Promotion dream fading for Town

A MIXED week for Ipswich Town ended with mixed emotions, writes Elvin King.Yes, they did show greater conviction and gave a hint that better times are ahead.

Ipswich Town 1

Sheffield United 1

A MIXED week for Ipswich Town ended with mixed emotions, writes Elvin King.

Yes, they did show greater conviction and gave a hint that better times are ahead.

But they slipped further away from the play-off places, with the current ten-point gap surely sentencing the Blues to four months of mid-table mediocrity.

Controversial manager Neil Warnock is probably the reason Sheffield United's visits to Portman Road are normally

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memorable occasions.

His presence lifts Town fans, and after Jimmy Juan netted with supreme accuracy in the 54th minute the atmosphere was reminiscent of the great days under George Burley.

Fans can be fickle. They can also be loyal, and they put behind them - temporarily at least - the shenanigans that led to acute embarrassment for the Ipswich board on the brief appointment of Michael Anderson as director.

Roared on from the stands, Town raised themselves from a rather nondescript first half, and, if Danny Haynes had given himself an early 18th birthday

present when clean through, a two-goal cushion would surely have ruined Warnock's day.

Danny Webber struck in the 77th minute with an equaliser that owed more to a deflection off Scott Barron than the scorer's precision. It was a gut-wrenching goal to concede.

After a 5-1 thrashing of the Blades last season and a 3-2 victory the previous campaign when

2-0 behind and down to ten men, there was always a hope that a fairytale ending would evolve.

But Warnock's side deservedly claimed their point as they march - along with Reading - into the Promised Land.

Warnock's dexterous use of his fingers aimed at Town fans in the North Stand led to a contentious end to the match, not unexpectedly.

He could not ask for trouble more if he had a sign on his back saying 'I am liable to ignite at any time - incite me.'

Town fans have known this for some while, and they ribbed him mercilessly, particularly when their heroes were ahead.

Warnock laughed it all off afterwards, blaming Richard Naylor's intervention as the cause for him being virtually frogmarched towards the safety of the dressing room by no-nonsense stewards.

But while Warnock might be a figure of fun - a successful one nonetheless - Michael Anderson esquire is certainly not.

For a club built on the Corinthian traditions of the Cobbold family, last week's goings-on have no place at Portman Road.

Nobody is suggesting that the Clacton-based businessman has done anything to be ashamed off in his previous dealings with Aldershot and Kettering.

But his failure to mention his association with clubs who suffered financial downturns does not put him in a good light - and surely precludes him from any chance of re-joining the board with or without a £1million investment.

And although Ipswich no doubt had their checks on Anderson's background done by appropriate third parties, they are up to be shot down for ineptness.

Was it a case of being too keen to take much-needed cash on board?

Chairman David Sheepshanks will no doubt take the brunt of any reprisals from supporters - some of whom were already questioning his abilities.

Anderson's name was included in the list of directors in the match-day magazine, and in Sheepshanks' programme notes he was extolling the virtues of the businessman.

If the Anderson saga was a low last week, the signing of striker Alan Lee from Cardiff City for a paltry £100,000 was a high. It was a relief to get back

playing again, and to confirm Lee can give Town's front line a boost.

The 27-year-old won praise from all and sundry for a hard-working muscular display that bodes well for the future. However, it will be asking a lot of the former Eire international to recapture the one-goal-in-three-game record he enjoyed at Rotherham.

Haynes, who did so well against Premiership Portsmouth in the FA Cup, was dropped to the bench where two other starters from the previous week - Jim Magilton and Matt Richards - joined him. Back into midfield came Owen Garvan and Juan.

Shane Supple was again preferred ahead of Lewis Price, and 20-year-old left back Scott Barron once more kept Sito Castro on the bench.

Significantly, there was no place in the squad for Dean Bowditch despite the talented young striker being fit.

With three front men sidelined in Sam Parkin, Nicky Forster and Adam Proudlock, Bowditch has dropped down the scale in recent months with manager Joe Royle unusually picking two defenders and one midfielder on the bench. He normally likes to have attacking options.

Despite Town not having to part with players with potential these days, a good bid for Bowditch could still see him leave before the transfer window closes.

To give themselves a chance of overhauling the stack of clubs above them and earn the right to fight it out with three others for the remaining Premiership place, Town cannot delay their advance any longer.

Southampton, Leeds and Norwich City now await them - and nine points will see the smiles back at Portman Road. But it is a tall order.

The Blades lost 2-1 to Colchester United in the FA Cup in their previous game and although they made six changes for Saturday's game the status of the promotion-seeking Essex side has been enhanced.

After their roller-coaster last few days, Ipswich still look equipped to become a force again.

But it looks like they will have two East Anglian derbies to negotiate when they seek a Premiership place in 2006/07.

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