Ipswich keep play-off hopes alive

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Ipswich Town 2 Huddersfield Town 1

The jostling for the Endsleigh League First Division play-off places became a little clearer last night when Huddersfield were removed from the equation despite a fiercely committed performance at Portman Road.

Ipswich, meanwhile, returned to sixth position in the table and with the good fortune they enjoyed here are confident that their season might yet end with a glorious prize.

Another win at home to Millwall on Sunday will assure them of a berth among the four teams whose season will be extended by three weeks as they contest the final promotion place. Compared with Leicester, theirs is a vastly superior goal count.

That is because in Alex Mathie and Ian Marshall Ipswich have a pair of marksmen who have punched their weight all season. Last night the glory was Mathie's as he took his tally to 19, the same number as Marshall, with the deciding goal six minutes from time.

Even then it required a magnificent save from Richard Wright to preserve the advantage the Scottish striker had just secured. Not for the first time it was Andy Booth left cursing his luck and wondering what he had done to leave the scene empty-handed.

The Yorkshiremen needed to win to keep alive their own ambitions and they were heading the right way when, in the 24th minute, Ben Thornley reacted sharply while Mick Stockwell dithered to turn in a low drive. Shortly afterwards Booth thumped an effort from long range narrowly wide. Early in the second half he sent another against an upright from a tight angle, and in the dying stages was ready to celebrate an equaliser until the outstanding Wright plunged to his left to make the stop.

Ipswich had to demonstrate their spirit and resilience after falling behind, but also when Simon Milton's second yellow card, for a foul midway through the second half, left them with 10 men. Mathie's equaliser came after Milton had badly miskicked a cross from the left and teed up a simple chance.

His winner showed the benefit of a cool head, sliding his shot past Steve Francis after Marshall had set him up. As the Ipswich manager, George Burley, commented later, with goalscorers working well and in tandem you can go a long way.

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Wright; Wark, Sedgley, Thomsen; Stockwell, Mason, Milton, Scowcroft, Taricco (Gregory, 90); Marshall, Mathie. Substitutes not used: Slater, Naylor.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Francis; Jenkins, Scully, Gray, Cowan; Collins (Baldry, 60), Bullock, Makel, Thornley (Ward, 78); Booth, Jepson. Substitute not used: Sinnott.

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).

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