since 1878

Ipswich Town (0) 2 - 0 (0) Walsall

Division 1 1999-00

Sunday, May 7, 2000

Referee: K Lynch

Manager: George Burley

Portman Road

Attendance: 21,908

Manager: Unknown

Match Number: 2852

























Match Report

Ipswich Town 2 Walsall 0

IF FAMILIARITY breeds contempt then Ipswich Town will treat the forthcoming play-offs with total disdain. For 10 minutes they occupied the First Division's second automatic promotion place, but Manchester City's success at Ewood Park means that for a record fourth successive year Ipswich's future will be determined by the knock-out system.

Just like last season, Ipswich's fate was determined on the regular season's final afternoon; a year ago they missed automatic promotion by one point, this time it was two.

Though the play-offs give Ipswich a second chance, their past record offers worrying portents for the two-legged semi-final against Bolton, beginning at the Reebok next Saturday. In the last three years they have lost at that stage to Sheffield United, Charlton Athletic and, coincidentally, Bolton last season, when they were beaten 1-0 in the north, won 4-3 at Portman Road and went out on the away-goals rule.

In the end, a sweltering Suffolk afternoon offered nothing but disappointment for both teams, as Walsall were condemned to the Second Division after a year of gutsy fighting against the odds.

If Blackburn's goal against City brought tidal waves of joy around Portman Road, David Johnson's first goal, three minutes into the second half, had this part of eastern England believing that, after an absence of six years, Ipswich would be back in the Premiership.

The day ended with demoralised fans singing "Que sera, sera, we're going to Wembley," but seldom has that ordinarily triumphant march been sung so half-heartedly.

George Burley, the manager, did his best to look on the bright side. "I think we are stronger than a year ago and the aim is now to get to Wembley."

Ipswich's first-half display suggests they can go all the way; the pace and accuracy of Jamie Clapham's crossing, the awareness of James Scowcroft - later named both the players' and supporters' player of the year - and the poaching of Johnson finally undid plucky Walsall.

From the moment Tony Mowbray's glancing header just missed the target, Walsall's goal area was on red alert. Johnson and Marcus Stewart might have scored before Dean Keates appeared to handle another Mowbray header by the post. Referee Kevin Lynch, making his last appearance in the League, saw otherwise and awarded a free kick, possibly for pushing by Mowbray.

Johnson hit a post and the half had two minutes to go when cheers began to ripple around the stadium. News of Blackburn's goal meant that, suddenly, it was time to celebrate.

It was if the news from afar had acted as an incentive at home; within three minutes of the restart, Johnson finally broke through. Jim Magilton's corner had been headed on by Johnson, returned by Mowbray and prodded beyond Walker by the striker. Suddenly, the prospect of days out at Old Trafford, Highbury and Stamford Bridge loomed larger. For 10 exciting minutes, Ipswich had edged into second place and most of Suffolk seemed to be willing Blackburn on to further success.

Then came the fateful cry from Walsall's travelling fans. News that City had equalised were followed by chants of "you're not going anywhere". The atmosphere changed from that of a party to a wake. As news of City goals two, three and four filtered through, so the desperation increased.

Johnson's second goal, from Clapham's 80th-minute pull-back, was ultimately academic, and the final whistle brought a defiant, if disappointed, response.

Daily Telegraph

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