Not good enough
JUST not good enough.Ipswich failed in their bid to be promoted but despite all their passionate effort they did not have enough to beat a desperate Brighton side.
JUST not good enough.
Ipswich failed in their bid to be promoted but despite all their passionate effort they did not have enough to beat a desperate Brighton side.
They got off to a brilliant start with a Shefki Kuqi goal but their frailty at set-pieces, which has been costly so often, proved the downfall once again.
The Blues must now go through the play-offs and at least have another opportunity of showing they are capable of going up, but frankly they will need to be a lot more convincing than they were at Withdean.
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There was no lack of effort from Ipswich but they lacked the guile and quality to break down Albion, who got the point they needed with dogged resistance.
Town were furious at having two good penalty claims turned down when Bent was fouled and dominated most of the game without seriously threatening goal. They almost came undone again at the back as they went for the victory they needed, although it would have been in vain anyway.
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Jason de Vos had recovered after spending most of the week in bed with a viral infection and took his place at the heart of the Town defence.
That allowed Town to be unchanged from the side that beat Crewe so comprehensively eight days earlier.
There was a surprise for Brighton with Adam Virgo playing after initially being ruled out with a knee injury. The Seagulls' player of the season was due to have had an operation earlier in the week but cancelled it so he could play in this vital last-day encounter.
The setting was as far away from the Premiership as you could probably imagine, as Withdean Stadium is little more than a glorified sports centre, a fact highlighted when a tennis ball from a nearby court landed on the pitch.
That said, the playing surface was as good, if not better, than many and having played American football on the pitch some years ago I can personally vouch for its improvement.
Brighton, though, deserve a proper stadium and the sooner the site at Falmer is approved the better for all football lovers.
The 760 Ipswich fans packed in a stand overlooking the home bend of the running track added to the party atmosphere, with a highest crowd of the season.
But this was no normal final day carnival - both teams needed points. Albion needed at least a point to ensure survival, or hope Crewe dropped points at home to Coventry or Gillingham failed to get at least a draw at Nottingham Forest.
For Ipswich the prize was even bigger with a place in the Premiership on offer if they could do better than Wigan at home to play-off chasing Reading.
The added pressure was heightened as scores from other grounds filtered through, sending supporters into spasms of wild cheering, totally unrelated to what was going on in front of them.
It was Brighton who had the first chance with Leon Knight twisting and turning his way into the area before unleashing a shot that went across goal and wide with just three minutes gone.
But moments later Kuqi silenced the Albion fans when he capitalised on weak defending by Virgo and the Finn turned away to then beat Alan Blayney with a low drive to create a perfect start for Town.
Knights continued to cause problems and won a free kick which set piece specialist Richard Carpenter delivered with accuracy. Kelvin Davis saved well from Gary Hart's header but Virgo reacted quickest to knock in from eight yards.
The Blues stepped up the pressure with Kuqi putting himself about and Bent looked dangerous with knock-downs and sharp movement.
Guy Butters blocked a Bent shot on the turn and the Town striker got a ball from Tommy Miller down for Ian Westlake but the below-par midfielder failed to connect.
Miller and Bent combined again and striker Bent was taken out by Hart. But no penalty was given and a furious Jim Magilton carried on complaining for some minutes and was later booked
Kuqi had a shot blocked and Wilnis then claimed for hand-ball but again it was waved away.
Brighton old boy Darren Currie delivered a good corner but Richard Naylor steered his flick at the near post wide.
Wilnis was replaced by Drissa Diallo after lengthy treatment following a clash of heads with Harding and that contributed to seven minutes being added on before half-time.
As the game wore on Brighton were content to sit back with 10 men behind the ball inviting Ipswich to try and find a way through.
Currie hit a 30-yard free kick that curled wide and another from the same range by Magilton went straight to the keeper.
Bent stung Blayney's hands with a shot after Kuqi did well to win a flick-on and the Finn was not far away with a 25-yard drive.
With so many men forward Town were vulnerable to a counter and when a corner broke down Virgo stormed forward and tried an outrageous long range shot which Davis did well to get a hand to.
Westlake, who was energetic but offered little else, was left standing by Knight and only good covering from Miller denied McPhee.
Another break found Hammond unmarked but he could not get enough on a Knight cross.
With 25 minutes to go Town threw on another forward with Pablo Counago replacing the ineffectual Currie. Five minutes late James Scowcroft replaced Diallo as Town threw everything forward.
Bent had another good claim for a penalty when Adam El Abd clearly barged him over but again got nothing.
The Spaniard caused problems, hitting a low shot into the side netting but it was all in vain.