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Fuller Flavour: Final day games, pitch invasions and the biggest celebration I’ve ever been part of

Town fans invade the Portman Road pitch after the club's derby day win over Norwich City in 1996 - but such celebrations are few and far between

Town fans invade the Portman Road pitch after the club's derby day win over Norwich City in 1996 - but such celebrations are few and far between

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In his latest Ipswich Town column, Karl Fuller recalls some final day games he’s watched over the years - and those oh so rare pitch invasion celebrations!

Town fans celebrate on the Portman Road pitch after beating Bolton in the classic play-off semi-final second leg in 2000Town fans celebrate on the Portman Road pitch after beating Bolton in the classic play-off semi-final second leg in 2000

It had me thinking about final weekend games that I’ve attended over the years and I can’t really say there’s been too many that have provided the classic anxious moments before an ecstatic pitch invasion to celebrate a wonderful achievement.

In the late 80’s, I remember running onto the pitch after the last home game of every season, it was the customary thing to do. But when it has come to a game with something riding on it, those days have often proved to be a let-down.

MORE: The 18 Ipswich Town icons honoured inside Portman Road’s South Stand

My first recollection of attending a final weekend game in the hope of something to celebrate came in 1982. We had to beat Nottingham Forest and hope Liverpool would lose against Tottenham to have any chance of winning the old First Division.

I was in year five of primary school and my dad was taking my friend Chris Richards and I to the game, only for Chris to break his arm the day before in a school lunchtime game of football.

Town lost 3-1 with Peter Davenport scoring a hat-trick for Forest and Alan Brazil netting a consolation for Town but in any event, Liverpool won, and the title was theirs. This game was to be Sir Bobby Robson’s final Saturday game in charge of Town

It would be a good few years before I would attend a final weekend game of any significance although I was present at Portman Road in 1993 when we beat Forest 2-1 in what was Brian Clough’s last game in charge of Forest.

Craig Forrest celebrates winning the league with Chris Kiwomya and Jason Dozzell in 1992Craig Forrest celebrates winning the league with Chris Kiwomya and Jason Dozzell in 1992

My first-ever trip to Hillsborough came on the last day of the 1994/95 season when we lost miserably 4-1 and a year later, as we looked to bounce straight back to the Premier League, we drew 0-0 at home to Millwall – a result that meant that we would miss out on the play-offs by two points whilst the Lions were relegated as a result.

MORE: ‘We have to use this as a reset’ - Chambers on Town’s promotion hopes if and when football returns

I walked out of the old North Stand dodging seats being thrown at us by disgruntled Millwall fans housed in the top tier of the Cobbold Stand down our end!

In 1998/99, I saw us beat Sheffield United 4-1 at Portman Road in a last day cliff-hanger as we required Wolves to beat Bradford to assist our bid for automatic promotion.

In those days, it was all ears to the radio to find that Bradford had triumphed to pip us to second place by a solitary point. That day was a real sickener, especially as we would go on to lose in the play-offs to Bolton.

A year later, it was a similar scenario. We had to beat Walsall and hope that Manchester City would lose at Blackburn to finally see automatic promotion come our way. Two David Johnson goals saw us win 2-0 but despite Blackburn taking the lead and getting our hopes up, City fought back to win, and we missed out on a second-place finish again, but this time by two points.

No pitch invasion to savour – but we did not have long to wait for that as that followed that epic play-off semi-final win over Bolton.

I guess therefore the most memorable last-day game I attended was the final game of the 1991/92 season. Remember, we had already clinched the title the week before with a draw at Oxford.

MORE: Watch the celebrations as Ipswich Town lift the Second Division trophy at Portman Road - 28 years ago today

So, the afternoon was always going to be a party atmosphere. We won 3-1 thanks to goals by Steve Whitton (two) and Gavin Johnson and I will never forget the final moments of the game when my brother and I inched our way to the edge of the pitch.

I had my hand on the post of the goal down the North Stand end on the Cobbold side of the ground peering past a packed penalty area as Town prepared to take a corner from the other side.

But the final whistle blew and I, along with thousands of others, covered the pitch for the biggest moment of celebration I have ever been involved in.

Happy days!


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