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Tuesday, April 28, 1998 Published at 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK



Sport: Football

Promotion battle goes to the wire

The battle for automatic promotion to the Premiership intensifies on Tuesday night when second placed Sunderland travel to Ipswich.

Sunderland, on 87 points, can still technically catch leaders Nottingham Forest who have 93. But that scenario requires Forest to lose their last game, and Sunderland to win their last two, scoring three goals more than Forest in the process.

It is the two clubs below them which will have Sunderland boss Peter Reid chewing his fingernails for Charlton and Middlesbrough are breathing down the neck of Sunderland. They both have the same number of points but Charlton have only got one game left, whereas Boro have two.

Ipswich, 10 points behind Sunderland, have already clinched their play-off berth with Saturday's victory over Bury, but chairman David Sheepshanks is under no illusion about how vital the game is for Sunderland.

"This is a massive game. It's important to us and incredibly important to Sunderland," said Sheepshanks.

"But we have so much to go for as we want to finish fifth rather than sixth. It is a magnificent achievement to get to the play-offs again when you consider where we were in the league table at Christmas.

"But this is only stage one. It is vitally important now that we go into the play-offs and go through."

Ipswich will be unchanged from the side which beat Bury. Sunderland must make at least one change from the side which beat Stoke on Saturday. Left back Michael Gray starts a three-match ban after being sent off at West Bromwich. Chris Makin will take over if he passes a late fitness on a knee injury.

Table:

  • Nottingham Forest: P45, 93 points, +40 goal difference
  • Sunderland: P44, 87 points, +37 goal difference
  • Charlton: P45, 87 points, +31 goal difference
  • Middlesbrough: P44, 87 points, +33 goal difference
  • Ipswich:P44, 77 points, +31 goal difference

Remaining games:

Nottingham Forest:

Sunday May 3: West Bromwich Albion (home)

Sunderland

Tuesday April 28: Ipswich (away)

Sunday May 3: Stoke City (away)

Charlton

Sunday May 3: Birmingham City (away)

Middlesbrough

Wednesday April 29: Wolves (home)

Sunday May 3: Oxford United (home)

Ipswich

Tuesday April 28: Sunderland (home)

Sunday May 3: Crewe Alexandra (home)
 





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