Over the course of last season, Ipswich Town picked up 96 points from 46 Championship matches, winning 28, drawing 12 and losing just six.

Alex Jones picks out the key games that defined their incredible promotion-winning campaign.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nathan Broadhead and George Hirst both scored on the opening day of the seasonNathan Broadhead and George Hirst both scored on the opening day of the season (Image: Pagepix)

Sunderland 1-2 Ipswich (August 5th, 2023)

Starting off with an obvious one – the opening day of the season at the Stadium of Light. After a rigorous pre-season, Ipswich trekked up to Wearside to face a Sunderland side that finished in the top six in their first season after sealing promotion through League One.

Yes, the Black Cats were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners Luton Town, but they offered a blueprint for what Town realistically wanted to achieve. By going there and beating them in their own backyard, it made a real statement to the rest of the division, as well as the countless fans watching at home on Sky Sports.

They struggled to match the hosts’ pace in the early stages of the game, but when Nathan Broadhead diverted the ball into the back of the net in first half stoppage-time, it changed the game.

The Blues grew into it after the restart, with George Hirst’s thunderous strike in the 53rd minute establishing a two-goal lead. It could’ve been more comfortable before 10-man Sunderland struck back through Dan Neil late on, but Kieran McKenna’s men managed an extended period of stoppage time to kick off their campaign with all three points.

It clearly gave them a big confidence boost and proved that they had what it takes to be a strong Championship side. Little did we know how strong they actually were.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Blues suffered their first defeat of the season at home to Leeds UnitedThe Blues suffered their first defeat of the season at home to Leeds United (Image: Ross Halls)

Ipswich 3-4 Leeds United (August 26th, 2023)

What’s that, a defeat? Yep, and funnily enough, it’s not the only one on this list, but this game showed that the Blues could mix it with the best.

Town had, quite frankly, coasted through their August fixtures, following up their win at Sunderland by beating Stoke City and QPR while also claiming Bristol Rovers’ scalp in the Carabao Cup. Leeds United, however, had struggled in the early stages of the season, although they boasted a fully fit attack for their trip to Portman Road.

An early own-goal from Joe Rodon had Ipswich on their way, but a nine-minute period of madness saw Georginio Rutter, Wilfried Gnonto and Joel Piroe all find the back of the net, although Broadhead’s strike deep into first half stoppage-time gave his side some hope.

Breaking down Daniel Farke’s men was a challenge, and Luis Sinisterra wrapped up the win in one of his two Championship appearances before leaving for AFC Bournemouth. Conor Chaplin struck at the death to make it 4-3, but it was too little, too late.

This was the one game where Leeds had all their attacking talent available, and Ipswich pushed them right to the brink, registering more shots and a higher expected goals [xG] than their opponents. It was a sign that maybe, just maybe, they could upset the apple cart in the promotion race.

East Anglian Daily Times: Town's defeat at West Brom preceded a five-match unbeaten runTown's defeat at West Brom preceded a five-match unbeaten run (Image: Pagepix)

West Brom 2-0 Ipswich (November 25th, 2023)

In truth, Ipswich probably needed this defeat. They were unbeaten in 12 games heading into their trip to the Hawthorns and flying high both on and off the pitch. Seven-goal thrillers and last-minute winners had become a regular part of their matches, but there was always the risk of complacency kicking in. The Blues weren’t just going to stroll to promotion.

That isn’t to say that they were complacent against West Brom, but they were brought back down to earth by an incredibly experienced and professional side. Darnell Furlong’s fifth-minute goal put the Baggies in control, and even though Town had shown they can come back from almost any deficit, Grady Diangana’s strike shortly after the restart really killed the game.

Carlos Corberan came up with the perfect to shut down McKenna’s men, who really couldn’t lay a glove on the hosts. No other team had done that to them at that point in the season, and it acted as a bit of a wakeup call too.

Not every game will be a 4-3 win, and sometimes you have to show that defensive resilience and clinical edge to take three points. West Brom showed that in abundance that afternoon.

Crucially, Town won their next four matches after that.

