Football: Wright reels off full repertoire to rescue Ipswich

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The Independent Online
By Tony Leighton

Grimsby Town 0

Ipswich Town 0

IF LAST season's Nationwide League promotion play-offs had worked out differently, these two sides could have been kicking off the new campaign two divisions apart.

As it was Ipswich, who missed promotion to the Premiership for the second time in 12 months, had to thank their goalkeeper Richard Wright for earning a point against the team which climbed out of the Second Division via a Wembley play-off triumph.

Alan Buckley's Mariners, harshly placed among the relegation favourites, were more than a match yesterday for an Ipswich side fancied strongly to make it third time lucky in this season's battle for promotion.

The visitors were the better team in the first half after surviving a second-minute penalty thanks to a superb block by Wright from Kingsley Black's spot kick. After the interval, however, Grimsby took control and subjected Wright's goal to constant pressure.

The England Under-21 goalkeeper made an astonishing 73rd-minute save from Stacy Coldicott, Buckley's pounds 100,000 close-season signing from his former club West Bromwich. Wright was unsighted as a Black corner landed at the feet of Coldicott on the far edge of the penalty area but, from the midfielder's fiercely-struck drive, the goalkeeper flung himself across his line to tip the ball over the bar.

Three minutes later Wright made another excellent diving stop, this time from the substitute Dave Smith. Grimsby's captain Paul Groves had earlier directed a volley narrowly wide, then in the closing stages both Lee Nogan and Tony Gallimore went close to snatching victory for the home side.

Buckley's team should have won the match, though they had spent much of the first half on the back foot. They did well to contain last season's 30-goal man David Johnson, but Bobby Petta caused them first half problems while the midfielder Kieron Dyer saw an 18-yard volley finger-tipped on to the bar by Aidan Davison just after the half-hour.

Grimsby, without last year's 21-goal man Kevin Donovan, were the stronger side over the 90 minutes. Buckley said: " It was a terrific performance. We took our foot off the gas after doing well for the first 15minutes, but in the second half it was one-way traffic and only a tremendous goalkeeping display stood between us and three points."

The Ipswich manager, George Burley, had to agree with his opposite number. "Richard made some fine stops," he said. "He is one of the finest young goalkeepers in the country and he should be the England keeper in the next four or five years. We had a few good chances in the first half, but in the second half we looked rusty and defended far too deeply." Burley will be hoping his team does not take as long as they did last year to hit consistent form. They performed sluggishly until November before sweeping into the play-offs with a 26-match unbeaten run.

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Davison; McDermott, R Smith, Handyside, Gallimore; Coldicott, Widdrington, Groves, Black (D Smith 75);Lester, Nogan. Substitutes not used Butterfield, Burnett.

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Wright, Taricco, Mowbray, Venus, Clapham, Stockwell, Holland, Dyer, Holster, (Mathie, 56); Petta (Sonner, 87), Johnson. Substitute not used Bracey.

Referee: A G Wiley (Burntwood). Bookings: Grimsby: Lester. Ipswich: Clapham, Petta.

Man of the match: Wright.

Attendance: 7,211.