Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Ipswich Town 2
The Albion were beaten by Ipswich in a vital play-off showdown at the Amex.
Despite having a variety of clear-cut chances in the first half, Albion could get their noses in front.
Jesse Lingard had the first of these, striding past two Ipswich defenders after Bruno Saltor sent him clear. But the young Manchester United loanee fired straight at Dean Gerken.
Ipswich were not looking like a team content with nicking a point and Stephen Hunt was extremely busy alongside the powerfully built Daryl Murphy.
Ipswich had the ball in the net just before the half hour, but as Palace loanee Jonny Williams tucked the ball past the hesitant Tomasz Kuszczak he was flagged for offside.
Many in the crowd felt that Kuszczak’s delayed reaction was because he had seen the flag raised but it was unlikely that he would have done and his indecision was a taste of things to come.
Lingard then had another clear chance but rolled the ball wide of the post with again only the keeper to beat.
Bruno, despite getting booked, was having a good game, his distribution almost perfect at times. From one free-kick Leo Ulloa forced Gerken to dive low to his left to keep the scores level.
Before the half was out Kuszczak did well to hold a header from Williams.
Albion really should have gone into the lead early in the second half. It was Lingard again, this time forcing Gerken to palm a 20-yard drive wide. Then, with Bruno still getting forward, Will Buckley was well placed but headed wide – a chance you suspect Ulloa would have gobbled up.
Stephen Ward was also getting forward and was linking up well with Keith Andrews. Andrews himself was spreading the ball around nicely but not always with enough venom.
Then came a hammer blow for Albion as Hunt whipped in a corner for Ipswich, Murphy headed back across goal and Kuszczak appeared to mis-time his attempt to punch. Tommy Smith headed Ipswich in front.
Albion immediately replaced Jake Forster-Caskey with Kazenga LuaLua.
Minutes later LuaLua played in Lingard who crossed for Ulloa but the man from Argentina glanced his header wide.
Albion has pressed Ipswich back but William broke clear, glided past Buckley and crossed for Murphy who guided a header past Kuszczak to put Ipswich 2-0 in front.
It was then the Amex started to empty – and noticeably. With scores of fans heading for the exits, the white Seagulls interspersed in the blue seats were highly visible.
When Ulloa put another clear chance wide, just before David Rodriguez replaced Buckley, the game was up for the Albion despite the generous five minutes of added time.
Albion fans may be fickle at times but the number who chose to leave early rather than try to spur the team on, with nearly ten minutes left, was almost shocking.
The Seagulls now travel to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday (25 March) before entertaining Middlesbrough at the Amex next Saturday (29 March).
Oscar Garcia will surely want at least four points from these encounters.