as they fight to stave off relegation at the other end of the Championship table.

Mark Rivers, who had a trial with Town last summer, will be looking to repeat his efforts of 6 years ago when his goal inspired Crewe to a 2-1 victory. The loss put a serious dent in Town's push for automatic promotion while gaining Alex three-valuable points in their struggle against relegation. "I remember the 1999 game being pretty one-sided. I can't remember scoring myself, but I remember Steve Macauley's goal - it was from a corner and he came swooping in with his head," he told the EDP.

18-year-old former Arsenal youth striker Dean McDonald has been rewarded for his recent run of excellent performances in the reserves with a place in the squad for today's game. McDonald has been on a short term contract since the turn of the year and appears to have impressed enough to secure a longer term deal.

Shefki Kuqi will be presented with the Supporters Player of the Year award before the match, while the U-18's will parade the FA Youth Cup at the half-time break.

And lastly, John McGreal who joined Burnley from Town last summer, has won seven separate Player of the Year awards in his first season at Turf Moor, while Darren Ambrose will continue his efforts at keeping a place in the Newcastle side after his goal against Manchester United last week. Recent media speculation has linked the midfielder with a move back to FPR during the summer.

Friday, April 29

Crewe Danger

Tommy Miller is set to make his 100th league start for Town against Crewe tomorrow. Miller, who made his debut in the famous 2-1 win against Torpedo Moscow in September 2001, has also made 23 appearance from the bench finding the back of the net on 35 occasions.

David Unsworth and Fabian Wilnis, however, have both emerged as doubts for the game. Unsworth has a strained ankle ligament, while Wilnis has twisted one of his. Drissa Diallo, who put in a solid 90 minutes in the reserve Derby at Carrow Road on Wednesday night, is on standby.

Crewe have not won since January 1st and have struggled to find any kind of form since the sale of top scorer Dean Ashton to Norwich, although as BFJ points out: "When a team hasn't won in a long time, in my view that makes them dangerous." Alex, who are fighting for their Championship status put a serious dent in Town's automatic promotion prospects with a 2-1 win at FPR back in 1999 but have lost on their last two league visit to Suffolk.

Peterborough and former Town defender Andrew Legg has been forced to retire after a tumour on his neck was found to be cancerous. In 17 years in the game Legg has made close to 600 appearances for seven different clubs including seven for Town while on loan from Birmingham during the 1997-98 season. He netted once for the Blues in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at FPR. His current manager Barry Fry said: "Andy has been told there's a good chance the cancer may have spread, so he has been advised to give up playing. It's a terrible end to a glorious career, and he has the sympathy of everyone at the club."

Thursday, April 28

Town cash in on Withdean's limited capacity

Sky TV won't decide which of the Championship's final matches it will broadcast until this coming weekend's fixtures are out of the way, so unless you are one of the lucky few to have gotten hold of a ticket for the Withdean on May 8th the only sure-fire way of watching the Brighton game is to book a spot in front of one of the plasma TV's down at FPR and watch it via beamback - at GBP10.00 a head.

Albion are still awaiting the outcome of the Falmer Inquiry. Six years ago the Seagulls identified Falmer, a site to the northeast of Brighton, as the best in the area for a permanent new home. The site was originally rejected by public inquiry but the inquiry later reopened with 11 possible alternatives to Falmer being discussed. The latest inquiry is due to close around about now although an announcement on its verdict has been delayed following the call for the General Election on May 5th.

In the meantime Brighton carry on at the severely under-capacitied Withdean Stadium. Thousands of supporters from both sides - just 750 Town supporters will make the trip south a week Sunday - who would love to see this promotion/relegation battle are prevented from doing so by delay's in the office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, which is overseeing the inquiry, and a small minority of Sussex residents who seem intent on driving Brighton & Hove Albion FC out of business.

On a lighter note, earlier this year the 'Falmer For All Campaign' set about reclaiming The Piranhas' national football ska hit 'Tom Hark' for Brighton with new lyrics in support of the stadium campaign. The single sold out its first pressing of 5,000 to put it at No. 10 in the Midweek Top 40 Chart on January 5th. Of the song John Baine (aka Attila the Stockbroker), who penned the revised lyrics, said: "The Piranhas were Brighton through and through, in the forefront of the local punk scene in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Many of us have very fond memories of their gigs at legendary Brighton venues like the Vault and the Alhambra and it has always seemed quite ironic to me to hear their song blasting out from other clubs PA systems and chanted by opposing fans." Rob Chandler take note.

Town draw with the Forces of Darkness and Evil

Last nights reserve derby at Carrow Road ended in a goalless draw with both sides missing opportunities to win the game in the second period. Town lined up with five players from last weeks victorious FA Youth Cup winning side including Shane Supple. The young Irish 'keeper continued his excellent run of form making several good saves to keep the home side at bay towards the end of the ninety minutes while at the other end James Scowcroft, the ever impressive Dean McDonald and Liam Craig all had efforts scrambled off the line. The 3,668-strong crowd were on their feet in injury time when Paul McVeigh netted but the Norwich striker was well offside. The point lifts Town off the bottom of the table for the first time in six months and above Portsmouth who they face in their final match of the season on May 10th .

Scowcroft admits that his future is very much up in the air. His contract with Leicester expires in the summer and although he has not been notified officially he believes he very little chance of being offered a new contract my Foxes manager Craig Levein. As far as an offer from Town is concerned nothing will be decided until Town's whereabouts for next season are decided although the striker knows that he has done little to impress so far since his return to FPR on loan. In a an ironic twist the Stantonian is definitely ruled out of an appearance at the play-off final, should Town find themselves in Cardiff come the end of May, as his loan deal will expire after the play-off semi-finals. He missed Town's 2000 play-off final at Wembley through injury.

