Football: Crewe rain on Ipswich party

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The Independent Online
Ipswich Town 1

Venus pen 70

Crewe Alexandra 2

Rivers 64, MacAuley 89

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 20,845

IPSWICH TOWN suffered a big setback in their quest to reach the Premiership when they lost both yesterday's home game against a club who had started the day at the foot of the First Division, and second place in the table. Bradford City's win in West London took them back above the Suffolk side thanks to their higher goal tally.

Both teams now have two games left. If Bradford beat Oxford next Saturday, and Ipswich lose at Birmingham the following day, then Town will find themselves in the play-offs for the third successive season.

"There are no easy games in this division," George Burley, the Ipswich manager, said. "We didn't close Crewe down enough." He refused to use the conditions as an excuse - a prolonged lunchtime thunderstorm having briefly put the match in jeopardy. Much of the Portman Road pitch was saturated, and passes were often halted by puddles.

Crewe's need for points was just as acute as the home team's but, despite their predicament, the Railwaymen did not abandon the purist principles of their manager, Dario Gradi, and they played plenty of pleasing football. Seth Johnson, Rodney Jack and Mark Rivers all tested Richard Wright, Town's England Under-21 goalkeeper, with shots from outside the penalty area before the interval. As the rain eased off after half-time Ipswich increased the pace of the game, and Kearton's fine reaction save kept out a header from Matt Holland. The breakthrough, though, came at the other end.

In the 64th minute Jack's fine through ball found Rivers in space on the right and the winger cut inside and, after leaving Tony Mowbray on his backside, thrashed his shot high into the net. Stung by that setback, Ipswich drew level six minutes later - but needed a little luck to do so. David Walton's challenge on David Johnson seemed tame but the referee, Clive Wilkes, awarded a penalty. Mark Venus stepped up to send Kearton the wrong way.

When Crewe lost midfielder Jermaine Wright after his second booking, a home win seemed likely. The 10 men, though, had other ideas, and Shaun Smith's right-wing corner was volleyed in at the near post by Steve MacAuley. Ipswich mounted a desperate siege but Kearton's flying save from Jamie Scowcroft's header ensured three vital points for the visitors. They have climbed two places and safety is within reach.