SEARS STRIKES TO SINK FOR­EST

Ip­swich now on verge of play-offs

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Dave Good­er­ham

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.”

PIC­TURES: TGS Photo

LATE WIN­NER: Fred­die Sears scores Ip­swich’s vi­tal sec­ond goal MILE­STONE: The Ip­swich play­ers cel­e­brate the open­ing goal by Daryl Mur­phy

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