While Scowcroft has yet to find the net for Town, the future of 17-goal Supporters Player of the Year Shefki Kuqi is looking good, with the Finn eager to sign a new deal with the Blue's: "I have already had talks and it won't take me long to sign a new contract. First, we need to see where we finish and we are concentrating on getting into The Premiership."

It has emerged that former midfielder and Town coach Bryan Hamilton almost lost the use of a leg last year following an accident with a lawn mower: "The grass needed a cut. As I went out the rain just started to spit. I did one run and as I turned to bring the mower in, it started to lock and slip down the bank to the river. I tried to jump off, but as I jumped my foot must have slipped underneath the blades." Surgeons were able to repair his damaged foot while current and former Town physiotherapist's Dave Williams and Brian Simpson have aided Hamilton in his recovery.

Elsewhere, Town captain Jim Magilton is unhappy with the staggered kick-off times for this Saturday's crucial games between Town and Crewe and Wigan and Preston. PNE's visit to the JJB is being televised and will kick-off at 12:15 while the game at FPR starts at the more traditional 15:00 hours: "It's too close to the end of the season to be mucking about with kick-off times There are so many permutations, both at the top, the bottom and the Play-Offs that it would be fairer to everyone to keep all games at the same time at this stage of the season."

And lastly, Crewe manager Dario Gradi, whose side are just outside the drop zone on goal difference from Brighton has warned Town not to write his team off: "It is a very hard league for us and they don't come any harder than Ipswich away, but we will go there, give it a real go and play our football. We will certainly need a rub of the green and we are due some too, because we haven't been getting much luck in recent games. It will be a proper football match against Ipswich because they like to get the ball down and play, and we are the same." The sides played out a 2-2 draw at Gresty Road earlier this season with Town coming from two-goals down to earn a point. Crewe's marksman that day, Dean Ashton, has since gone over to the dark side.

Wednesday, April 27

158 Grounds in 1 week

On June 11, two Stafford Rangers fans (Ian Saberton and Ian Preston) will set off from Rangers' Martson Road ground in a bid to visit 158 football grounds in one week!

Their tour will take in all 92 Premiership and Football League grounds, all of those in the Nationwide Conference plus all of the grounds that make up the Conference's two feeder leagues (Conference North and Conference South). The two Ian's hope their efforts will raise significant monies for three charities, STRIPES (the Stafford Rangers Independent Supporters Trust), Mind and Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Pride of Anglia has sponsored their visit to Portman Road, which should take place on the morning of June 15th, and we wish them the best of luck on their journey. Further information on the tour and details of how you can make a donation can be found here.

Kuqi wins fans vote

Shefki Kuqi has won the supporters Play of the Year award for 2005 polling 45 per cent of the vote. Kelvin Davis finished second for the second consecutive season while Richard Naylor was third. Kuqi, who will pick up the award before Saturdays league game with Crewe, said: "Things have gone well for me and it's been my most enjoyable season - and my most successful one. The goals have gone in and the team has been doing very well. Hopefully we can finish the job now and win promotion to the Premiership."

Leicester City's 1-0 victory over Derby at the Walkers Stadium last night not only confirms their Championship status for next season but also ensures that Town will finish the season in the top three. George Burley's Derby were the only side left below Town in the division that could have exceeded the Blue's current tally of 81 points.

Fabian Wilnis wants to extend his stay at FPR. The Dutchman, who is is out of contract this summer, said: "I've been happy with the way I've been playing this season and I think the manager has been too so I'm hopeful of earning a new deal. At this stage it's just a case of waiting to see what division we are in really and we'll have to see what happens. I'd love to stay for at least another year though and it would be great if that was in the Premiership."

And lastly, Town's Reserves travel up the A140 this evening to do battle with the Forces of Darkness and Evil Second XI. Town lost the home encounter 2-1 back in October.

Tuesday, April 26

Watch out Wigan

"Any slip-ups and we're ready to cash in," BFJ has warned Wigan. The Latics must fail to win one of their remaining two games, while Town must win both of their's to have a realistic chance of clinching the final automatic promotion spot. "We're now down to a two-game season," said Royle. "I'd rather be in Wigan's position - they only need four points to make sure of going straight up while we need six. But they will know they cannot afford to slip up. If they do, we must make sure we are in a position to take full advantage."

After their outstanding success of the night before an understrength U-18 side lost 3-0 at home to Bristol City on Saturday morning, while Jaime Peters and the Canadian U-20's lost 2-0 to China in a friendly played in Frankfurt, Germany later that day.

And lastly, after a 2-2 draw at Brighton on Saturday, look who have crept back into the top six and would be Town's most likely opponents in the play-off semi's if the Blue's haven't been promoted after their own game at the Withdean on May 8th.

Coca-Cola Championship Top Six

P Gd Pts
1. Sunderland 44 33 88
2. Wigan 44 42 83
3. TOWN 44 25 81
4. Preston 44 11 74
5. Derby 43 14 73
6. West Ham 44 10 70

Monday, April 25

Leeds 1 Town 1

Town took the lead through Shefki Kuqi after just six minutes at Elland Road on Saturday but once again ineptness in defence costs the Blue's dear and in under sixty seconds the home side had equalised through Matthew Spring. Neither, Neil Sullivan in the Leeds goal, or Lewis Price, tending goal for Town in the absence of Kelvin Davis, were unduly troubled for the remainder of the ninety minutes, with Town failing to create many clear chances, despite a three-pronged attack of Kuqi, Darren Bent and Pablo Counago, while Leeds appeared happy to sit back and play for a point. At the death Darren Currie, on his uncle Tony's old stomping ground, had the chance to clinch all three points but football's most tattooed player shot wide from just eight yards with the goal at his mercy.

