The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Dave Good­er­ham

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

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