Ipswich’s last-gasp signing on transfer deadline day Martyn Reuser stepped off the bench at Portman Road tonight to secure a last-minute winner to lift Ipswich Town above Barnsley in the First Division’s second automatic promotion spot and deal a fatal blow to Fulham’s feint chances of making the play-offs.

The home side had the better of a game that for the bright passing and enterprising midfield play had been let down by a lack of quality in the final third. George Burley handed the Dutch attacking midfielder, who arrived in Suffolk on Thursday on loan from Vitesse Arnhem, fifteen minutes in place of Jermaine Wright and made a decisive impact in the ninetieth minute. He coolly slipped a measured finish under Maik Taylor with the modicum of fuss having been played in by Jim Magilton at the end of a classical counter-attack that left Fulham’s defenders holding their heads.

Paul Bracewell tried his best to search of positives in the aftermath of another damaging defeat, but the body language of his players said everything. The managerial novice might pay for this late reverse with his job, with Fulham chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed rumoured to be taking soundings from within the game as to who could reward his big-spending with a coveted place in the Premiership.

Bracewell’s cautious style of play has frustrated Craven Cottage regulars since he took over Kevin Keegan when the England boss left SW6 after lifting the Second Division title. His insistence on playing with three centre backs has too often handed the initiative to the opposition, as he did here, and that tactical approach has left one of the division’s most potent forward lines with little service. Here, a front three of Karl-Heinz Riedle, Paul Peschisolido and Barry Hayles were starved of service and the visitors’ desperate football paled in comparison with Burley’s beautiful approach play.

Reuser was beaming after his first taste of English football and hopes to resolve his future, complicated by a contractual wrangle between Vitesse and his former employers Ajax, after firing Ipswich to promotion. If he carries on like this, the Dutchman will become the toast of Ipswich.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): R. Wright; McGreal, Croft, Mowbray (Stockwell 81), Venus; Magilton, Holland, J. Wright (Reuser 76), Clapham; Scowcroft (Naylor 75), Johnson. Subs (not used): Brannagan, Brown.

BOOKED: Venus.

GOAL: Reuser (90).

FULHAM (5-2-3): Taylor; Finnan, Phelan, Melville, Morgan (Lewis 65), Coleman; Ball (Davis 71), Hayward; Riedle (Goldbaek 65), Hayles, Peschisolido. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Symons.

BOOKED: Hayles, Hayward.

REFEREE: Anthony Bates (Stoke-on-Trent).