AVIBRANT Molineux crowd came hoping to cheer a vital victory in Wolves’ play-off quest, but it was a former hero who left with the biggest smile.
Both managers agreed this was a point won by Ipswich and two lost by Wolves as the play-off chase heads towards its penultimate hurdle.
Richard Stearman’s own goal gave the visitors a first-half lead on which to build their defiance, before ace marksman Benik Afobe emerged briefly from the shackles of the hugely resolute and impressive Ipswich defence to grab a 50thminute equaliser.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy, who steered Wolves to promotion before being sacked in February 2012, wasn’t slow to appreciate the irony of an afternoon in which Christophe Berra, a key figure in that Wolves side, stood impressively in the home side’s way.
“I didn’t have a point to prove,” he said. “I always appreciate the warm reception I get here. I love the club and the people here – I’m just glad to be taking away a point.
“Berra was magnificent. I’ve told the lads in the dressing room ‘you’re a belligerent, stubborn, hardworking, tough bunch of sods and I’m proud of you’.
“There are teams below us in the table playing sexy football who cock a snook at us, but I don’t care.
“We do our jobs well and that’s what counts.
“It’s in our hands now to either big it up or screw it up.”
Kicking off a crucial three points behind the visitors,Wolves were full of early energy.
Dominic Iorfa and Nouha Dicko both drew appreciative roars from the home support for their eyecatching pace, but, significantly, a clear a chance didn’t materialise.
Instead Ipswich, who had the first hint of an opportunity when Daryl Murphy hooked a left-foot shot a yard wide in the third minute, went ahead with a stroke of fortune.
The superb Tommy Smith challenged strongly for Teddy Bishop’s right-wing corner but it was Stearman’s mistimed header that looped apologetically over goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
Both sides ended the half technically without a shot on target – although that was harsh on Dave
AHEAD: Ipswich Town players celebrate after taking the lead through a Richard Stearman own-goal