Ipswich Town’s Greatest: Magic’s play-off hat-trick, Gunn’s air-kick, Priskin shoots down Gunners and more - Town’s best-ever games
- Credit: Archant
During the coronavirus shutdown of football, we’ll be celebrating Ipswich Town’s greatest players, goals, moments, games and more. Here we take a look at five of the greatest games in club history...
- Division One play-off semi-final, May 2000: Ipswich Town 5 Bolton 3 (aggregate 7-5)
This was surely the most exciting and incident-packed game ever seen at Portman Road.
The score was 2-2 after the play-off first leg, and expectation was high, but home hearts sank after six minutes when Dean Holdsworth put the visitors ahead.
Jim Magilton’s penalty restored parity, only for a Holdsworth free-kick to edge Bolton in front again shortly before half-time. A Magilton penalty was then saved, but the Irishman did score a second equaliser in the 49th minute after a mazy dribble.
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No sooner had Town fans finished celebrating than Allan Johnston scored from 35 yards and Bolton were in front again. It stayed that way until the last minute of normal time when Magilton’s shot, off his shin, bobbled into the net.
In extra-time it all kicked off. Bolton had two players sent off, on top of their seven yellow cards, yet another penalty – this time from Jamie Clapham – put Town ahead, and then Dutchman Martijn Reuser made sure with a late solo effort. Town were at Wembley!
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- UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg, March 4, 1981: St. Etienne 1 Ipswich Town 4
Arguably Town’s greatest-ever performance. Surely the club’s most eye-catching result.
St. Etienne were one of the real powers of European football at the time, and their team included Michel Platini and Dutch star Johnny Rep.
When Rep put the home side ahead after only 16 minutes, it looked rather worrying for Town. But a Paul Mariner header levelled things before the break, and the Suffolk side turned on the style in the second half.
Bobby Robson described it as an “almost faultless performance.” It certainly made European football sit up and take notice.
Town won the second leg at Portman Road 3-1, to put themselves into the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, an important step in what ended as a triumphant campaign, with Mick Mills lifting the giant trophy after the final against AZ Alkmaar.
- Gunn’s airkick, April 14, 1996: Ipswich Town 2 Norwich City 1
This game will always be remembered with fondness – and hilarity – by Town supporters because of what happened four minutes from time.
The game was level at one-all, and Norwich were quite content to play for time. Left-back Robert Ullathorne, under no real pressure, passed the ball gently back to keeper Bryan Gunn.
The Scot, seeing James Scowcroft closing him down, decided to get rid of the ball first time. That’s when it happened...
As Gunn tried to boot the ball away, it hit a divot, bounced over his foot, and gently rolled into the goal at the Churchmans end of the ground. Cue pandemonium from Town fans – stunned disbelief from the Canaries’ supporters.
Until that magical moment, it had been a ho-hum game. Ian Marshall put Town ahead midway through the first half, but Jamie Cureton (complete with hair dyed yellow and green) volleyed the Canaries level in the 62nd minute, literally seconds after coming on as sub. But all of that minor detail was quickly forgotten when the “Gunn moment” happened!
- Carling Cup semi-final, first leg, January 12, 2011: Ipswich Town 1 Arsenal 0
It was just like the good old days. A sell-out crowd, a great atmosphere, and Town not only taking on but beating a really top side.
This was the undoubted highlight of Tamas Priskin’s otherwise less than thrilling spell at Portman Road. He was superb that night, and he capped his performance by superbly finishing a one-on-one in the 78th minute.
Town deserved their victory. The home side created more chances than their aristocratic visitors. Cesc Fabregas was so rattled after the game he accused Ipswich of adopting “rugby’’ tactics.
Here’s a quiz question: who was Town’s manager that night? None other than Ian McParland, caretaker boss after the departure of Roy Keane. McParland had a mixed two games at Town gaffer – a 7-0 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea, followed by this memorable victory. New permanent manager Paul Jewell watched from the stand.
Unfortunately, this was only the first leg. In the second game at the Emirates. It was a different story, and Arsenal ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Still, it was fun!
- April 28, 1962, Ipswich Town 2 Aston Villa 0
Alf Ramsey’s collection of has-beens and cast-offs had shocked the football world a year earlier when they were promoted to the First Division. They were universally written off as relegation certainties.
But, as the season went by, incredibly Town found themselves in the race for the title, alongside mighty Spurs and Burnley.
Prolific strikers Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips were banging in goals left, right, and centre, supplied by Ramsey’s deep-lying wingers, Jimmy Leadbetter and Roy “Rocky” Stephenson. It was a revolutionary tactic which flummoxed First Division defences and, four years later, would see England to World Cup glory.
On the final Saturday of the season, in front of nearly 29,000 fans, Town knew they must win against visitors Aston Villa. The first half was frustrating, but in the 72nd minute a diving header from Crawford brought the breakthrough. Four minutes later, Crawford struck again.
Town had done their bit, and a few minutes after the final whistle came the news that Burnley had only drawn. Ipswich were First Division champions – arguably the greatest-ever achievement in English football.