A lower than average crowd were treated to another good home display by Town on a day more suited to lying on the beach than running about on the pitch. Just under 20 thousand turned up, unsurprising though as the game was on tv, early on a Sunday and because of the weather tempting many to do other things. The trains too, or lack of them played their part. Despite the absentees, the game was not lacking in atmosphere, especially after a few strange decisions by the officials. For once Ipswich were victors in a live Sky game. The line-up was the same as we'd seen against Sheffield Wednesday. The back four as usual; David Wright, Alex Bruce, Jason De Vos and Dan Harding, all of whom acquitted themselves well enough. Jason De Vos' performance stood out, he showed real passion in a game where Palace pushed us at times without showing any class with the final ball. De Vos bellowed at his team mates throughout, rousing them when needed. All in all they were a very solid defensive unit back there. Gary Roberts kept his place out on the left of midfield with Owen Garvan and Tommy Miller in the centre, and Jon Walters wide right. Roberts showed sporadic periods of encouraging football but drifted out of the game at times, not getting involved or chasing enough when perhaps he could've done more. Of course, he played in the crucial ball for Jon Walters to head home. If I had to pick one player who had deserved to score at that point, it would've been Walters. He continues to show excellent control and creates some really good opportunities for the front two. Miller had "an ok" game, nothing spectacular but quite dependable, his distribution let him down at times but thankfully nothing critical. Owen Garvan was the opposite however, he put in a great effort challenge after challenge and looked like he really wanted the win. Excellent stuff - more performances like that from everyone and we'll be pretty hard to beat on any day. The front two of Alan Lee and Pablo Counago again created trouble for Palace, although we sometimes struggled to get the decent chances in. In the second half in particular we occasionally looked shot-shy, one pass too many which was something we saw last season a little too often - although I'm not picking Lee and Counago out in particular for that. Counago was hard to handle all afternoon and Lee put himself about as usual, and did particularly well with the "goalie incident" in the first half, beating Speroni to the ball outside the box, the keeper beating Lee's attempted cross away with his arm and merely receiving a yellow card. Not a goal scoring opportunity? Hadn't Dursoe seen Lee's goal from outside the box against Wednesday? Ok, that's pushing it a bit. Danny Haynes came on with 20 minutes to go and looked like he wanted to put in a good performance for the telly, running like a mad 'un. Didn't really create that much but it livened thing up when we needed it, with Roberts flagging. Sylvain Legwinski (or "Sylvian" as the announcer said) came on with ten to go, replacing Lee, and he looked a little out of sorts to start with. Billy Clarke replaced Counago and got 7 or so minutes and almost put the seal on the game with a goal after Danny Haynes hooked a perfect ball forward into his path. Clarke took a touch advancing on the keeper before shooting, but Speroni made a great save, and then immediately again from Haynes' follow up effort. Never mind, we hung on, but that would've put us clear top on goal difference! That is one tough game out of the way, and we showed that we have an excellent backbone to the team, and who knows maybe we can keep it up.
Town get off to a roaring start on their epic journey to Plymouth, with Alan Lee bolstering his place as the club's leading scorer after just 2 minutes, heading in from a good cross from Jon Walters. It was the start we got in the opening game of the season, in this case though we didn't go on to push home the advantage but struggled our way through the rest of the match. The team remained unchanged but for Gary Roberts sitting out the start, George O'Callaghan taking his place. After the spectacular first couple of minutes the game began to reflect the dour conditions, wet right the way through. We had more chances which, maybe if we'd converted it might have been a different tale, Lee going close again and Pablo Counago too. The referee thought he'd get himself noticed too, again. Kevin Friend had "taken control" of this fixture last year, and most, Jim Magilton included had been less than impressed with his performance. Jim also sounded annoyed that he had been given this fixture again in light of that. Friend was card happy once again, consistent if nothing else. Ipswich made it to half time surviving one or two scares, but Plymouth were nothing of the expected promotion hopefuls we'd heard talk of. The second half was little better, we were hanging on, nothing more. The pivotal moment came after about 0 minutes. Alex Bruce, booked in the first half for virtually nothing, was making a far more convincing performance worthy of a second yellow, and so was replaced with the much more dependable and mature Fabian Wilnis. He managed 3 minutes before a wild two-footed challenge gave the Ref no choice but to show him a red. The good bit? Fabian was sent off at Plymouth by Friend last season too. You want better? It's his 3rd red card against the Pilgrims, out of only 4 in his Town career. This sort of thing is generally just not Fab, so I'm sure he must've been hypnotised or something. Jim replaced Counago and Lee with Roberts and Haynes 5 to 10 minutes after, and most of the team helped defend at some point. Just when we looked like holding on for 3 points it fell apart. David Wright tracked Hamosi in the box as a high ball passed over them. They both seemed to pull each others shirts, but Wright was the defender and should've perhaps known better. The penalty was given and scored. It was a shame we didn't hold on, as although we didn't exactly do a lot to earn all 3 points, Plymouth did little to deserve even 1. A draw however was a result most would've taken before the match, but then we were expecting a greater challenge.