East Anglian Daily Times: Jeremy Sarmiento's late equaliser stunned Leicester City at the King Power StadiumJeremy Sarmiento's late equaliser stunned Leicester City at the King Power Stadium (Image: Pagepix)

Leicester City 1-1 Ipswich (January 22nd, 2024)

Once again, another game that Ipswich didn’t win, but this one was a case of proving to themselves and to the rest of the league that they weren’t going to fade away after a tough January.

The 4-0 defeat at Leeds a month earlier had rocked the Blues. Despite drawing Leicester City at home on Boxing Day, they struggled either side of the new year due to a plethora of injury and illness issues. They didn’t lose many games, but they lost their attacking threat, particularly in stalemates against QPR and Stoke City.

The January transfer window came at the perfect time, but Town had to be patient. As a result, they arrived at the King Power Stadium with a slightly depleted squad that was clearly quite fatigue. Captain Sam Morsy, who scored in the reverse fixture, was suspended, while George Edmundson, Lewis Travis, Marcus Harness and Kayden Jackson were all handed starts.

The first half was incredibly tough, and an own-goal from Leif Davis just after the half-hour mark had the Foxes deservedly ahead, but they sat off Ipswich after the break, allowing them to turn the momentum.

Then in the 89th minute, substitute Jeremy Sarmiento pounced to turn the ball into the net and earn his side a vital point on the road. It showed that they could overcome significant challenges and laugh in the face of adversity, which is what they needed to do after a period where their doubters and critics had started to raise their voices once more.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich came from 2-1 down to beat Southampton 3-2 at Portman RoadIpswich came from 2-1 down to beat Southampton 3-2 at Portman Road (Image: Stephen Waller)

Ipswich 3-2 Southampton (April 1st, 2024)

This, for me, was the deciding game of the season. This was the moment that made you think that this could be their year, that maybe it was meant to be.

Just three days after the perfect Good Friday where Ipswich had won at Blackburn while all their promotion rivals had failed to win, they returned to Portman Road in a red-hot atmosphere for a colossal game against Southampton, taking the lead in the 13th minute through a thunderous strike from Leif Davis.

The Saints turned on the style. Che Adams responded just a few seconds after his side fell behind, and Adam Armstrong’s clinical finish put them in the lead. Truthfully, they could’ve been out of sight at half time, but the break gave Town time to regroup.

That they did. Nathan Broadhead’s low strike in the 68th minute got them back on level terms, setting up an end-to-end finale that even the most neutral onlooker would consider to be edge-of-your-seat stuff.

A draw would’ve been a fine result, but with the visitors down to 10 men late on, Ipswich made them pay. Davis’ ball into the box picked out Sarmiento, who scuffed his first shot before scooping the rebound into the net for arguably the most memorable moment of an unforgettable 2023/24 campaign.

This was when the last few doubters were turned into believers.

East Anglian Daily Times: Cameron Burgess' winner at Coventry City put Town on the brink of promotionCameron Burgess' winner at Coventry City put Town on the brink of promotion (Image: Pagepix)

Coventry City 1-2 Ipswich (30th April, 2024)

Am I leaving out the Championship finale against Huddersfield? Yes, because although that was the game that clinched promotion, this was the big one, and it was a horrible watch as a result.

Supporters had watched on as Leeds slipped up at QPR, losing 4-0 at Loftus Road to put promotion into Ipswich’s hands. It meant that they needed just five points from their final three games to guarantee promotion, a 3-3 draw at Hull City subsequently chipping one off that tally.

A draw at Coventry City would be okay, but a win would be massive. On the flip side, a defeat would see Leeds back in the driving seat on the final day, so this was the match that had everything riding on it.

Town took the lead early on as Kieffer Moore fired them ahead from Wes Burns’ cutback, but they really struggled after that as the Sky Blues turned the screw. They didn’t look like a side that had just suffered a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Manchester United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Haji Wright equalised just after the hour-mark, but that gave Ipswich the kick up the backside that they needed after soaking up so much pressure, with Cameron Burgess re-establishing their lead with a clever finish in the 69th minute.

Every second after that was agony. Mark Robins’ side didn’t do a great deal, but with 11 minutes of stoppage time, the fans in the away end knew that anything could happen. In the end, the Blues saw it out to put them on the brink of the Premier League.

They didn’t win promotion at the CBS Arena, but that was the night where dreams started to become a reality. Deep down, it felt like they were there, and four days later, they got the job done.