BIG MICK’S IPSWICH TO TRY AGAIN
LAST-DAY play-off drama might have eluded them after a disappointing Easter and a largely flat display at Premier League-bound Burnley.
But Ipswich Town – the Championship’s longest-serving club – will go into the summer heartened and hopeful that next year could finally put an end to that unwanted tag.
A home win against Sheffield Wednesday was typical end-ofseason fare between two sides with little to play for.
But Mick McCarthy has masterminded a dramatic rise from relegation contenders to real topsix contenders in 18 months.
And the spirit on show these days at Portman Road, even if it is often at the expense of raw talent, left McCarthy a contented figure.
He said: “It is progress and I am immensely proud of the lads – I think they have been great.
“I think the majority of fans have appreciated the effort of the players and we have certainly appreciated their support.
“We have not spent a note on anyone coming in and the nucleus of the side will be here next season.
“When you look at the teams below us – Forest, Huddersfield, Bolton – they have all done it differently.”
With Ipswich’s play-off dreams over and Wednesday’s Championship status safe and secure, it took a good while for the action to warm up.
McCarthy tinkered with his tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 formation to start with wing-backs but it was the visitors who exposed the gaps in wide areas before the Tractor Boys manager changed back halfway through the first half.
But it was still against the run of play that Ipswich broke the deadlock with eight minutes left.
A period of pressure around the Wednesday penalty area ended with Paul Green opting to pass rather than shoot from 20 yards. It was a prudent choice with Green picking out Daryl Murphy who was denied by away keeper Damian Martinez before Tommy Smith gleefully tapped home the rebound.
Wednesday still should have been level at the interval, but for two brilliant saves from Dean Gerken. First the Ipswich keeper flung himself to the right to deny former Town youngster Caolan Lavery before saving from Michail Antonio from the resulting corner.
Wednesday finally grabbed the equaliser ten minutes after the restart when Lavery’s air-shot deflected fortunately into the path of Kieran Lee who calmly found the far corner.
The visitors were in the ascendancy but, like in the first half, they were quickly jolted back by an Ipswich goal. McCarthy’s subs made the difference with Paul Taylor fouled and Stephen Hunt swinging in a free-kick which Green nodded home to ensure a successful end to a largely impressive first full season for the Town boss.
But the credit must not end with McCarthy.
Stuart Gray has guided Sheffield Wednesday to safety after a dreadful first half of the season which claimed the job of his predecessor Dave Jones.
Gray said:“I am a little bit disappointed with how we have ended the season.
“We probably deserved something from the game, whether a win or a draw.
“Their goalkeeper pulls off two great saves in the first half and they are defining moments, as we were dominating possession.
“But it is credit to the players for how we have ended the season. We started with something like one win from 18 games.We have fizzled out a little at the end where we have probably been over-stretched.”
ON THE WAY: Ipswich celebrate their opening goal scored by Tommy Smith. Inset: Wednesday’s Caolan Lavery has a shot blocked by Luke Chambers