The draw, combined with Sunderland 2-1 victory over Leicester at the Stadium of Light means Town are now in a two-way fight with Wigan for the last remaining automatic promotion berth. The Latics were held to a goalless draw by QPR at the JJB and remain two points ahead of Town. Both sides have two games left to play.

BFJ said of the performance: "That's another opportunity gone. It's us to a tee because we dominated the game, yet they have had one real attempt at goal and scored. We had good chances, great chances and shots blocked, but the biggest disappointment is their goal coming straight after we have scored, which has happened too often to us. The reason why we score so many goals and play the way we do is because we have so many forward-thinking players in the team. Equally, when the opposition get the ball, we have a number that don't think it's in their contracts to get it back. That's the reason why Sunderland are going up because everyone defends, while not everyone does that in our team. That's a statement rather than a moan because they have done terrifically well."

Of his last minute miss Darren Currie said: "I feel absolutely sick to be honest. I pride myself on my touch and not to even hit the target from there has really left me gutted. If the 'keeper had made a save then fair enough, but I didn't make him work and that is very disappointing, especially as it would have given us three great points."

Elsewhere, Kelvin Davis who missed the game to be at the birth of his son Sonnie rounded off a weekend to remember by being named as the No.1 in the Championship's select XI for the 2004/05 season at last nights PFA Awards in London. Davis was the only Town player selected.

Sunday, April 24

Leeds v Town pictures

Saturday, April 23

Town lift Youth Cup with extra time winner

A spectacular goal by 15-year-old Ipswich schoolboy Edward Upson minutes from the end of extra-time won the FA Youth Cup for Town at FPR last night. With the sides level at 2-2 from Monday's first leg at St Mary's, ninety minutes of normal time could not separate the two sides, and at half-time in extra time Upson, only called into the squad yesterday, was introduced as a sub. With penalties looming Upson picked up a loose ball about 30 yards out and let fly with a shot that, with the help of a deflection off a team mate, found the back of the Saint's net for a 3-2 aggregate win. While Upson will no doubt make the headlines today, this was Shane Supple's night, as the young Irish international 'keeper made a string of excellent saves to keep the visitor's at bay.

Academy Director Brian Klug enthused afterwards about his side's performance: "The boys were fantastic and really dug in for the 120 minutes. Southampton are a terrific side and probably felt they were unfortunate still to be level at full-time but our defenders and 'keeper were outstanding. James Krause did well on the left side, Michael Synnott played in pain and was terrific and the two lads in the middle, Chris Casement and Aidan Collins, were great for us. Shane was superb as well, the double save in the second-half was top class and they never wilted under the pressure Southampton put us under. But it shows the character the boys have, the whole team gave their all and while we didn't match the level of performance from the first-leg, the spirit shone through again and got us that trophy."

Upson, only in the side as U-18 regular Owen Garvan was admitted to hospital with suspected meningitis, was also praised by Klug: "At 15, to play in front of 14,000 people and Sky Television, it could have gone horribly wrong. But we knew he could score goals and he stroked the ball around like a quality player."

More reports: Evening Star, Guardian, Sky Sports, BBC, Eleven-a-Side

Meanwhile back in the Championship, BFJ is likely to recall Pablo Counago to Town's starting line-up for the first time in six months as the Blue's line-up with a three-man attack at Elland Road later today and go at Leeds from the off: "We only know one way to play and that is to go out and win. We have never gone out with a five-man midfield trying not to lose the game, so we will do our normal and try and win the game. Leeds are similar to Wolves really. They have a massive squad and have probably under-achieved this year. They are already looking forward to next year but they will see us as a scalp. It is a big pitch and there is great expectations among their fans. It is a similar situation to us going to Wolves, only we need to start a lot better."

And lastly, Town's allocation of tickets for the final game of the season at Brighton not unsurprisingly sold out shortly after going on sale. Just 756 Town supporters will be at the Withdean for what will almost certainly be a promotion decider.

Friday, April 22

Green green grass

The hallowed turf of FPR has been voted the best in the Championship for the second consecutive season. Head groundsman Alan Ferguson, who will add the Football League award to his burgeoning collection of trophies, told the official site: "We're obviously thrilled that the pitch has come out on top again and it's testimony to all the hard work the team has put in through the year. We've had a lot of matches to deal with this year [close to 50] and how often the pitch is used is considered when the marks are handed out. It's the first time we have won the award in successive years as well so we have to be delighted with that achievement."

Darren Bent will consider leaving Town during the summer if they fail to win promotion to the Premiership: "I really hope this is my last Championship season for a long while. Everyone wants to play in the Premiership, it is where all the big boys are. Darren Ambrose and Titus Bramble have moved up and they have gone there and done reasonably well, so I'm just hoping that next season will be my chance." Bent, leading Town marksman with 19 goals this season, was the subject of a GBP2.0M bid from Charlton last summer, and has been watched by a slew of Premiership sides during the course of the current campaign. "There is a possibility that Ipswich don't go up and if that happens then I have to sit down and work out what is best for Darren Bent."

Thursday, April 21

Cup fever sweeps Suffolk

A bumper crowd is expected at FPR for this Friday's FA Youth Cup Final second leg against Southampton with the club confirming that all four sides of the ground will be open on the night. The tie is level at two-goals apiece after Monday nights first leg at St Mary's. Over 9,000 turned out for that game, a figure that should be beaten for the second leg, although whether the 16,000 that turned out for the last Youth Cup Final at FPR thirty years ago will be topped remains to be seen.

Steve Vale, a member of the 1973 FA Youth Cup winning side, recalls the Blue's victory against Bristol City in the EADT. Vale scored twice in the first leg of that final, which saw Town lift the trophy for the first time in their history, with a 3-1 aggregate win. "We had a crowd of more than 14,000 at Portman Road when we took on Bristol City, I think. It was a fantastic night. I can still remember the game. I scored twice at Portman Road and John Peddelty scored with a header down in Bristol and we celebrated in the bath with champagne. It was another big crowd there."