(League Cup) Town went out of the league cup at the first hurdle to MK Dons, one league below them. The home side went ahead early on, then doubled their lead with an Alex Bruce own goal. Alan Lee pulled one back from the penalty spot on the stroke of half time, Gary Roberts having been fouled in the area by Alan Navarro. Danny Haynes was brought on at half time in the place of Roberts, and it took Town just 6 minutes to even the scores, although it was from another own goal. On 75 minutes Pablo Counago and Alan Lee were withdrawn being replaced by Billy Clarke and Sylvain Legwinski. Normal time ended with deadlock, and so the game went into extra time, with the prospect of a penalty shoot-out looming. In the 100th minute Owen Garvan headed home from 6 yards after Danny Haynes put in a cross from the right which found Gsrvan to the left of goal. We looked to have wrapped things up, but in the dieing seconds, Jason De Vos was harshly adjudged to have fouled Wilbraham in the box, and the Dons were handed a penalty lifeline, which Kevin Gallan dispatched with ease. Penalty shoot-out it was then, and you know how good Town are at those... De Vos, Wright and Garvan scored, before Harding stepped up and missed. The Dons scored all theirs, and the rest is history. Well at least he stepped up.
Firstly - Welcome back to the new season! Last weeks friendly against the fairly decent Panathinaikos had given hope to many, me included for the opening fixtures around the corner. And on this showing we weren't proved wrong. Town ran riot with a toothless Wednesday and sent the Yorkshiremen packing having thumped 4 good goals past them, we did allow them a consolation to smile about late on. The man under the spotlight this afternoon was Pablo Counago, his return being the main topic of conversation for the last fortnight. He had given a battling and committed performance in the friendly a week ago, and was on fire in this match too, earning a shout for man of the match. It was Pablo who set the tone from the start, taking just 36 seconds to surge into the box and get hauled down - allowing Alan Lee to register the first Town goal of the season from the penalty spot. Lee and Counago seemed to have already gained an understanding in what will hopefully be a fruitful partnership. They both were eager to provide balls for one another, and Lee seems to be more willing to share the ball. Lee was provider in fact just 7 or so minutes later when he galloped forward with a slotted pass from Pablo, and after taking the ball deep into the right of the box, he looked up and saw Gary Roberts chasing in at the far post. He looped and cross right over the heads of the Wednesday defence with excellent precision, and the move was finished with a brilliant first time volley by Roberts who was wide of goal with defenders to beat. It was a cracking goal, start to finish and had plenty of the crowd on their feet applauding. Wednesday were not left licking their wounds, they battled on and found themselves in the Town box on numerous occasions. The difference seemed to be in the quality of finishing, and the now less-than-popular Franny Jeffers, briefly a hero in these parts, showed little of what had made him so popular. The Town back four in David Wright, Alex Bruce, Jason de Vos and Dan Harding did do an excellent job of frustrating their forwards all afternoon, Harding in particular working really hard. The half time tally was to be 3, with Alan Lee notching up a cheekie effort from just outside the box when through on the keeper (another Pablo ball through). I thought to myself, "no, don't shoot from there" but he did and the shot bounced at that nasty distance just in front of the goalie, went under him and into the far side of the net. Shows what I know, although the goalkeeper will not want to be watching the replay of that one too many times. Each and every Ipswich player in the starting line-up had at least one spell during the game when they stood out. The other returnee, Tommy Miller showed composure and got a few shooting opportunities, notably one that Pablo set up. Owen Garvan was quiet by his own standards in the first half but burst into life after Wednesday had shown signs of pushing Town after the break, a period during which they enjoyed a fair spell of possession. The visitors still did not really trouble Neil Alexander on his debut for Town, although he did have one or two smart stops to make they were nothing demanding. The front two kept breaking forward, if a little less frequently. But Lee and Counago aside, another outstanding performance came from Jon Walters who started the match wide right where he provided some good balls in, getting forward quickly and linking up well with the front two. He switched to a more forward role late on when Lee then Pablo were replaced. Alan Lee had almost completed his hat trick moments before coming off. Pablo deserved a goal for all his hard work, and thankfully it came shortly before he was substituted, an easy tap in after good work on the right from Jon Walters again. Hopefully this, along with his 100% effort throughout will draw a line under any misgivings Counago's doubters might have had. He has arrived back at Portman Road a man refreshed, looks fitter and certainly keener than the Pablo that left. A clean sheet looked on the cards, but as the game wore on there was definitely a hint of foot-off-the-gas about Town, and with a few substitutions to upset the balance, Danny Haynes, Billy Clarke and Sylvain Legwinski coming on for Lee, Counago and Miller (although not all at once) Wednesday sniffed a goal which did eventually come 2 minutes from time. It was a bit of a scramble which will make it even more frustrating for the defence. The visiting fans went barmy as if they'd won, although plenty had already left 20 minutes earlier. The first match of the season is something we always look forward to, but it's rarely enjoyed this much, and rarely is it such a stroll in the park. Perhaps this was even better as many expected things to be harder, as they inevitably will be in subsequent games. We'll make the most of it and it will definitely serve up some confidence and, who knows maybe a winning run to start the season.
