A goal six minutes from the end by Michael Johansen means Bolton will have the advantage at Portman Road on Wednesday, and a third successive failure at the play-off stage for Ipswich is a real possibility. It will be a night of frayed nerves in Suffolk.
Bolton, who have been oscillating in and out of the Premiership for the last five seasons, finished 10 points behind Ipswich in the First Division, but never looked inferior yesterday. They also have the psychological advantage of having defeated Ipswich home and away during the season.
The goal, splendidly taken and executed, was in stark contrast to a game that was too fraught with nerves and too littered with errors to be edifying. Johansen, switched from the right to left wing, cut in at pace, passed to Bob Taylor, who cushioned a delightful pass with his chest, and the the Danish winger crashed a right foot volley into the top corner. Richard Wright did not have a hope of stopping it.
As for the rest of the match, most of the incident converged on the 10 minutes either side of half-time and illustrated how thin the divide can be between success and failure in these winner-take-all confrontations.
Jim Magilton, a cool head amid the frenzied action in midfield, played a delightful, curling pass behind the Bolton back four after 38 minutes and England Under-21 David Johnson burst on to it, getting a touch just before Mark Fish. Johnson crashed to the ground and television evidence showed it was a penalty, but the referee's assistant, who had the best view, indicated a corner. "It was a clear penalty," George Burley, the Ipswich manager, said. "Fish missed the ball and caught David's ankles."
A let-off for Bolton, and a quick interchange of passes just before half- time enabled Taylor to lob a pass to Per Frandsen, whose header was saved low to his left by Wright. If that was close, however, Bolton went closer after 52 minutes, when Neil Cox veered from the right flank, went past Tony Mowbray, and then had his shot tipped upwards just enough by Manuel Thetis' charge that it hit the bar.
Richard Naylor, put clear with 10 minutes remaining, was halted by a good save from Bolton's Steve Banks and a scoreless draw seemed likely until Johansen clinched it.
"The result gives them an advantage," Burley said, "but even if it had finished 0-0 we would still have had to win at Portman Road. We still have a good opportunity to get to Wembley."
Goal: Johansen (1-0) 84.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Banks; Cox, Fish (Bergsson,65), Todd, Elliott; Johansen, Jensen, Fransen, Gardner (Warhurst, 73); Taylor, Gudjohnsen (Hansen, 73). Substitutes not used: Bergsson, Warhurst, Hansen.
Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Wright; Thetis, Mowbray, Venus; Wilnis, Dyer, Magilton, Holland, Clapham; Johnson (Naylor, 77), Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Naylor, Cundy, Stockwell.
Referee: M Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).
Bookings: Bolton Johansen. Ipswich Mowbray, Venus, Johnson.
Man of the match: Magilton.
Attendance: 18,295.Reuse content