since 1878

Ipswich Town (0) 2 - 2 (0) Sunderland

Coca-Cola Championship 2004-05

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Referee: SG Bennett

Manager: Joe Royle

Portman Road 12:00

Attendance: 29,230

Manager: Mick McCarthy

Match Number: 3105


 Richard Naylor (66)
 Darren Bent (89)
 Elliott (71)
 Robinson (84)


StewartElliott (69)
BrownDeane (69)
LawrenceThornton (76)



















D Collins




Match Report

Bent reins in Sunderland at the last

At the end of a week in which a ghost was apparently spotted at Sunderland, Mick McCarthy will trust that events here do not come back to haunt him. A late goal by Darren Bent restricted his team to a point but everything yesterday suggested that the Premiership will soon be coming to the Stadium of Light.

McCarthy's caution was understandable when asked whether it would take a disaster to deny his team automatic promotion now. "They happen, don't they?" the Sunderland manager said. True, but it was hard to envisage. It was a sign of how well his players performed, except in ruthlessness, that they ended disappointed to have drawn at one of their closest challengers.

Sunderland remain five points clear of third-placed Ipswich and need a maximum of five more points to guarantee promotion, but they ought to have won. It was all the more galling for them to concede an 89th-minute equaliser when they had deservedly come from behind to lead and had wasted several chances. Marcus Stewart, the former Ipswich striker, missed a penalty at 0-0.

Sunderland were the more creative team and the Ipswich manager Joe Royle declared himself "ecstatic" with a point. There was little sign of such delight in the stands, though, after a pulsating second half as Ipswich fans fear another visit to the play-offs. Those are deeply unpopular in these parts given that Ipswich have featured in five since 1997 and failed in four of them, but they trail Wigan by two points with three games remaining and their fate is out of their hands.

"It ain't over till it's over," Royle said. "It wouldn't be the biggest turnaround, two points in three games." They travel to Leeds next and will need to defend better; if they fail to collect three points and Sunderland win at home to Leicester, McCarthy's team will be promoted.

McCarthy will be dismayed by his team's failure to finish off Ipswich but there were plenty of positives. His central midfielders Dean Whitehead and Carl Robinson were energetic and too strong for Ipswich, and his full-backs Stephen Wright and George McCartney offered plenty coming forward.

Sunderland were frequently dangerous on the counterattack and only some poor finishing or bad decision-making, plus one fine save by Kelvin Davis, prevented them scoring more on the break. "I was never confident in us keeping a clean sheet," said Royle.

The first half contained little of the later excitement. Although Bent caused some problems for Sunderland with his pace and movement, not least when he ran into the channels, Ipswich largely laboured and Sunderland ought to have been ahead at half-time. Fabian Wilnis was adjudged to have handled Stewart's cross, but Stewart - warmly applauded before kick-off - rolled the penalty wide.

Sunderland had also hit the bar by the time Ipswich undeservedly went ahead. A corner exposed the inexperience of Sunderland's stand-in goalkeeper Michael Ingham; he punched the ball towards his own net and Richard Naylor forced it over the line.

Stewart and Chris Brown were replaced in Sunderland's attack by Stephen Elliott and Brian Deane and the effect was instant. Elliott equalised after Deane headed a Wright centre back across goal and Davis had to make a brilliant save from Whitehead before Sunderland took the lead. Neat interplay involving Julio Arca and McCartney ended with a cross which Robinson tapped in.

Sunderland perhaps thought the job was done. Wright's finish from another break lacked conviction and they then allowed Pablo Counago to latch on to Shefki Kuqi's header and set up Bent for a sharp finish.

There was still time for Ipswich to expose Ingham again before Stephen Caldwell stopped a goalbound Kuqi shot with his chest.

Sunderland surrendered a chance to move within two points of promotion but their return to the top flight looks only a matter of time.

Jon Brodkin (Guardian Unlimited)

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