Night Town finally made play-off final

CONTINUING our series of greatest-ever Ipswich Town games, Nick Garnham recalls the night that Town reached Wembley to put themselves in touching distance of the Premiership.

CONTINUING our series of greatest-ever Ipswich Town games, Nick Garnham recalls the night that Town reached Wembley to put themselves in touching distance of the Premiership

QUE Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be …

I can still hear the voices of Ipswich Town fans celebrating on the Portman Road pitch even now.

Ipswich Town 5 Bolton 3 - after extra time - ranks as the greatest-ever game I have seen involving the club.


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It was the game that had everything - eight goals, three penalties - one missed - a hat-trick hero, a last-minute equaliser and two sendings-off. And that is only half the story!

It you rewind to the middle of May 2000, you will recall that Ipswich had lost three play-off semi-finals in successive years under boss George Burley.

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As fate would have it, they were again paired with Bolton Wanderers, who the previous season had beaten Town on away goals after ending level 4-4 on aggregate - and that after Town had 'won' an epic second leg in front of their own fans 4-3 after extra time!

So there was a bit of 'previous' between the two sides and when Bolton raced into a 2-0 lead at the Reebok Stadium in the first leg a year later, it looked as though Town's play-off semi-final hoodoo had come back to haunt them.

However, two superbly-taken Marcus Stewart goals meant it was all square entering the second leg in front of 21,543 fans on Wednesday, May 17.

Dean Holdsworth put the Trotters ahead after just six minutes, but Jim Magilton equalised with an 18th-minute penalty. Holdsworth curled home a free kick to restore the visitors' advantage after 39 minutes before Magilton saw a second penalty superbly saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen just before half-time.

The current Town manager redeemed himself four minutes after the restart, surging past two Bolton defenders before blasting home from a tight angle. But incredibly Bolton were ahead again within a minute when Allan Johnston's long-range volley beat Richard Wright.

It was edge-of-your-seat stuff as Town teetered on the brink of more play-off agony until, just when it appeared they were going to miss out again, Tony Mowbray headed down a long ball from Mark Venus and Magilton's shot found the bottom corner of the net to complete his hat-trick and send the crowd wild.

Seconds later Bolton skipper Mike Whitlow was dismissed, leaving the visitors to face extra-time with 10 men.

Referee Barry Knight then awarded Town their third penalty of the night in the 94th minute and this time Jamie Clapham converted to put Ipswich in front in the tie for the first time.

Robbie Elliott became the second Bolton player to be sent off three minutes later for a second yellow card, before Martijn Reuser skated through and finished emphatically to clinch Town's place at Wembley.

Town team: Wright, Croft, Clapham, Brown (sub Reuser 65mins), Mowbray, Venus, Holland, Magilton, Johnson, Scowcroft (sub Naylor 79mins) and Stewart. Unused subs: Branagan, Thetis and Wilnis.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington).

Attendance: 21,543.

Whichever match is your favourite, let us know.

Write to us on the form printed in the EADT and send it to: Town's Greatest Game, EADT Sport, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail us at: sport@eadt.co.uk

We will take entries up until Monday, November 19 and then we will reveal your choice as the best Town game ever, and also what we consider the best entrant and why.

There will be a prize for the winner, too.

So get thinking of those great Town games.

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