Gallery: Report - Ipswich Town 2 Nottingham Forest 1 – Sears’ late winner could prove so crucial

Daryl Murphy celebrates after opening the scoring. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Daryl Murphy celebrates after opening the scoring. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Ipswich v Forest: Freddie Sears netted an 83rd minute winner as Ipswich Town secured a scrappy, but vital victory over Nottingham Forest this afternoon, moving to within touching distance of securing the club its first Championship play-off place in a decade.

Christophe Berra’s untidy own goal (54) had cancelled out Daryl Murphy’s fine opener (22) and, with results elsewhere going against the Blues, there was an increasingly edgy atmosphere inside a packed Portman Road crowd as the match wore on.

The prospect of going to Blackburn next weekend realistically needing a victory to seal a top-six spot was in store until Sears latched on to Murphy’s header, skipped past a challenge and fired home in off the post – with the aid of a big deflection – to raise the roof.

It means Town still have a three-point cushion over both Brentford and Wolves (who both were also both victorious) heading into the final round of fixtures. Indeed, they are up to fifth in the table, leapfrogging free-falling Derby, and – as it stands – would face East Anglian rivals Norwich City in a two-legged play-off semi-final.

Of course there are sure to be a few more twists and turns yet in this remarkable Championship campaign.

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Following a cagey start to the match, in which neither team was able to build any momentum, Town broke the deadlock with a goosebumps moment. As Portman Road stood to pay tribute to Chris Reynolds, the Blues fan who sadly died last weekend aged 21, the home side broke the deadlock just as the minute long applause reached its crescendo.

Following Bartosz Bialkowski’s long kick out of his hands, Murphy nodded on, Sears provided a deft outside of the boot touch back into his path and the Irishman lashed the ball into the bottom right corner for his 25th goal of the campaign – equalling club legend Ray Crawford’s return of 1962/63.

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It was a quality goal, but the quality of the first half did not improve, with both teams restricted to half chances. The closest either came was when Bialkowski tipped Henri Lansbury’s curling effort over the bar in the final moments.

Ipswich had penalty appeals waved away six minutes after the restart, Dexter Blackstock having grappled Tommy Smith in the air as they battled for an aerial ball. Moments later, Stephen Hunt’s 25-yard free-kick effort went just over the bar.

Just as you sensed the hosts were getting on top, Forest levelled things up in bizarre fashion. After Chuba Akpom’s shot was pushed away by Bialkowski, Ben Osborn crossed the ball back into the area and Berra – unable to adjust his feet – contrived to stab the ball into his own net inside the six-yard box.

The goal left the Portman Road atmosphere flat, many well aware that the chasing sides were both winning, and suddenly it was Dougie Freedman’s men who were on top.

It required a fine saving challenge from Hunt to deny Akpom pulling the trigger, then Bialkowski pushed a long-range Michail Antonio effort around the post.

Ipswich regrouped and Luke Varney twice went close with headers after coming on as sub, glancing a Teddy Bishop cross wide in the 67th minute and nodding a Paul Anderson cross onto the roof of the net in the 81st minute.

The Blues were hardly knocking the door down though, but found a way through in the 83rd minute – the strike duo of Murphy and Sears combining brilliantly again.

Murphy once again headed down a long ball into his partner’s path, Sears skipping past once challenge and hitting a shot which, with the aid of a large deflection off Michael Mancienne, hit the post and span over the line.

– Reaction to follow.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Parr (Bru 68), Bishop (Anderson 79), Skuse, S.Hunt (Varney 64); Sears, Murphy.

Unused subs: Gerken, Fryers, Hewitt, Ambrose.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-3-3): Darlow; Mancienne, Hobbs, Lascelles, Lichaj (Fox 62); Lansbury, Vaughan, B.Osborn (Walker 86); Akpom (Burke 79), Blackstock, Antonio. Unused subs: Evtimov, Kane, Paterson, Grant.

Attendance: 25,199 (1,051 away)

Referee: Graham Salisbury

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