Goalscorers: Alun Armstrong 15, 27, Thomas Gaardsoe 26, Finidi George 31, Jamie Clapham 86
Ipswich Town: Matteo Sereni, Thomas Gaardsoe, Hermann Hreidarsson, Chris Makin, Mark Venus, Jim Magilton, Matt Holland, Finidi George, Martijn Reuser (Jamie Clapham 72), Alun Armstrong (Richard Naylor 72), Marcus Bent (Jermaine Wright 80)
Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Bernt Haas, Michael Gray (George McCartney 45), Emerson Thome, Julio Arca, Jason McAteer (Kevin Kilbane 45), Gavin McCann, Claudio Reyna, Darren Williams, Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn (Kevin Kyle 45)
Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 24,517
The 2001 calendar year had been of tale of two halves for Ipswich Town. After flourishing in the first part of the year which saw them finish a stunning fifth in the table, the Tractor Boys were finding out the tough nature of Premier League football. George Burley’s side were trapped in the bottom three ahead of this clash with Sunderland. The Black Cats sat 10th at kick-off.
Peter Reid’s men went into the match having not conceded a goal in their last 203 minutes of Premier League football but were to be breached four times in a 45 minute spell that left him fuming and the home supporters stunned.
Ipswich took the lead after 15 minutes. Forward Alun Armstrong made the most of a mishit cross by Nigerian summer signing Finidi George to open the scoring. The lead was doubled 11 minutes later. Slack marking at a Mark Venus corner allowed Thomas Gaardsoe to head home. The Dane was only playing because of an injury to Ipswich’s first-choice centre-back, Titus Bramble. It was his first goal in English football.
Sunderland’s previously strong defensive unit seemed to have disappeared for an early New Year party because they looked all over the place – unable to cope with the barrage of attacks the home side were putting together. Just 60 seconds after Gaardsoe’s goal, Darren Williams’ poor backward header saw visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen dash from his goal-line. He was beaten to the aerial challenge by Armstrong. The former Newcastle player couldn’t believe his luck. He had just been gifted his second goal of the afternoon and the onslaught wasn’t finished yet.
Fine work from skipper Matt Holland and recent new arrival Marcus Bent played in Finidi George. Sorensen partially committed himself and was caught in no-man’s land as the winger punished him by lobbing the ball delightfully over the hapless Dane. Ipswich had scored four goals in a 16-minute spell which suggested their current league position of 18th was false.
Reid made a triple half-time substitution and there was a slight improvement after the break. However, there was still time for Ipswich’s own substitute, Jamie Clapham to round off the scoring with four minutes left to play.
This win was part of a run that saw George Burley’s side win seven out of eight games that saw them climb to 12th but it was a false dawn. Ipswich never recovered from a 6-0 walloping in February from Liverpool FC and were relegated on the final day, with Sunderland only just surviving in 17th. This though was Ipswich’s day and one small memory for their supporters from an underwhelming campaign.