On this day in Town’s history: anguish of Bent’s penalty miss against Chelsea
PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 April 2020
In our daily feature, we take a look at what happened on this day in Ipswich Town’s history, selecting one particular year, this time from 18 years ago when relegation-haunted Town were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Chelsea
In the end, it didn’t make any difference to the final outcome – Ipswich Town were still relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2001-02 season – but a missed penalty from Marcus Bent was a body blow to Town’s chances of beating the drop during a goalless draw against Chelsea, on April 1, 2002.
This was a season of so many contrasts for Town.
They had finished fifth the previous season, earning manager George Burley the manager-of-the-year award and also qualification for the UEFA Cup, and there were times during 2001-02 when they looked like getting themselves out of the relegation battle.
Another plus, off the pitch, was the opening of the new two-tier North Stand (now Sir Bobby Robson Stand), which boosted the Portman Road capacity to over 30,000. In fact, the official opening was before Town’s home game against Chelsea.
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But, alas, nothing could ultimately prevent Town from being relegated on the final day of the season, hammered 5-0 by runners-up Liverpool to finish third-bottom, four points behind both Sunderland and Bolton.
A home win over Chelsea would have given them hope, despite three of their last five games being against the top three of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, but Bent’s 33rd minute spot kick (awarded for John Terry’s push on Alun Armstrong), which was well saved by keeper Carlo Cudicini, was a bitter pill to swallow. Cudicini tipped Bent’s shot over the bar.
Chelsea, who finished sixth that season, included the likes of Marcel Desailly, Graeme Le Saux, Gianfranco Zola and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in their line-up.
Town’s defensive unit of Fabian Wilnis, John McGreal, Hermann Hreidarsson and Mark Venus held firm to secure a clean-sheet, but that was not enough to boost Town’s hopes of beating the drop.
Burley was upbeat after the game, insisting: “We showed a lot of the battling qualities which are needed if we are to stay up.”
But in the end, they joined Leicester City and Derby County in final bottom three.