Town play-off bid finally over

EVEN when Ipswich were down to 10 men in the most controversial of circumstances they showed a heart and spirit which will serve them well again next season.

By Derek Davis

EVEN when Ipswich were down to 10 men in the most controversial of circumstances they showed a heart and spirit which will serve them well again next season.

Next season, surely, as many injuries cannot strike again, or as many poor decisions go against them.

This defeat effectively ends any hope Town had of reaching the play-offs but in a bizarre way it starts a new era.

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Much can be found out about players in adversity and many showed their true colours, especially in a gutsy first 45 minutes when it seemed the world and his dog was stacked against them.

Richard Naylor was dismissed for a professional foul, Jimmy Juan limped off not long after and things were looking bleak for the Blues.

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Although Jason De Vos gave the Blues a worthy first half-lead, they could not contain a rampant Preston once they got into full flow and made the numbers count.

The game turned on two controversial decisions. It all stemmed from a terrible mistake by Mr P Quinn, the linesman, who insisted on a throw-in near the corner flag when the ball had gone out for a corner kick.

Fabian Wilnis was called over from his defensive postion in the centre circle and took the throw, which was cleared by Preston. They countered swiftly and Brett Ormerod burst through the middle and was nudged over by Naylor almost 30 yards away from goal.Referee Eddie Ilderton, who has never presided over a Preston loss in seven games, showed the luckless defender his second red card of the season.

His first was against Millwall and meant him missing the 4-0 home drubbing by Preston for a Town team that was also without Jason De Vos that day.

The Blues' enforced reshuffle saw Sito go on as right-back and Wilnis moving across to fill the gap at centre-half, with Darren Currie the unlucky midfielder to be sacrificed.

From then on the home crowd sat back and waited for their play-off hopefuls to take full advantage. And waited and waited…

The Lilywhites could not break the Blues down in a first half of dogged defending and smart counter-attacking, with Alan Lee in particular causing the Preston back line plenty of problems with his clever and quick running and ability to draw fouls.

Town's troubles looked to be getting worse when Juan was injured taking a corner and Ian Westlake went to the right of a three-man midfield, with Owen Garvan the pivotal player.

But the Blues refused to just lie down and still went looking for a break. De Vos could not get any turn on his header from a Garvan free kick and it flew wide. That proved to be merely a dress-rehearsal and moments later the result was much better.

Youl Mawene was booked for another foul on Lee and from virtually the same place as the previous kick, Garvan delivered with piercing accuracy and this time the Blues captain steered his downward header past a stranded Carlo Nash and inside the post.

The Canadian suffered a cut over his left eye in a challenge and had to go off to have a bandage wrapped around his head and so with Ricardo Fuller also off after treatment for an injury the Blues were temporarily down to eight men.

Fuller ran at the Preston defence, with boos ringing in his ears from his former home fans, but he was getting little joy as his lack of match sharpness showed.

Preston pressed but could not make their numerical advantage count for a long while as the Blues held firm. It was not until five minutes after the break that Shane Supple was called on to make a save, which he ably did, diving to take a 20-yard effort from Chris Sedgwick.

Three minutes later they cracked the thin Blues line with a cleverly-crafted goal.

Sedgwick and Paul McKenna combined to stretch Town and played a ball in for Brett Ormerod, who laid it off for Nugent and he drilled his shot through some blue-stockinged legs and beyond Supple.

A bargain £100,000 buy from Bury, Nugent has always been a pain in Town's side and he was at it again when he drifted into space and finished superbly after being picked out by McKenna.

Nugent hurt himself going for his hat-trick and had to go off but if Town thought that was going to offer some respite they were sadly mistaken as former Gillingham speedster Patrick Agyemang appeared.

The fleet-footed striker sprinted away from Sito and rode a challenge before slipping the ball past the stricken Supple.

After scoring just once in five games, the relief was tangible for Preston but they will be glad to have been at home again after more than a month on the road.

But, from Ipswich's perspective, the game was ruined by the officials.

The 400 or so hardy Blues fans that made the long trip joined in an immaculately observed minute's silence before the game for one of Preston's most-loved strikers Charlie Wayman, one of the 'Holy Trinity' of 1950s forwards that also included Sir Tom Finney and Andy Beattie.

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