Minute felt like an eternity

IT was probably less than a minute but it felt like an eternity.That moment between the final whistle blowing and stadium announcer Rob Chandler announcing officially "we are in the play-offs" was mind-bendingly nerve-racking for the majority who did not know a draw was enough.

IT was probably less than a minute but it felt like an eternity.

That moment between the final whistle blowing and stadium announcer Rob Chandler announcing officially "we are in the play-offs" was mind-bendingly nerve-racking for the majority who did not know a draw was enough.

Imagine – the few minutes before going up the aisle, those hours before a big exam, sitting waiting for the driving test, or the agonising moments before your first-born arrives in the world – add them together and multiply by 10, then you know the feeling.

The roar that went up from the 27,000 Town fans among the almost sell-out crowd roared, cheered and sang Tom Hark as deliriously as any goal which has been scored at Portman Road this season.


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Louder, almost, than Shefki Kuqi's wonderfully struck angled 25-yarder after 26 minutes. At that point, Ipswich were up as high as fourth.

But anyone who has watched the Blues this season knew it would not stay that way. Even by then they could have been a couple of goals behind. Alan Lee, he of Rotherham fame who damaged Ipswich so much last season, squandered a couple of good headed chances from crosses by old boy Gary Croft and centre-back Danny Gabbidon.

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Lee also shot wide when unmarked and brilliant tackles, first by John McGreal and later by Fabian Wilnis denied Robert Earnshaw good shooting opportunities.

Kelvin Davis had made a good save from a deflected Earnshaw shot and went on to make an even better block save at the feet of Lee Bullock.

But Town's luck ran out two minutes before the break when Bullock, not for the first time, escaped his marker and was able to get a deft flick on a Tony Vidmar cross which deflected past Davis off Jermaine Wright's knee.

Ironically, Town's worst department all season, defence, was actually quite sound and the pairing of Matt Elliott and John McGreal in particular had to be.

The section which has been the best, the midfield, was by far as poor as they could possibly be, collectively.

They couldn't halt Bullock's penetrating runs into the area, Richard Langley was made to look like Zinedine Zidane while Willie Boland was relaxed and confident as he ambled casually out of his own area, carrying the ball as if he had all the time in the world to find a telling pass. He did, and Town were again under threat.

The Blues attack had no service worthy of its name, although early on Shefki Kuqi had a shot blocked which in turn led to the goal.

Matt Richards closed down, Croft the ball went to Kuqi and he finished with aplomb for his 12th goal of the season.

It was easy to understand his chagrin at being taken off 13 minutes after the break and his petulant kick at the corner flag, which he seemed to miss at first, summed up his anger.

He was following skipper Jim Magilton down the tunnel. His face told its own story although he did go and shake Martijn Reuser's hand before trotting to the dressing room.

Magilton had come close to putting Town back in front with a superbly-clipped free kick over the wall from 25 yards, but Margetson made an excellent one-handed save.

The Cardiff keeper, one of four City players looking for a new contract, then pushed a Reuser effort wide and Miller beat off three City defenders before firing wide.

Davis tipped an Earnshaw effort away and it clipped a post in the process and the Town keeper got behind a long-range Langley effort.

As the game wore on Town were stuck between going all out for the win or not conceding and settling for the draw.

The indecision matched the nerves. The crowd roared every ball won but groaned at every mistake and the tension transmitted back and forth among fans and players.

Then relief and joy erupted at the end and over the course of the season Ipswich have finished the fifth-best team in the division.

Now comes part two of the quest. We can only hope the good Ipswich turn up against West Ham.

The other good thing is two of the next three possible games are away from home.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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