Monday verdict: Super subs show Ipswich Town have strength in depth as well as strength in spirit
- Credit: sarah lucy brown
For the best part of an anxious half an hour it seemed as though Ipswich Town were going to do what they have done so often done in the past – force themselves to do things the hard way.
When Christophe Berra’s awkward own goal cancelled out Daryl Murphy’s fine opener on Saturday afternoon, Nottingham Forest drawing level in the 54th minute, the atmosphere became decidedly edgy inside a packed Portman Road.
The chasing duo of Brentford and Wolves were both winning. As the clock counted down, it seemed as though Mick McCarthy’s men would be heading to Blackburn on the final day of the season realistically requiring a win to secure a Championship play-off place.
And then Freddie Sears popped up with an 83rd minute winner to completely change the dynamic ahead of Saturday’s finale at Ewood Park.
There’s still work to be done, of course, just not as much. A draw against Jordan Rhodes and co will be enough to be involved in the £140m end of season lottery.
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As it stands, a two-legged semi-final with East Anglian rivals Norwich City is on the cards, Town having leapfrogged faltering Derby into fifth and the Canaries held to a 1-1 draw at Rotherham.
There are sure to be a few last twists and turns left in this remarkable Championship season yet. That said, Town fans can feel positive that their side – who have lost just once in eight matches – will get the job done.
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Sears has now scored nine goals since his mid-season switch from Essex neighbours Colchester United. At £100k the livewire front man increasingly looks like one of the bargain buys of the season.
Murphy netted his 25th league goal of the campaign, becoming the club’s first player to hit that landmark since the legendary Ray Crawford in 1962/63.
The way the big man, little man strike partnership combined for both goals was a real throw back to a previous football era.
And yet it was arguably the performance of the three substitutes which give the greatest cause for encouragement.
Talented midfielder Jonny Williams saw his loan spell cut short by injury last week, while striker Chris Wood was recalled by parent club Leicester on Saturday morning to raise concerns about a shortage of game-changers.
Luke Varney, Kevin Bru and Paul Anderson all impressed off the bench to prove that this Town squad still has strength in depth as well as strength in spirit though.
Fifteen home wins down. One more gritty away draw is now the maximum requirement.