Meanwhile, Sammy Moore, member of the current youth side, wants to go one better than his brother Jason, who played on the losing side for West Ham against Liverpool in the 1996 final. His father Henry, who played in the Southern League for both Deal and Folkestone said: "There has been a lot of interest in it. The other doubles are the Neville brothers at Manchester United and the Moore brothers of Aston Villa. If Ipswich can win it will be tremendous for us. The Nevilles were in the same year, but Jason and Sammy are nine years apart. We have been told that is unique."

Pablo Counago is ready to fire Town back to the Premiership. Counago, heavily criticised by BFJ earlier this season, has scored three times for the reserves in his last five appearances, and set-up the equaliser for Darren Bent in Sunday's draw with Sunderland: "It has been a difficult time for me but the fans have always been on my side and they have been brilliant to me whenever I have come on as a substitute. It is a strange situation for me to be in now but I really want to do well for those people who helped me through all this. If I can help Ipswich get promotion then that would make me feel really good." Counago played no part in the Reserves 4-1 loss to Chelsea on Tuesday night leading to speculation that he could make the starting line-up at Elland Road this Saturday.

Elsewhere, BFJ was named Everton Giant for 2004 and presented with an award before last night's premiership game between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park. As a player Royle weighed in with 23 goals during the Toffee's 1969/70 League Championship winning season and as manager guided the club to FA Cup success at Wembley in 1995.

And lastly, 17,500 season ticket applications were received by the ticket office before the Early Bird deadline last Friday. Town currently have 18,400 season ticket holders, a figure that should be exceeded next season, particularly if the Blue's are promoted, and one that is way ahead of the 1996/97 seasons 3,000.

Wednesday, April 20

Classy Chelsea too much for Town

Although Town's second string conceded two late goals to their Chelsea counterparts at FPR last night - ending their premier reserve league south home fixtures for the season with a 4-1 reverse - they had held their own against the classy Londoner's until running out of steam in the final fifteen minutes. The Blue's showed the occasional moments of style themselves with Dean McDonald once again showing what a decent permanent addition to the FPR staff he could be. McDonald it was that opened the scoring volleying home a corner on the half-hour mark. However, in added time at the end of the half Mikael Forsell equalised for Chelsea, and against the run of play put the visitors ahead on the hour. As Town faded though the Chelsea took advantage and excellent finishing by Dean Smith (83) and Danny Holiands (89) rounded off the scoring.

Although last nights game was the final home fixture of the season, Town have three away games left - starting with Norwich at Carrow Road next Wednesday - to avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom of the division:

Norwich (A) Wed April 27th 7:00pm, Southampton (A) Tue May 3rd 14:30pm, and Portsmouth (A) Tue May 10th 19:00.

Drissa Diallo continued his comeback from injury and put in a reasonably solid performance. Diallo, who has not made a first team appearance since picking up an injury in training back in December, could be needed as cover for David Unsworth who will not be available for the play-offs should Town fail to clinch an automatic promotion berth.

Pablo Counago, who was not involved in last nights game, could be set for a return to the first team at Leeds following his impressive contribution in the final ten minutes of Sunday's home game with Sunderland. Counago, who has made just four starts in the Championship this season, set up Darren Bent for the equaliser in the 2-2 draw. However, Kelvin Davis may miss the trip to Elland Road. His wife is close to giving birth to their second child and Town's No 1 wants to be at their Bury home when she goes into labour.

Elsewhere, Darryl Knights has been named in the England U-17 squad for next months UEFA European Championship finals in Italy, Gerard Nash and Billy Clarke are on standby for the Republic of Ireland's U-19 European Championship qualifiers next week, while former Town midfielder Antonio Murray, now at Hibs, could be in line for a call-up by the Scottish U-21's

Tuesday, April 19

Lordan brace sets up exciting finale

Two second-half goals from Cathal Lordan earned Town a 2-2 draw with Southampton in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final at St. Mary's last night. The Saints youngsters had taken the lead at the end of the first half when David McGoldrick converted a penalty after Aidan Collins had tripped Theo Walcott. Town, however, were level three minutes after the restart when Lordan scored from 20 yards and minutes later the Irish youngster converted Darryl Knights' cross to put the Blue's in front. Southampton levelled through Leon Best on the hour mark to set-up an exciting finale at FPR this Friday.

Academy Director Bryan Klug said Town fully deserved the draw: "The boys worked hard and played some football in what was an exciting match and an excellent advert for youth team football. We're happy with the result and just as importantly the performance and it sets up the second-leg nicely."

David Unsworth will not be able to take part in the play-offs should Town fail to win a top two finish and automatic promotion. The on loan defender can play in Town's last game of the regular season at Brighton, but that will bring his loan spell at FPR to 93 days, the maximum allowed under League rules.

Elsewhere, the on loan Dean Bowditch played the full ninety minutes for Burnley in their 1-1 draw with Brighton at the weekend, and Jaime Peters is with the Canadian U-20's at a training camp in Germany as the Canucks prepare for this summer's FIFA Youth Championships in the Netherlands. Peters officially becomes a Town player on May 4th, his 18th birthday.

Monday, April 18

Town 2 Sunderland 2

Darren Bent put Sunderland's promotion party on hold with an 89th minute equaliser at FPR yesterday. The Black Cat's looked to have clinched all three points, after Carl Robinson had put them 2-1 ahead with six minutes to go, and will consider themselves unlucky not to have done so. In one of the best home games this season, Sunderland could have gone ahead inside the half-hour but Marcus Stewart missed a penalty after Fabian Wilnis had handled in the area - not the first time the former Blue's marksman had missed a spot kick at FPR. However, the first goal did not arrived until the 66th minute when Richard Naylor bundled the ball over the line to put Town one-up but the lead lasted just five minutes when the leaders levelled through a Stephen Elliott header and then went ahead in the 84th minute when Robinson fired home from eight-yards. After Bent's goal Town had chances to win the game but Michael Ingham produced a fine save to keep out Ian Westlake's shot and Shefki Kuqi had an effort blocked on the line.

