TRANSFER LATEST: Ipswich Town and one other rival battle for Joel Ward signature

IPSWICH Town are now in a straight 50/50 shoot-out for hot property Joel Ward.

We can today reveal the highly-rated Portsmouth man has narrowed down his options from six Championship clubs to just two as the transfer saga nears a conclusion.

And Ipswich remain very much in the hunt, with Ward expected to meet again with manager Paul Jewell and speak with owner Marcus Evans before making his drawn-out decision over whether to be the Blues’ first signing of the summer.

A source close to Portsmouth said: “Joel is taking his time but Ipswich are right up there. He likes Paul Jewell’s experience of gaining promotion, the financial stability of the club and the desire of the owner Marcus Evans to get to the Promised Land of the Premier League.”

While the identity of the second club is being kept under wraps, Town remain very much in the hunt for the man they first started courting in January.

We understand Ward has cut down the original list of six – made up of Ipswich, Leeds United, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Blackpool and Sheffield Wednesday – to just the Blues and one other.

Reports in Sheffield claim the Owls have pulled out of the race because they refused to cough up the reported fee of �500,000 while stories coming out of Elland Road suggest a financial power-struggle is going on between Leeds manager Neil Warnock and his board.

Most Read

Jewell has no such problems with Evans happy to back his boss – although perhaps not quite to the tune of previous years. Ward’s wages are not believed to be a problem and a fee has been agreed with the cash-strapped South Coast club.

It would now seem to come down to a footballing decision, with Jewell having to convince the 22-year-old that he is moulding a side capable of challenging at the right end of the Championship.

We understand that Ward will be talking with both Jewell and Evans again this week with chief executive Simon Clegg, who often brokers potential transfers, not involved with discussions at this stage.