Town again put in another good show in front of the tv cameras as they steamrollered Coventry City in convincing fashion sticking four goals past them, three in the first half alone. Pablo Counago hit good form by getting a brace but was not alone in his excellent performance. It took only 10 minutes for Town to take the lead, and it came from a free kick delivered from distance by Owen Garvan which was met just yards out from the far post by the head of Jason De Vos who made no mistake in powering it past the keeper. Coventry got forward but seemed to lack the confidence in front of goal to get them back on terms. They created opportunities but never troubled Neil Alexander who's defence mopped up most of what came their way. Ipswich continued in the positive fashion with which they'd started the game and just over 10 minutes later doubled the lead from a Pablo effort. The Spaniard collected a ball nodded down from Jon Walters after a good cross in from Dan Harding, then very calmly stepped away from the harassing defenders and deftly poked the ball past the keeper with the outside of his foot. I overheard comment that his composure reminded someone of a certain Marcus Stewart. A third seemed almost inevitable, with both Tommy Miller and Dan Harding have a go at goal - Harding's strike from way outside the box hit the post, most unfortunate. The ball found it's way out for a corner though, and although a good ball in from Owen Garvan was cleared, Town made it 3 at half time as Gary Roberts looped in a cross which Jon Walters thumped home with his head. Coventry were obviously keen to attempt a come back after the restart and pressed Town, forcing a save from Alexander early on. It was us who would score next though, when we took a four goal lead after a close range headed attempt was brilliantly saved, only to be palmed into the vacant air in front of Pablo just a couple of yards out. It would've been harder to miss and he nodded home his second, then set about chasing a hat trick. Alan Lee was unlucky all afternoon. He had chances saved right from the start, and his work rate alone deserved a goal but it never came. Coventry got the remaining score of this five goal thriller, but it was mere consolation. And a cracker it was from a free kick, rising straight as an arrow wide of Alexander who had little chance. Unusually it was not much to worry about, you couldn't help thinking that if their forwards had been any good at all, we might've actually been pushed a little harder this afternoon. Billy Clarke replaced Pablo with a few minutes to go, allowing the home crowd to show their appreciation with a good ovation as he left the field. This came after Jaime Peters and Chris Casement had replaced Gary Roberts and the hobbling Alex Bruce earlier in the half. The home form continues to impress, we seem to have ditched the live TV hoo-doo we used to have, so now all we need is some sort of away form to be proud of.
A tough fixture for anyone this season, but even though the final score line was nothing less than embarrassing, Town showed signs of putting up a fight for at least a short spell in this game. The only change to the side was with Gary Roberts dropping out, Jim preferring Sylvain Legwinski. The start was bright enough for Town, and for the opening stages it was pretty even stuff with chances for either side. That was not to continue though, and after less than 25 minutes West Brom scored through Ishmael Miller, who sprinted into the box on the right before hitting a very well placed shot with the outside of his boot that just snuck inside the far post. From that point on, the first half was very much the home side's. The second half started much better for Town, and Pablo Counago got a couple of shots away early on, and Alan Lee too soon after. Both the frontmen came close to the equaliser several times, notably with Alan Lee hitting the post. With the equaliser looking very likely and Ipswich continuing to create chance and put the home side under pressure, West Brom managed to double their lead. With just a 3 or 4 minutes left they effectively put the game beyond doubt, and triggered a shameful collapse by Town who then allowed Kevin Phillips to score 2 more before then end of the match. The nature of the defending was more than questionable for one or two of those goals and it was obvious that heads had dropped. One nil or four nil, you still get nothing, but it was very disappointing to see and all that nice goal difference we had has now evaporated. I'm sure someone will get a kick for it though.
