Bent double seals Millers' fate

Ipswich Town 4 - Rotherham United 3
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The Independent Online

Ipswich made hard work of a victory last night that kept them looking at the stars and dropped their visitors into the gutter. Despite pulling back two late goals, Rotherham were unable to prevent themselves dropping out of the second tier after four years at this level.

Ipswich made hard work of a victory last night that kept them looking at the stars and dropped their visitors into the gutter. Despite pulling back two late goals, Rotherham were unable to prevent themselves dropping out of the second tier after four years at this level.

Ipswich, meanwhile, moved three points clear in the second promotion place following Wigan's 1-0 defeat at home by Sunderland.

Having relieved the highly respected Ronnie Moore of his managerial duties in January, the visitors arrived for their night of destiny under the charge of two caretakers in Alan Knill and Mark Robins.

Despite their last-gasp victory at Stoke three days earlier, they took to the field knowing that nothing short of a win would keep them from the drop.

It took the home side just six minutes to produce the goal that settled their nerves on a night when they stood to gain so much. Shefki Kuqi found space on the left and his cross was headed home without hindrance by Ian Westlake, despite the presence of four defenders.

Darren Bent almost doubled the lead eight minutes later when he slalomed past two challenges and stabbed a shot wide of the oncoming keeper but also, narrowly, past the post.

In the 25th minute, however, Bent earned a richer reward as he ran onto Tommy Miller's headed flick and picked his spot with a right-foot effort that made it 2-0.

The Portman Road faithful were in raucous good voice, but within a minute the jubilation was temporarily stilled as the home side, as so often before this season, betrayed a defensive daffiness that will continue to trouble their manager, Joe Royle.

Virtually from the kick-off, Rotherham transferred the ball upfield to Tony Thorpe, and the former Luton forward twisted and turned Richard Naylor to a standstill before driving a low shot calmly past Kelvin Davis. The Ipswich response was vigorous, and 11 minutes before the break Kuqi's diving header cannoned off the angle of post and bar.

By the hour, Ipswich had seemingly made the game safe with two goals in swift succession. Bent doubled his tally in the 56th minute and in the 59th minute Jim Magilton drove the ball home from 25 yards.

Rotherham, however, had not finished. After 66 minutes, Martin Butler pulled a goal back, and 12 minutes from time, defender Martin McIntosh induced a jittery finish as his free-kick was deflected in off the wall.

Ipswich Town: Davis; Wilnis, Naylor, De Vos; Unsworth, Miller (Richards, 70), Magilton, Westlake, Currie (Horlock, 87); Kuqi, Bent. Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Counago, Scowcroft.

Rotherham United: Pollitt; Hurst, McIntosh, Swailes, Scott; Campbell-Ryce (Vernazza, 68), Keane, McLaren (Barker, 31), Mullin; Thorpe, Butler. Substitutes not used: Montgomery (gk), Warne, Hoskins.

Referee: L Probert (Gloucestershire).

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