"I am delighted with the point because Sunderland will be very disappointed they didn't leave with all three," said BFJ. "They played very well, broke quickly from midfield and Kelvin had to make two or three good saves for us. We are probably fortunate to get a point but our lads are as honest as they come and you can never question their character. Sometimes you have to hand the opposition credit and I thought Sunderland were excellent today and I think they are odds on for the Premiership now."

Coca-Cola Championship Top Six

P Gd Pts
1. Sunderland 43 32 85
2. Wigan 43 42 82
3. TOWN 43 25 80
4. Preston 43 12 74
5. Derby 42 12 70
6. Reading 43 12 70

Defeat yesterday would almost certainly have consigned Town to the play-offs for the second year running but the point means Town, now two points behind Wigan with their vastly superior goal difference, could leap frog the Latics next weekend with a win against an indifferent Leeds at Elland Road while Paul Jewell's side face a tricky visit from QPR.

I like Mick McCarthy, particularly for the stance he took with Roy Keane at the World Cup in 2002, and one more win should see him and his Sunderland side promoted back to the Premiership. Enjoy your party at the SOL after victory against Leicester next weekend (this low life mackem excepted).

Final three games

Sat 23 April Leicester (h) QPR (h) Leeds (a)
Sat 30 April West Ham (a) Preston (a) Crewe (h)
Sun 8 May Stoke (h) Reading (h) Brighton (a)

Friday, April 15

Counago on song

Pablo Counago put in one of his best performances for several months at FPR last night as last placed Town beat first placed Charlton 3-0 in the FA Premier Reserve League South. The Spaniard won a midfield tussle that led to Danny Haynes opener (15), scored himself just before the break, forced the save of the evening from Addicks 'keeper Daren Randolph shortly after the restart, and saw his 90th minute shot cleared as far as Gerard Nash who completed the scoring. Drissa Diallo was also back in action for the first time in several few weeks on what must have been a night for washing hair or watching TV as only 180 turned up for the game. [A When Saturday Comes article on the delights of watching the reserve team in action at FPR can be found here and here.]

Sunday's visitor's to FPR, Sunderland, have a goalkeeping crisis on their hands and may be forced to bring in a new keeper for the crucial Championship game. Not one of their four first choice goalies were available for training yesterday, manager Mick McCarthy revealed, and they may have to apply for special dispensation to bring in a 'keeper from outside the club. Town's only concern is Ian Westlake who bruised a knee in the 2-0 defeat at Wolves on Monday.

Towns Ireland U-19 striker Billy Clarke looks likely to miss both legs of next weeks FA Youth Cup Final against Southampton. Clarke, who netted in the first leg of the semi-final against Spurs at FPR last Friday, suffered medial ligament damage in the second game at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, and hobbled off a few minutes from the end.

Finally, congratulations to AZ Alkmaar who drew 1-1 with Villareal at home yesterday and progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup for the first time since the 1980/81 season when they went on to provide the opposition for Town in what was then a two-legged final. Bohemians Prague, who the Blue's KO'd in one of the earlier rounds, are not faring as well, however, and are fighting for their existence having been declared bankrupt in March.

Hillsborough 3:06pm

It's 16 years since the Hillsborough disaster of Saturday April 15th, 1989 claimed the lives of 96 football fans and still events after 3.06pm on that fateful afternoon have yet to be officially examined.

Thursday, April 14

Town through to final

Town's U-18's are through to the final of the FA Youth Cup after a 2-1 win against their Tottenham counterparts at White Hart Lane last night gave them a thoroughly deserved 4-1 aggregate win overall in the two legged semi-final. The young Blue's withstood attack after attack by the home side until the 62nd minute when Simon Hawkins put Spurs ahead on the night. Any hopes Tottenham may have had of going on and drawing level lasted just a minute when Liam Trotter, who scored Town's opener in last week's first leg, restored the Blue's two-goal advantage. Aidan Collins put the result beyond doubt when he headed home Liam Craig's free kick four minutes from time to set up a two-legged final against Southampton. The first leg takes place at St Mary's next Monday and a bumper crowd should be on hand at FPR for the second leg next Friday. Match reports here and here.

BFJ is delighted for Everyon's James Vaughan and has no hard feelings despite losing his 39-year-old record as the Toffee's youngest ever player to the Birmingham born striker last Sunday: "I hadn't heard that James had been named substitute and I was on the training pitch preparing for our game at Wolves when it was broken. Our coach driver, who is a Scouser, came running over and told me I wasn't the youngest player any more. I thanked him for letting me know so promptly! "

And lastly, over 12,000 Town fan's have already applied for season tickets for 2005/06. The deadline to purchase tickets at discounted "early bird" prices is this Friday.

Wednesday, April 13

Up for the Cup

Town's U-18's travel to North London tonight for the second leg of their FA Youth Cup semi-final tie with Tottenham. Liam Trotter and Billy Clarke gave Town a well deserved two-goal victory in the first leg last Friday, and if the Academy side can put on a similar performance tonight they should progress to the final for Town's first appearance there in thirty-years.

Marcus Stewart, John Wark and Kevin Beattie have been selected for the final round of voting to find Town's Cult Hero for the BBC's Football Focus programme. Details of how to vote can be found on the Football Focus website here with the winner to be announced on this Saturday's lunchtime show.

