Play-offs will be Town's best hope

WHILE mathematically it is possible for Ipswich to still go up automatically, the probability is it won't happen.You don't need to be Pythagoras to work out that the top three, possibly even four, have a reasonable gap to close because even in this topsy-turvy league they probably won't drop too many more points in the run in.

Derek Davis

WHILE mathematically it is possible for Ipswich to still go up automatically, the probability is it won't happen.

You don't need to be Pythagoras to work out that the top three, possibly even four, have a reasonable gap to close because even in this topsy-turvy league they probably won't drop too many more points in the run in.

The other factor, possibly even more telling, is that Ipswich of late have not looked a top two side and unless they are really careful are in danger of missing out on a play-off place.


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Harsh perhaps as they are sitting in sixth place, albeit on goals scored ahead of Plymouth, ironically enough, with David Norris Town's goal hero at Southampton, but they really need to start to play in the convincing sort of way we know they can - just look at performances at home against Bristol City and West Brom or Crystal Palace away.

Five teams are snapping at their heels and Hull City on the final day of the season could be an absolute clincher for the Blues unless they really get a grip and perform how they are a capable and win consistently.

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It is no good waiting and hoping for more reinforcements to come because until a David Nugent or David Healy arrives to slay some Goliaths, it is the current incumbents that need to put away the chances.

One of the January cavalry did just that, with David Norris scoring a goal of the season candidate out of nothing.

Norris, who has struggled to settle in since his £2m move from Plymouth, looked mightily relieved as he celebrated in front of the 2,818 travelling Town fans and no wonder.

Up until the goal Norris had been less than influential as Town laboured and went behind but his goal, and the manner in which he took it, will give him and the Blues a big lift, not to mention a vital point.

Norris controlled a pass from inside the Ipswich half and showed good skill to beat a marker and slotted left foot just inside a post.

That goal came just five minutes after the Saints had taken the lead. Jhon Viafara had been causing problems down the Southampton right, although Harding had done a good job keeping him in front of him. The big winger crossed diagonally to Stern John who got the better of David Wright and Richard Naylor before turning sharply and firing into a top corner.

Once again the previous good work of the defence undone by a lapse in concentration and while an inquest will be held between themselves it is yet another example of what is still lacking from the promotion hopefuls.

Dithering defending along with their profligacy in front of goal has proved costly.

Norris had a decent chance five minutes into the second half after a neat one two with Pablo Counago but Kelvin Davis was out quickly and dealt with the danger.

Davis has easily taken an effort by Velice Sumulikoski who had been teed up by Counago and was well positioned to take a shot from substitute Owen Garvan.

Alan Lee might have done better once more, while Danny Haynes' naivety proved costly in a thrilling final five minutes.

Haynes had used his pace and strength to surge into the area but instead of squaring to Norris or Garvan who were both well-placed in front of goal, tried to beat two defenders and David and the opportunity went begging with the keeper pouncing.

In truth a win for Town would have been rough on the Saints who had chances of their own to win it.

Stephen Bywater made a terrific save to tip over an Inigo Idiakez shot from 25-yards and David McGoldrick shot into the side-netting.

Marek Saganowski shouted for a penalty when he appeared to be dragged own in the box by Harding, and then got in the way of a goal-bound John shot.

On the face of it a draw at St Mary's isn't too bad against a side revitalised by a new manager but the truth is Town didn't look any better than a side that are still sixth from bottom.

If Ipswich want promotion then they have to beat teams like Southampton, even away from home, and possibly even more pertinently, look to be a better team than they did for most of the game.

The first half was pretty dire, especially from Ipswich and it was the Saints who looked more likely to score and, a little surprisingly appeared to have more desire.

Town were much better second half and Shumi in particular picked up after his worst game for Town so far and at the ground when he had played for Macedonia against England.

He was not the only Town player below par but he, and the rest of the side, can not afford to have any more poor matches in the 11 games remaining.

It would be foolhardy to under-estimate any of the remaining opponents but Ipswich one their day can blow away all in their path.

Barnsley, their next away opponents, may be suffering an FA Cup hangover next week after playing Chelsea this coming weekend, or absolutely buzzing, while Sheffield United at home tomorrow will be similar to Saints in as much as they are under new management.

Promotion is Town's to lose but more important there to be won although they have to earn it.

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