A superb win over automatic-promotion-chasing Hull was not enough to lift Ipswich into the play-off places as Watford and Crystal Palace did enough to secure the two final top-six places with a 1-1 draw and 5-0 win respectively.
Shefki Kuqi made what turned out to be his farewell Portman Road start up front instead of Danny Haynes, with Players’ Player and Fans Player of the Season Jonny Walters starting on the right. Stephen Bywater and Danny Simpson were also making what could prove to be their last appearances in a Town shirt.
It was the play-off chasing Tractor Boys that should have taken a lead with barely even three minutes on the clock. Pablo Counago’s rather scuffed shot looped over Boaz Myhill in the Hull goal but hit the post. The ball came to Kuqi, yet to score in his second coming at Portman Road, but his goal was disallowed by the linesman for an apparent offside.
Hull were backed by a 2,000 strong away following and were in high spirits before the game, truly believing that Stoke would slip up and allow them to nip in with second spot with a win. The reality was that Ipswich had other ideas and the City following had their party pooped with a series of rash challenges from their players that led to a number of bookings inside the first half hour and gave off the idea that they didn’t think automatic promotion was realistic.
The Ipswich fans meanwhile were in good voice and the Blues were very much the team on top with Spaniard Pablo Counago and Alan Quinn both going close as they looked to give the home side the lead before half-time.
It wasn’t to be, and there was a real sense of optimism around Portman Road as news was read out of Watford losing away at Blackpool. Everything was still to play for.
Half-time: Ipswich Town 0-0 Hull City
Shefki Kuqi got his most probable goodbye applause as he left the field of play to be replaced by Danny Haynes with just over an hour to go. The best chance of the opening 15 minutes of the second-half fell to Pablo Counago who scuppered a glorious chance after a superb burst of speed and run from Owen Garvan who tore up the Hull midfield and defence and then playing a sublime ball to the Spaniard.
Chances had start to ooze from Ipswich with Alan Quinn, Danny Haynes and Jason de Vos all firing off-target. Then came the turning point in the game. Alan Quinn came on to be replaced by Alan Lee who had a barron second-half of the season as far as goals were concerned.
Twenty seconds later, the ball was in the back of the net and Alan Lee had scored his twelfth goal of the campaign. A looping free-kick was headed across goal by Lee, back across by Walters and then glanced into the net by Lee. Could this be a bit of Irish luck?
No it couldn’t as Watford had scored an equaliser which most of Portman Road were unaware of. In fact, the biggest celebrations of the Ipswich goal came at the Britannia Stadium where it meant the Stoke would be automatically promoted regardless of how they got on against the then-relegated Leicester.
Velice Sumulikoski was brought on to preserve the lead, but as Town sat back it didn’t matter. Their play on the ball was sublime and Ipswich could have been mistaken for a Premiership side. Still, it wasn’t to be.
Final score: Ipswich Town 1-0 Hull City