It will go down to the wire

AS much as Darren Currie doesn't want it - nor anyone else, I would imagine - it looks as if Ipswich will have to wait until the last game of the season at Brighton to secure a return to the Premiership - or not.

By Derek Davis

AS much as Darren Currie doesn't want it - nor anyone else, I would imagine - it looks as if Ipswich will have to wait until the last game of the season at Brighton to secure a return to the Premiership - or not.

The unnecessarily tense victory over Rotherham puts them on Sunderland's shoulder and Ipswich will not concern themselves now with what Wigan do, although the Latics do have a tricky run-in, starting with a trip to Cardiff City on Saturday.

Instead, the Blues will continue to focus on their own remaining five matches. They are capable of winning them all but are unlikely to do so.

Should they go on to make it nine wins from 10 games, then they could well finish as champions, beating the Black Cats at Portman Road on Sunday, April 17 will help the cause.

While any of the three results would have done for Town at the JJB on Tuesday, Marcus Stewart's controversial winner has sharpened the focus for Joe Royle's side.

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The finishing post is in sight. By continually winning, they will keep their noses ahead of Wigan and look to squeeze past Sunderland.

Before they welcome Mick McCarthy's side and look for revenge after losing 2-0 at the Stadium of Light, Town have the not-so-little matter of going to draw specialists Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Under Glenn Hoddle, they have finished level with teams 15 times and 20 all told for the season so far in 41 games.

That it will finish all-square on Monday is almost inevitable, it is just a case of how many each team get. A draw would still be enough for Town, but only if they beat Sunderland, as I expect they will. What is ostensibly the hardest of the run-in could actually be the most suited to the Blues' mentality.

Leeds away then follows and, if Town are the model of inconsistency at the back then Kevin Blackwell's side are as unpredictable as the Grand National field.

Ipswich can, and will, win at Elland Road against a team no longer in with a play-off shout and thinking of far-away beaches. A dangerous thing to say, perhaps, but human nature is what it is.

Crewe at home is another potential banana skin. They are not the same side since Dean Ashton chose a brief stint in the Premiership before settling back into Championship football, but Dario Gradi is a crafty coach who loves nothing more than finding a way of beating a footballing side like Ipswich.

Hopefully, they will be safe from the drop by then but Alex will be worthy opponents, although a Town win is still the most probable result.

That brings us to a Sunday seaside jaunt, where the weather is likely to be gorgeous but the Seagulls will be looking to rain on Ipswich, and their former player Currie's, parade. Albion will most likely be fighting for survival but I tip Town to get whatever is needed and go up, avoiding the dreaded play-offs.

The spin from the club has already started and they would have us believe that the knockout stage is nothing to be concerned about.

I disagree. The disappointment of not going up automatically will hurt deeply and, psychologically, the players and the manager, who has made no secret of his hatred of the system, will be affected.

They will say not, they may even work even harder to disguise it, but finishing third is like losing in a cup semi-final, you are rarely remembered.

Preston will finish fourth and they will be remembered as the team that pipped Derby in the play-off semi-finals and then won promotion at the Millennium Stadium. Promoted Ipswich and Sunderland, though, will be on their holidays by then.

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