Our final match of the season (not including the play-offs!!!!) sees us host 17th-placed Ipswich Town at St. James Park as 4/7 favourites in fron of 8,714 fans, one of whom is the Japanese manager, Takahiro Morita (he’s rumoured to be watching Cullen). I make two changes, giving Metodi Spasov the keeper’s shirt ahead of Jonathan Bond, whilst the injury to Michele Marconi results in Philipp Langer starting. It’s a milestone for Langer as it marks his first ever competitive league game (recent changes have seen players scoring, so lets hope he keeps that run up!), whilst Jonny Hayes makes his 75th league appearance for us. Langer is involved in the action, creating a chance for Hayes in the 18th minute, but his shot from 10 yards goes just wide. In the 25th minute, Batt rounds Spasov and rolls the ball into the empty net, but the assistant’s flag is up and it’s ruled out for offside. It certainly acts as a warning though, even if the game is meaningless for both sides. Three minutes later, Hayes passes to Dacian Varga who pulls the trigger from 8 yards; the shot hits Darvell and goes in for an own goal to give us the lead. The rest of the half is what would be expected from an end of season game with nothing riding on it, although Langer does earn his first ever booking in stoppage time.
To mark his debut, he looks to open his goals account in the 54th minute, but his shot from 20 yards goes over. Two minutes later, Sean Morrison (on the left after a throw-in) passes to Michel, who thunders his 9th goal of the season (and 50th career league goal) in from 16 yards to double our lead. In the 66th minute, what I’d been hoping would happen does – Langer opens his account for us from 8 yards. A debut goal will certainly help him settle at the club. However, the eagle-eyed assistant who had his flag up for Batt in the first half has his flag up again and Langer’s strike is chalked off. A minute later, I make a double substitution, with Jay Spearing coming on for Bradley Johnson and Aiman Mustafa replacing Michel. Mustafa goes up top, with Langer dropping into the hole behind, and he’s soon in the action when Bertin Matip plays the ball through to him in the 72nd minute, but he can only shoot straight at Bunn. A minute later, there’s action in our area when Batt shoots from 10 yards. He’s onside and beats Spasov with his shot, but is denied by the post – it’s not his day today! We clear the rebound off the woodwork for a throw-in. With 10 minutes to go, I call time on Langer’s debut and bring on Federico Cenci. We finish strongly, with Matip shooting just over from 25 yards in the 83rd minute, Bunn saving from Mustafa from 8 yards for the expense of a corner in the 86th minute and Cenci shooting straight at Bunn in the second minute of stoppage time. Sean Morrison is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.9 and an assist, which is good enough to earn him a place in Team of the Week.
Watford secure automatic promotion, whilst Norwich claim the remaining play-off spot. Martin Brandt returns from his loan spell at Torquay, whilst the media report that Fortuna Sittard are interested in signing Kyle Ebecilio. As well as the league season coming to an end, the FA Cup concludes with Manchester City lifting the trophy at Wembley after beating Stoke City 3-0.
We finish 4th, which has completely proved the media wrong as they predicted we would finish 22nd. We also finish in excellent form, being unbeaten in our last 6 games and winning 4 of those, including the last three. Our last loss was at Newcastle, who will be our play-off semi-final opponents…