Lee keeps Hull in Championship again

FOR the second year running Alan Lee helped Ipswich Town finish on a high, while keeping Hull City in the Championship.Lee scored within seconds of going on as a substitute at Portman Road to give the Blues the win they wanted, but results elsewhere dictated Town would not be challenging for Premiership football via the play-offs for another year.

Derek Davis

FOR the second year running Alan Lee helped Ipswich Town finish on a high, while keeping Hull City in the Championship.

Lee scored within seconds of going on as a substitute at Portman Road to give the Blues the win they wanted, but results elsewhere dictated Town would not be challenging for Premiership football via the play-offs for another year.

Towards the end of last season Lee scored at Elland Road and it was a goal that effectively relegated Leeds United and kept the Tigers in the division.

When Lee came off the bench it was already clear that Crystal Palace were going to clinch a play off place, and Watford were drawing at Blackpool.

Seconds later the big Irishman, who ironically was a Hull target last summer but he didn't want to leave Ipswich, rose to meet a David Wright free kick.

Most Read

Jon Walters nodded it back to him and the Irish produced the deftest of finishes to beat Boaz Myhill.

Cue ecstatic celebrations.

Town still needed Blackpool to get another goal, it didn't happen and Neil Warnock's men secured fifth place and a semi-final against Hull, with an emphatic 5-0 win at home against ten-man Burnley, Watford, who were also reduced to ten men, grabbed sixth spot after coming from behind to draw at Blackpool.

At least Town did what they set out to do and Ipswich went for it in no uncertain terms.

They twice hit the same post in the first half and also had a goal disallowed and a penalty denied.

Putting Lee on in place of Alan Quinn who had missed the target four times, was an inspired substitution after starting with Shefki Kuqi up front alongside Pablo Counago, with Jon Walters wide right.

Kuqi had promised one of his famed swallow dives to make up for his poor showing since arriving on loan from Selhurst Park.

It looked as if he was going to keep his word after just two minutes when he nodded in with a diving header after a Pablo Counago shot came back off a post.

But the linesman's flag was raised for offside and the decision remains baffling.

Town had tight hold of the game with Owen Garvan and Tommy Miller making the numbers count as Hull went with three up front, asking Ian Ashbee to shore up the middle of midfield.

The Blues showed no nerves as they went at the Tigers and Tommy Miller was unlucky when his low 16-yard drive hit the outside of post.

Alan Quinn went close with shots off both feet but each time went wide, then blasted another good chance wide.

Ipswich felt they might have had a second half penalty when substitute Danny Haynes had an attempted cross blocked by a Sam Ricketts' arm but referee Andre Marriner was well-placed to dismiss the appeal.

Although Hull looked dangerous on the counter they didn't offer any real threat to Stephen Bywater in the first half, with a Dean Windass free kick from 30-yards their best effort in the first half and that curled well wide.

City seemed to content to settle for third place and with Stoke relegating Leicester City with a nil-nil at the Britannia stadium, that is what the Tigers ended up with after creating very few chances.

Bywater made an important save after Nick Barmby headed down and angled cross and the keeper grabbed it on the line.

It took an important hooked clearance from Jason De Vos, playing his last game for Town, to clear the danger with Caleb Folan ready to nod in.

Danny Simpson coped with his Manchester United team-mate Fraizer Campbell well, while Windass and Folan got little joy from Alex Bruce and De Vos, and little got past the sure-footed Wright on the left.

City look a good bet to get the Wembley final against wobbly Watford, with Wayne Brown impressing at the heart of the City defence.

Ipswich know they have much to work on, but also plenty to build on, and Lee will be wanting more of these vital end of season goals.