Shefki Kuqi, apparently, was not happy at being subbed at half-time in Monday's 2-0 defeat at Molineux. "I was fit and well. It was a tactical move. We had not had too many chances and I struck the post just before the break. The manager picked me out to be replaced and I am not making a big issue of it because this is a time when we must stick together." While, Matt Richards, who was also subbed at the interval was unhappy with the attitude of his team mates: "We didn't come out in the right frame of mind. A few of the players thought they could turn up and win easily, but it was never going to be that straightforward."

Elsewhere, Liam Manning and Fraser Beveridge are the latest Academy youngsters to be told they will not be offered contracts at the end of the season. Manning and Beveridge join Adem Atay, Ben Patten, Daniel Flack and Jerrome Sobers on the list of players who will be leaving Town in the summer.

And lastly, voting for the 2005 Supporters' Club Player of the Year award will take place at this Sunday's home game with Sunderland. You can also place your vote on line at the supporters club website here. Tony Dinning is not on the list of nominees.

Tuesday, April 12

Wolves 2 Town 0

Town blew their chance to move back into the top two of the Championship last night losing 2-0 to a rampant Wolves at Molineux. The Blue's were on the back foot from the kick-off and were a goal down after just five minutes when Colin Cameron hammered home Lee Naylor's cross. Wolves second goal, just over quarter of an hour later, killed off the game as a meaningful contest. Cameron turned from scorer to provider with a cross from the left to the unmarked Carl Cort who side footed home.

The defeat could have been considerable heavier but for three tremendous saves by Kelvin Davies (pictured) who was Town's player of the match by a country mile. At the other end Wolves 'keeper Oakes was rarely troubled during the ninety minutes and certainly not in the closing stages when Town, even with three up front, could not manage a single meaningful strike on goal.

BFJ's reaction to the savaging: "We just didn't start. In some ways we were fortunate it was only two at half-time although we could have had a couple ourselves. We came here looking for a nice game and they weren't going to give us a nice game. They were in our faces. We were better in the second half but there still wasn't a big threat. [Sunderland manager] Mick McCarthy has gone away with a big smile on his face but he's not daft. He knows we will be better against his team on Sunday."

Elsewhere, Town's new home kit for 2005/06 and 2006/07 was officially at the Galleria on Thursday night, while youngsters Adam Atey and Ben Patten have been told they have no future at the club.

Monday, April 11

Boring boring Wanderers

Tonight's opponents Wolves are just four games away from becoming the most boring side in the history of English football, says fansite wolvesfc.co.uk. Wanderers notched up draw number 20 of the season at Leicester last Tuesday and four draws from their five remaining matches this season would beat the record set jointly by Norwich, Exeter, Cardiff and Hartlepool for the most draws in a season of 23.

Molineux, the venue for tonight's Sky televised clash between Town and Wolves, was the late Bill McGarry's next port of call when he resigned as Town manager a few months into the 1968-69 season having guided Ipswich back into the top flight as Champions of the old Second Division the previous May. Neil Manning's column from the March 26th edition of the Green 'Un, in which he talk's about the career of former Town and Wolves boss who died last month, is reproduced here for your perusal.

With Sunderland slipping up at home on Saturday (losing 2-1 to Reading at the Stadium of Light), a win tonight at Molineux and victory over the Black Cat's next Sunday would put Town back at the top of the Championship. Town however are currently third, on goal difference but with a game in hand, following Wigan's 2-0 win at Cardiff.

BFJ lost his record as Everton's youngest ever player when Birmingham born striker James Vaughan (16 years 271 days) took to the field in the second-half of the Toffee's 4-0 trashing of Crystal Palace yesterday. Vaughan was 11 days younger than BFJ when he made his debut against Blackpool back in '66. Vaughan, also became the youngest scorer in the Premiership, but Town's Jason Dozzell retains the record for the youngest ever scorer in England's top flight (v. Coventry at FPR aged 16 years and 57 days).

And lastly, Hibs, managed by former Town captain and coach Tony Mowbray, were suprisingly beaten 2-1 by bottom of the table Dundee United in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup on Saturday. The Edinburgh side, you have failed to win the competition in their 103 years of existence, are still well placed for UEFA Cup qualification despite the weekend's disappointment.

[Errata: Neal Manning's article mentions McGarry's signing of Steve Stacey, who became Town's first black player when he signed up at FPR in September, 1968, and not Johnny Miller as I had always assumed and erroneously reported here.]

Sunday, April 10

Youths poised for Final

Town's U-18's have one foot in the final of the FA Youth Cup following their 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the first leg of the semi-final at FPR on Friday night. Liam Trotter, who could have netted a first half hat-trick, gave Town the lead after 28 minutes, but despite some adventurous and entertaining football the 4,500 strong crowd had to wait until fifteen minutes from the end to see the young Blue's to go further ahead, Bill Clarke beating Tottenham 'keeper Forecast from 30-yards. A well deserved win that position Town well for the second leg at White Hart Lane this Wednesday.

The on-off-on-off transfer saga of Waterford United's 22-year-old striker Daryl Murphy looks set to continue until the summer. Town will have to pay in the region of GBP100,000 for the former Irish U-21 international with any formal move now on hold until the Blue's fate is sealed when the current season concludes on May 8th. "The latest on Daryl is that I think Ipswich will wait until the end of the season. They'll hope to get promoted and then see what kind of budget they have," says Waterford's player-manager Alan Reynolds.

Darren Bent has received a four-week driving ban for speeding. Town's leading marksman was clocked doing 103mph on the A14 between Rougham and Beyton in January. "On the evening of the offence there was very little traffic about and and his speed just drifted up. The vehicle he was driving [a BMW X5] is almost completely silent when travelling," said his solictor. A bit like my L reg Peugoet 405 then.

