Lingering promotion dream all but over

TO all intents and purposes, Burnley's three late goals to secure a win over Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on Wednesday put paid to any lingering hopes Ipswich Town had of playing in the Premier League next season.

Elvin King

TO all intents and purposes, Burnley's three late goals to secure a win over Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on Wednesday put paid to any lingering hopes Ipswich Town had of playing in the Premier League next season.

The Lancashire-based club's three points saw them join a top nine who will surely now fight it out for the three promotion places in the Coca-Cola Championship.

Jim Magilton's Blues go into tomorrow's match at third-placed Reading in 10th position and starring at an abyss above them.

They are six points adrift of ninth-placed Preston, with only Charlton - cut off by 10 points at the foot of the table - having more points between them and the side above in the division.

To climb into the top six Ipswich must make up seven points in their last nine matches, and only the most optimistic Town supporter would see that as feasible.

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Okay, the teams above them have to play each other and, if Town did hit their long-desired for purple patch at this late stage, the ground could conceivably be made up.

But this would mean a win at the Madejski Stadium (kick-off 3pm) tomorrow, quickly followed by three points against Burnley at Portman Road on Tuesday.

This might put a different complexion on things in a division where no one has the class to pull away and stamp their authority on proceedings.

A victory at Reading looks a better bet for the Blues than success against Burnley for the simple reason that Town's away form is admirable and their home form pretty ordinary.

If Ipswich show the same desire and determination tomorrow as they did against leaders Wolves in the 0-0 draw at Molineux on Tuesday, they will have a decent chance of toppling the Royals.

If they show the same ineptness and timidity as they did in their last home game against Southampton, which they lost 3-0, they will be played off the park at Portman Road on Tuesday.

It looked for long periods that Neil Warnock's Palace would do Town a favour at Turf Moor in front of just 10,000 spectators. They went 2-0 up with ex-Ipswich striker Shefki Kuqi lobbing the opening goal for the visitors.

But inside the last 10 minutes Clint Hill's handball was spotted by a linesman and skipper Graham Alexander converted the subsequent penalty. Steven Thompson and Jay Rodriguez made it 4-2.

Warnock is not known for his diplomacy or for his regard for anybody holding a whistle or a flag, and he had his usual rant after the match.

“The penalty was the turning point,” he said. “The referee's positioning was good and he waved it away. It was punished by the linesman - it's only human nature, he wants to be loved. It's got to be a genuine deliberate handball.”