Consigned to mid-table obscurity

REALISTICALLY all hopes of promotion have disappeared for Ipswich.While it is still mathematically possible for the Blues to make the top six, or even top two, it is highly unlikely that, even with 15 games to go, Town can overcome a 14-point deficit.

By Derek Davis

REALISTICALLY all hopes of promotion have disappeared for Ipswich.

While it is still mathematically possible for the Blues to make the top six, or even top two, it is highly unlikely that, even with 15 games to go, Town can overcome a 14-point deficit.

The harsh truth is Town are not good enough to mount a sustained challenge to push up the table - even into the top 10, never mind top six, and will even struggle to overhaul Colchester to claim East Anglian bragging rights.

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They have flattered to deceive so often this season, a good performance here (Birmingham twice for example), a battling display there (Stoke last Tuesday) but we have now seen enough false dawns to know that the sun has set on Town's chance of Premiership football next season.

It is also highly improbable that Jim Magilton's side will be sucked into a relegation battle because, in essence, they are too good for that.

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Even with the wretched run of injuries, with Fabian Wilnis today joining the queue to the treatment room, and ridiculous amount of stupid bookings and sendings off leading to suspensions, the Blues are capable of picking up enough points to stay away from danger.

So, the best they can look forward to now, is progression in the FA Cup and even the fifth round draw at the Premiership's bottom club Watford is not the most enthralling.

But Town will have to do that without leading scorer Alan Lee, who was shown his 10th yellow card of the season after saying too much to Premiership official Mark Atkinson.

Blues fans will share Lee's frustration after being turned down in a penalty appeal and a dubious offside decision going against him, even though it was not the brightest thing to do.

Now Lee's gatling gums will cost him a club fine of up to two weeks wages, understood to be around £8,000, and leave the team without their 12-goal leading scorer for Saturday's visit of Leicester City and the cup game.

The sad thing is Lee could so easily have again been the hero if he had not fluffed an early chance and then hit another effort straight at Gabor Kiraly after being released by a sublime ball from Owen Garvan.

It was that first half incident which initially incensed Lee and he looked to have been pulled down by Matt Lawrence as he tried to get his shot away.

Ipswich had showed intent by pairing Lee up front with Jon Walters and the £150,000 capture from Chester was desperately unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.

Walters looks to be growing in confidence but there were moments of hesitancy, where he appeared eager to please by looking for a pass instead of having a pop at goal.

Walters inadvertently played a part in Palace's opening goal, which came after Town had looked marginally the better side in the opening 20 minutes.

The striker was on the sidelines being treated for a cut head which, of course, now also involves having to change a bloodstained shirt. It took an age and, while the finishing touches were being put to the bandage, Mark Kennedy and Danny Butterfield worked a short corner and Leon Cort rose above the height-challenged Town defence to head in.

With injured skipper Jason De Vos in the Press box working as summariser for Radio Suffolk, the Blues backline had no one much over 6ft and Palace, who surprisingly played Shefki Kuqi alone up front at home, exploited that.

Kuqi hugged Town captain Richard Naylor before the game but embarrassed him seconds before half-time when he forced him into a mistake and then sprinted in on goal.

Only an outstanding goal-saving tackle from Wilnis spared Naylor's blushes but the Dutchman, who had already picked up a knock, could not come out for the second half.

It was another Naylor error that led to Palace doubling their lead when he sliced a clearance straight to Paul Ifill, who got the better of Dan Harding to fire low across goal and past Price.

The Wales keeper made a brilliant save to tip over a Carl Fletcher shot and was on his toes to thwart Kuqi and Dougie Freedman.

What Town will be able to do now is prepare for next season's assault and will take heart from their new signings.

David Wright looked Premiership class with his composed defending, while the introduction of George O'Callaghan briefly gave the Blues hope.

The Irishman has fire in his belly and showed glimpses of the tricks and cleverness he has, coupled with a determination to be involved.

The signing from Cork City got involved in a scuffle with Tom Soares which clearly unsettled the England Under-21 midfielder and, moments later, he launched a high, late and dangerous tackle on Harding as the ball was going out of play and was shown a deserved straight red card.

Even against 10 men, Ipswich never really penetrated a Palace side that settled for just the two goals and a win that keeps them marginally above Ipswich and comfortable in mid-table.

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