Friday, April 8

It's grim up Nor(th)folk

FA Youth Cup: Town winners in 73 and 75

Town's U-18's line up against Tottenham at FPR tonight in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final. On the bench will be 17-year-old Lowestoft goalkeeper Andy Reynolds who is currently on trial with the Academy. Town were last at this stage of the competition four years ago when they beat Arsenal 4-3 at Highbury only to suffer a 4-2 reverse at home and miss out on a final appearance 7-6 on aggregate. The Blue's last won the prestigious trophy back in 1975.

The second strings two-match winning run came to an end at Fulham on Wednesday where Stuart Noble's 79th minute goal gave the Cottager's a 1-0 win, reserve 'keeper Lewis Price will join up with the Welsh senior squad for a training camp in Spain next month and Dean Bowditch's loan spell at Burnley has been extended until the end of the season. Bowditch scored his first goal for the Claret's in their 3-1 win over Watford last Saturday.

And lastly, it's nice to see that Sky TV's Andy Gray has finally come round to everyone else's way of thinking with his prediction this week that our good friends at the other end of the A140 are definitely on their way out of the Premiership: "I would say now that Norwich are definitely gone. I just can't see them surviving. They're not picking up points or even looking like they might. They've been shipping goals hand over fist all season and you just can't stay in the Premiership if you're conceding two every game." Kindly leave the lights on. Thankyou.

Wednesday, April 6

Town 4 Rotherham 3

Darren Bent: Netted twice

Town moved back into the automatic promotion places with a 4-3 win over Rotherham at FPR last night. Seemingly cruising to victory with a 4-1 lead on the hour the Town defence went AWOL allowing the visitors to pull back two goals and set up a tense finale that, but for a last ditch tackle by Jason De Vos on Shaun Barker, would have gifted United a point.

Ian Westlake had given Town the lead after just six minutes and Darren Bent made it two after 25 minutes before Rotherham pulled one back, virtually from the kick-off, when Tony Thorpe took advantage of a De Vos slip to fire home from the edge of the area.

Bent restored the two goal advantage in the 57th minute, and Jim Magilton scored his second goal in as many games three minutes later to give Town what should have been a commanding lead and a base from which to make inroads into Wigan's far superior goal difference. But the Blue's can never do things the easy way.

Kelvin Davis saved Jamal Campbell-Ryce's 30 yarder only to see the ball roll out to Martin Butler who stabbed the ball home from close range (67), and with just over ten minutes to play a needless foul was comitted on the edge of the box and Martin McIntosh free-kick deflected off the defensive wall and arced over Davis and into the net. The referee inexplicably allowed over five minutes of added time but once again Town hung on for the win.

The result, despite their plucky fight back, confirms the Millers relegation from the Championship, while Town leapfrog Wigan into second, the Latics having lost the top of the table clash with Sunderland at the JJB Stadium by a goal-to-nil (Marcus Stewart scoring the Black Cats winner in the first half).

BFJ said some 'harsh words' were exchanged in the dressing room after the game: "At 4-1, we had several players that switched off and we pressed the self-destruct button. You have to give credit to Rotherham, they were very honest and caused us problems all game. I wasn't happy even in the first-half when we were on top and overall we gave away some bad goals. It was a tighter game than it should have been and at 4-1, we should have been looking to add to our goal difference. In the end though it's another three points and with Wigan losing, it puts us second and in a good position."

Coca-Cola Championship Top Six

P Gd Pts
1. Sunderland 41 33 84
2. TOWN 41 27 79
3. Wigan 41 38 76
4. Preston 41 8 68
5. Reading 41 10 64
6. Derby 40 9 64


Tuesday, April 5


Dyer & Bowyer make up

Rotherham United are in Town tonight knowing that defeat will confirm their relegation to League One. Defeat, which would be their fourth in a row, would also end youth-team coach Alan Knill's hopes of taking the job on full-time having stepped into the breech following Ronnie Moore's departure at Christmas. The Millmoor outfit, many believe, have been on a downward spiral since the hoax phone call two-years ago to Ronnie Moore, from someone posing as David Sheepshanks, which led him to believe that he was shortlisted to replace George Burley.

So, six games to go and Town trail Sunderland by five points and Wigan Athletic on goal difference. Of the three we would appear to have the easiest run in and should (famous last words) pick up all three points tonight against last placed Rotherham as Wigan and Sunderland go head-to-head at the JJB Stadium. With the exception of the home game with Sunderland on Sunday April 17, all of Town's remaining games are against mid-table or lower sides (Wolves, Leeds, Crewe, Brighton and Rotherham) while the Black Cats have to visit FPR in two-weeks time, Wigan tonight followed by West Ham, and have tricky games against Leicester, Stoke and Reading at the Stadium of Light. Wigan, who faltered at this stage last year, have away games at Cardiff, Leicester and Preston to face and difficult home fixtures with QPR and Reading. As Sunderland's Mick McCarthy said at the weekend it's all still very much in the mixer.

Elsewhere, former Town midfielder Keiron Dyer has been cleared of any wrong doing, by Newcastle at least, following the altercation with Lee Bowyer that led to the pair's dismissal in United's 3-0 home loss to Villa on Saturday. But, as the Independent reports, the pro-Dyer stance might also be glossing over a more complex situation. Dyer's contract expires next year - he has, apparently, shown no enthusiasm for signing an extension - and he will be free to leave on a Bosman. Dyer joined Newcastle from Town for GBP6.0M in 1999. Bowyer, meanwhile, has been fined GBP210,000 by the club.

Monday, April 4

Homecoming's and electronic tags

Pennant with ankle tag

Newcastle's Darren Ambrose was the target of a failed loan bid at the end of last year and could make a permanent return to FPR in the summer if Town win promotion. The former Town midfielder, now 21, has been valued at around the GBP1.0M mark. "We know Darren and we like him," said BFJ. "But I know other clubs are also interested because they have asked me about him. Everything depends on who we are and where we are next season and at this moment in time I can't even think of which players I might want to bring in during the summer."

