SEARS STRIKES TO SINK FOREST
Ipswich now on verge of play-offs
JUST when you thought there could be no more stories coming out of the most amazing and fraught race for the Premier League, yesterday’s 90 minutes at Portman Road proved otherwise.
Daryl Murphy became the first Ipswich player to score 25 league goals in a season since 1963 at the same time Portman Road rose to applaud the memory of 21-yearold fan Chris Reynolds who passed away last weekend.
Then Freddie Sears, the striker who cost just £100,000 from Colchester United, grabbed a priceless winner with seven on the clock - just minutes before Norwich City let a lead slip at Rotherham. The mouthwatering local derby, semi-final showdown remains very much on.
Finally, the winner came via a cruel deflection of Michael Mancienne, a former Wolves defender who sought out Town managerial duo Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor with a warm embrace before the start of the second half.
In an always edgy, largely flat, 90 minutes in sunny Suffolk, a 2-1 Ipswich Town victory still contrived to have almost everything as they go into their last match next Saturday at Blackburn Rovers knowing a draw would be enough to clinch a play-off spot.
Manager Mick McCarthy has long said the play-off race would go down to the wire as he bids to become the first manager ever to lead three different clubs into the Premier League.
He said: “You would think 78 points would be enough to get into the play-offs but everyone who has been involved in the promotion race has been excellent.
“It was a big win and we have given ourselves a really good chance to get into the play-offs and be involved in the £140 million lottery, or whatever price someone puts on it.”
It had all looked so comfortable for McCarthy’s men when a prolific Murphy strike broke the deadlock midway through the first half with the Irishman becoming the first Ipswich man in 52 years to get 25 league goals in a season. There were few chances at either end with Henri Lansbury going close for Forest on the cusp of half-time but his shot from the edge of the area was tipped over by Bartosz Bialkowski.
But it was anything but comfortable in the 54th minute when Chuba Akpom stung the palms of Bialkowski and the resulting play led to Town defender Christophe Berra turning Ben Osborn's cross into his own goal.
From man-mountain at Wolves to unfortunate victim in just seven days - Berra had written another story into another amazing day of action across the promotion race.
Just as it looked like Ipswich were running out of ideas, up stepped Sears with his late winner.
Asked whether his side deserved the crucial three points, McCarthy’s answer was typically blunt.
“I'm not bothered,” he said. “We've got three points in our pocket and the reality is that's all that matters.
“We were a bit flat after Berra's own goal but that's understandable. But Luke Varney had a couple of headers fly over and Freddie Sears has made a big impact since joining and we are delighted with him.”
Forest boss Dougie Freedman said: “It would have been easy for us to turn up and have nothing to play for, but that didn't happen today.
“Over the last five games, the commitment and spirit has been there.We are just lacking a little at both ends of the pitch.
“Mick McCarthy has found a way to get his Ipswich team to win games like that and now we need to find it.
“I have got a good squad here and there was not a lot in that game. I definitely think it will click, the players have shown that are going to keep going.”
LATE WINNER: Freddie Sears scores Ipswich’s vital second goal MILESTONE: The Ipswich players celebrate the opening goal by Daryl Murphy