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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 13:47 GMT
Play-off joy at last for Burley's Ipswich
George Burley at Wembley
George Burley celebrates with Ipswich fans at Wembley
Ipswich made up for three straight years of heartache by clinching promotion to the Premiership with a 4-2 victory over Barnsley in the Division One play-off final at Wembley.

After a hat-trick of failures in the play-off semi-finals, George Burley's men showed their mettle by coming behind in both last-four clashes with Bolton and also had to come behind in the shadow of the twin towers.

Town went 2-0 down in the play-off semi-final first leg but record-signing Marcus Stewart grabbed a double to give them a 2-2 draw.

Then, in the return leg at Portman Road, Ipswich came back three times - Jim Magilton securing a hat-trick, including an equaliser in the last minute of normal time - before going on to triumph 5-3.

Dominant

It meant that 22 years after Ipswich beat Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup final they were going back to Wembley - and their performance was every bit as dominant as in 1978.

However, after six minutes Town were 1-0 down when a Craig Hignett shot went in off Richard Wright.


Martijn Reuser
Martijn Reuser celebrates promotion
Veteran centre-half Tony Mowbray equalised though and Wright then produced a superb penalty save from Darren Barnard.

Substitute Richard Naylor and Stewart made it 3-1, then Hignett pulled one back from the spot.

But Martijn Reuser left the near-40,000 blue and white contingent at Wembley ecstatic with the fourth goal that is set to give the Suffolk side a 10m pay day for reaching the top flight.

Edge

However, right up until the very last game of the season, Town had looked a good bet for automatic promotion but home defeats against Portsmouth and Norwich and an away loss at QPR gave Manchester City the edge.

City faced Blackburn on the final day of the Division One campaign as Ipswich faced Walsall - and for eight brief minutes Ipswich thought they were up when David Johnson put them 1-0 ahead and City were trailing.

However, despite a 2-0 Town win, Joe Royle's side battled back to secure victory against Blackburn and it was the dreaded play-offs yet again.

For once though, it was to be the third-placed team who were eventually to go up.

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