Kieron Dyer wants to finish his playing career at FPR. Speaking to the Independent before Saturday's contretemps with Lee Bowyer, he said: "I'd love to finish my career at Ipswich. I'm only 26, but, when I play for my final club, I want it to be Ipswich Town. They got me started and I owe them a lot. It's still home to me." Dyer also spoke of his regret for the part he played in the downfall of Sir Bobby Robson at St James' Park: "When I think about it now, I feel like I betrayed Bobby. That's the worst thing about it. He treated me like a son and I let him down. I have to take some responsibility for him getting the sack. "

Jermaine Pennant joined the small and exclusive band of footballer's to have played while wearing an electronic tag in Birmingham City's 1-1 draw with Spurs over the weekend. Pennant was released from prison last week, were he had served a 31-day sentence for drink-driving, and is required to wear the tag as part of his parole conditions. Gary Croft, now at Cardiff, became the first player to gain this dubious honour when he played for Town after his release from jail, also for driving offences, while Scunthorpe United's Matthew Sparrow became the second.

And lastly, the U-18's, who face Tottenham at FPR in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Semi-Final's this Friday, beat Milton Keynes Dons 2-1 away on Saturday, Danny Haynes and Stuart Ainsley scoring Town's goals.

Sunday, April 3

Town 3 Derby 2

Magilton: First goal this season

Town maintained their challenge for an automatic promotion spot with a 3-2 victory against George Burley's Derby at FPR yesterday. One of the season's most entertaining games saw Marcus Tudgay put the Ram's ahead with a looping header after just seven minutes but Town pulled level after 24 with the goal of the game from Jim Magilton. Shefki Kuqi beat two Derby defenders to put in a cross to Darren Bent from the right wing. Bent turned to lay the ball off to Magilton who fired home his first goal of the season from 15 yards. Town went ahead just 17 seconds into the second period when Miller's pass found Bent who cut in from the right and beat 'keeper Lee Camp in a one-on-one. Miller made it three-one in the 71st minute when he fired home through a crowded penalty area and the match should have been over as a contest. However, and not for the first time this season, Town conceded a goal in the dying minutes - Idiakez powering home a header - but held on for a well deserved win.

"We started so badly but by half time we could have been 6-4 ahead," said BFJ. "We took over in the second half and should have scored four, five or six. Then, as usual, we conceded a late goal and survived a nervous final eight minutes. Overall we thoroughly deserved our victory. Some of our play was excellent. Our passing was good and we had two off the woodwork, two off the line and missed a couple from three inches."

Hopes that the curse of the Manager of the Month award (Mick McCarthy was the recipient for March) would propel Sunderland in the direction of the play-offs were quickly dashed as they came from a goal down at Loftus Road to beat QPR 3-1 and opened up a five point gap at the top of the Championship. Wigan remain second, but only on goal difference ahead of Town, as they lost ground on the Black Cats after a 2-1 home loss to West Ham.

Coca-Cola Championship Top Six

P Gd Pts
1. Sunderland 40 32 81
2. Wigan 40 39 76
3. TOWN 40 26 76
4. Preston 40 5 65
5. Reading 40 9 61
6. Derby 39 8 61

Friday, April 1

City send round the boys

Bailiffs in Constantine Road Wednesday

From Thursday's Sun: 'Manchester City sent the bailiffs after ex-boss Joe Royle yesterday to recover GBP509,000. Royle owed City the cash after their court appeal over compensation following his axing in 2001. A bailiff arrived at Portman Road to serve papers on the Ipswich boss - but he was not there. However, within two hours Royle sent a cheque for GBP435,000 to City's solicitors in Manchester. A City spokesman said: "We have recovered part of the money owed to us by Mr Royle. We will continue to recover the rest."'

Jim Magilton, one of the key figures in the George Burley side that won promotion for Town in 2000, is still playing a prominent role in the Town side pushing for promotion to the Premiership in 2005, this time under BFJ, and will be looking to slow down Burley's Derby's march towards the play-offs at FPR tomorrow.

"Jim is a massive figure at the club and he will start our match against Derby," said BFJ. "We have had to nurse him through the season a bit and one of the hardest jobs I have had is to tell him he is not playing. He wants to play in every match and has proved to be an exceptional captain. I cannot believe how he has not been given the skipper's armband earlier in his career."

Burley's side have exceeded all expectations this season. County, who struggled against relegation in 2003/04, where expected to finish mid-table this time around but are currently 5th in the Championship and unbeaten in their last nine league outings.

Stadium naming deal close

Pot Noodle Arena

Town are close to securing a deal with Unilever Bestfoods UK, which will see 30,000-seater Portman Road renamed the Pot Noodle Arena.

The deal also sees the UK food giant become the Tractor Boys' shirt sponsor for six years - starting in 2006-07.

"The sheer size of this deal is an amazing opportunity," said Ipswich Town CEO Derek Bowden. "The combined value of both elements of the sponsorship is by far the biggest deal ever undertaken in East Anglian football."

But Town's chairman David Sheepshanks said he had mixed feelings about the decision to name the stadium after a range of pot pasta's and recognises that many Town fan's will be unhappy about the new name.

"I've been here a long time, a great many years and if we renamed the stadium Sir Alf Ramsey or even John Duncan it would roll off the tongue. But things have changed in football and this is a wonderful offer we have received - the biggest ever for football in this region. We must move on."

The naming deal, which kicks in at the start of next season, will also see the installation of hot water dispensers both outside and inside of the stadium to allow fans to "Knock-up a Beef & Tomato Pasta on the fly," according to Sheepshanks.

Embittered Town fans can consider their good fortune at an earlier decision by the club to turn down sponsorship offers from Lillets Tampons and US healthcare giant Zentox, manufacturer of branded haemorrhoid creams.


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