Wolves add to Town's woes
THIS was just the result Ipswich Town did not want in their first match since going into Company Voluntary Administration. With promotion the best way to ease the club's financial crisis, dropping home points to play-off rivals Wolves was a bitter pill to swallow.
THIS was just the result Ipswich Town did not want in their first match since going into Company Voluntary Administration. With promotion the best way to ease the club's financial crisis, dropping home points to play-off rivals was a bitter pill to swallow.
It was not that Ipswich played that badly for an hour but Wolves, with less of the possession, had the sharper strike-force and by the end Ipswich had totally lost their way.
So many scouts turned up to check on Ipswich players who may become available at bargain prices that Charlton's Alan Curbishley and Mervyn Day were allocated seats in the Press Box.
Stirring and defiant words by chairman David Sheepshanks before the start were well received by the second highest crowd of the season at Portman Road but by the end Town fans, who had been so confident of the club winning a play-off place, went home with massive doubts.
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Football can no longer be considered as a mere sport with so many livelihoods in the balance and the players will be well aware of their massive responsibilities.
Everything started well. A goal inside two minutes from the hard-working Marcus Bent came through goalkeeper error. Then Ipswich let Wolves draw level nine minutes later when Andy Marshall failed to hold a shot from Colin Cameron. The livewire Kenny Miller nipped in to score from the rebound.
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Just before the interval Matt Holland celebrated his 300th first-team appearance for the club with a 35-yard strike from a free-kick to restore the Ipswich lead.
Hopes were high but the second-half performance drifted from indifferent to disastrous.
Ipswich seemed to be coasting when Mark Kennedy crossed from the left and Kenny Miller equalised for Wolves with a crisp volley after evading John McGreal, who was finding life tricky on his comeback after a 10-week lay-off through injury.
Ipswich fell behind in the 74th minute when Lee Naylor netted with a terrific left-foot volley from just outside the penalty area after Fabian Wilnis had headed a corner into his path.
Ipswich never looked much like recovering and a goal from George Ndah confirmed Wolves' superiority when he latched on to a killer through ball from Cameron, rounded Marshall and glided the ball into an empty net.
Victory for Ipswich would have seen them leapfrog Watford, Wolves, Norwich and Rotherham into a play-off place. Expectations were high - too high as it turned out.
It was the perfect start for Ipswich with a goal in the second minute to calm their nerves. Marcus Bent was fouled just outside the penalty area on the Ipswich right.
Ambrose curled the free-kick across the six-yard box. Murray left his line to punch clear but only as far as Marcus Bent who sent a looping header into the empty net.
Wolves settled down and had an opportunity to draw level from a free-kick in the seventh minute. Irwin flung the ball into the penalty area but Cameron's first-time volley was off target.
Then Ince, still a power at Nationwide League level, swept a pass wide to Kennedy on the left. Ipswich were let off the hook because the Irishman's cross was poor.
Wolves were gifted an equaliser in the 11th minute. A 22-yard shot from Cameron had Marshall in trouble and the Ipswich keeper dived to push the ball back into play. Kenny Miller followed up fast to force the ball into the net despite the efforts of Thomas Gaardsoe to stop him.
It was a soft goal by any stretch of the imagination at a time when Ipswich needed to keep their nerve and maintain concentration with so much at stake.
Jim Magilton was doing his utmost to create an opening but the next Ipswich chance arrived in the 19th minute. Marcus Bent found Darren Bent, who evaded the challenge of Lee Naylor and rolled the ball across the edge of the Wolves penalty area. Tommy Miller's shot was far from being his best.
Kennedy looked to be lining up a shot from a free-kick in the 21st minute but instead swept a pass wide to Denis Irwin, who earned a corner. It was entertaining football from both sides but Ipswich should have regained the lead in the 24th minute. Holland found Wilnis on the overlap with a glorious pass. It was an excellent cross from the Dutchman which Ambrose headed back across goal from wide of the far post. All that Darren Bent needed was a clean connection with his header but he miscued under pressure.
Chris Makin picked up a pass from Holland and went on a long run which came to nothing. On the half hour Alex Rae was penalised for a lunge on Holland but no damage was done and referee Bennett rightly decided that nothing more than a lecture was needed. Holland had received one of his rare bookings for a high challenge on Rae in his Sunderland days at the Stadium of Light.
A determined run by Ndah caused Ipswich a problem. He swung the ball out to Kennedy on the left and Rae only just failed to connect with the cross with an attempted scissor-kick.
Tommy Miller accelerated on to the ball and then picked out Magilton, whose low cross in the box fell just behind Marcus Bent. The Town striker tried to turn and shoot but was closed down by Paul Butler, who took a bang in his ribs for his trouble.
Three minutes before the interval Ipswich wasted another glorious chance with Ambrose the culprit.
Tommy Miller crossed from the right, Murray pushed the ball wide but Marcus Bent headed it back into the danger zone. Ambrose was left with men to beat on the line from eight yards but scuffed his shot wide.
Gaardsoe kept Ipswich on terms with a terrific tackle on Kenny Miller in the penalty area. Then Ipswich regained the lead in spectacular fashion.
Marcus Bent was fouled 35 yards from goal and referee Steve Bennett was barracked by a section of the crowd for not allowing Ipswich the advantage with Darren Bent running clear on the right.
In the event the free-kick was just what Ipswich wanted. Holland stepped up to send a cracking drive that flew low just inside Murray's left-hand post.
It must rate as one of the most memorable goals of Holland's career.
Wolves brought on Edworthy for the injured Butler after the interval. The Midlanders were still snapping at Town's defence with McGreal making a vital block to deny Rae.
In the 49th minute Wilnis pulled the ball back for Ambrose to hook high over the top. Rae was booked for a foul on Tommy Miller but Ipswich were enjoying more possession, although unable to put it to good use in the final third of the field.
Kenny Miller was the second player booked for bringing down Wilnis in flight, when Miller fouled again home fans hoped for a red card but the Scot received nothing more than a lecture.
Quick and accurate distribution by Marshall sent Wilnis on another run but Wolves were growing stronger all the time and it needed a cool clearance by Magilton in the heart of his own penalty area to end a move involving Cameron, Rae and Ince.
In the 63rd minute Wolves were level again. Kennedy, one of Joe Royle's men at Manchester City, crossed from the left as Gaardsoe tried to close him down. McGreal seemed taken by surprise by the pace of it all and Kenny Miller nipped in to score with a crisp first-time volley of considerable power. It was a well-worked goal.
In the 70th minute Ipswich introduced Counago in place of Ambrose who had been struggling with a knock since the early stages. It was Counago's final outing before starting a four-match ban and he could make little impact.
Kennedy, almost casually, sent Kenny Miller clear down the right and it needed McGreal to stop him at the expense of a corner. The flag-kick was headed out by Wilnis but only as far as Lee Naylor who struck a sizzling left-foot shot that simply screamed into the net in the 74th minute.
There was a shout for handball against Ince in the Wolves penalty area that failed to impress the referee but Ipswich lacked sharpness and had far too few shots on goal.
The match was put out of Town's reach when Ndah scored Wolves' fourth nine minutes from the end. With Ipswich committed to attack Ndah latched on sto a pass from Cameron. Marshall came to meet him on the edge of the penalty area but Ndah rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into an empty net from 18 yards.
There were various substitutions in the closing stages and Wolves could have had a fifth goal in the 87th minute when Ndah and substitute Adam Proudlock set up Kennedy who fired over the top.
Ipswich substitute Martijn Reuser was given only the final seven minutes when it was too late to save the day but he made an impact with a low drive that Murray turned round the post with a full-length dive.