A trip to Watford seems to drum up plenty of Town support these days or some reason, and this trip was no exception with the travelling faithful taking our full allocation to cheer the Blues on. It doesn't make Vicarage Road a more comfortable place though, some things don't seem to change. The team themselves seemed to forget to turn up though, or at least forget what they were there for and Watford came out easy 2 nil winners. The same side turned out again, with just changes on the bench as Danny Haynes pays for his headbut in the reserves play-off game through suspension, which gave Jaime Peters a chance to try out the new strip for the first time. It didn't take long for the afternoon to take shape with Watford catching a slow-to-wake-up Town dozing after 5 minutes, they took the lead after what appeared to be a breakdown in communication between Neil Alexander and Alex Bruce. Possession was gifted away and Darius Henderson was at hand to put the Hornets 1 nil up. It didn't get much better all half, with Town struggling to make any sort of inroads into the Watford area, let alone get away any meaningful efforts. Watford could easily have gone 2 goals ahead in fact. That said, we did have quite a decent amount of possession, we just couldn't do anything with it. The second half was not much better, and on 62 Alan Lee was withdrawn for Billy Clarke, a couple of minutes later Gary Roberts who was on a yellow card came off for Jaime Peters, who looked keen from the moment he was introduced. More possession came our way, but we were still not creative enough to stretch Watford. After expecting something to happen from Town with all the ball we had, Watford doubled their lead and effectively sealed the game. Tommy Smith hit a cracking shot from over 20 yards which flew in, straight as an arrow. After such a good August, September starts in a pretty disappointing fashion. Although Watford were fancied from the start of the season they were not exactly a class act today, but made the most of the chances that came their way and showed that little extra up front. If the Ipswich that had turned up against Palace had played today, we may have taken more from the game. Hopefully a blip, an early reality check for us to bounce back from against West Brom.
The visit of Wolves saw a clash between two very much in-form teams, although Town's record is restricted to home games, Wolves arrived unbeaten in 6 games, home and away. On paper this appeared to be a very tough match for either side to maintain their momentum. The starting line-up was unchanged. Sylvain Legwinski remained in midfield, and Fabian Wilnis in the back four. From the very start things looked quite rosy for the visitors who got stuck into a startled looking Town, normally the side to do the early running. If things didn't look ominous then, they certainly did just 5 minutes in when Fabian sold Neil Alexander well short with a daintily tapped back pass and the Blues keeper brought down highly rated Michael Kightly as he sped from his line. The penalty was given without too much protest although their seemed to be the usual amount of "no way ref" going on, maybe trying to cushion the official's opinion on the colour of the card he might - but didn't in the end - dish out. Alexander had saved his first league penalty just days before against Colchester, and his hero status was underlined once again as he stood firm while over-rated Freddy Eastwood tried one of those stuttering approaches to his penalty kick, and after the Wolves frontman eventually chose his spot Alexander dived and saved. The onslaught from Wolves did not end with this incident, and they stayed on top of the game until around the quarter hour mark. At this point Town had settled and were passing the ball to feet quite comfortably, and at last there was some action at the other end of the field. Dan Harding stuck a free kick just over the bar from 25 yards and right of goal. We would eventually take another 2 kicks from this position, this being the best of them however. Legwinski woke up from a sluggish start and got a shot in, Billy Clarke tried from distance and Pablo Counago had a couple of weak efforts after some hard work. Another of those similarly placed free kicks went soaring almost into the Upper Greene King stand before Town at last went ahead. Owen Garvan slotted a ball neatly through to Alan Lee, who calmly beat one defender then, as it looked as if he'd been too cool and taken it too wide and in too close to the keeper, unleashed a perfect curling effort past him and into the far side of the goal. A very well placed close range shot indeed. The half came to a close with Wolves trying the old bundle-the-keeper-into-the-net-with-the-ball trick, Alexander having tipped a strong shot up into the air and scrambling back to gather on the line, but the ball did not cross the line any way, despite the foul and it finished with Town in front. We restarted in similar fashion, Owen Garvan having a couple of efforts before we doubled our lead 7 minutes into the half. Pablo Counago, who had worked hard during the first half received the ball from a throw, and jinxed along the by-line past a couple of defenders and with the ball seemingly glued to his foot past the flailing keeper too, before rifling through 2 defenders high into the net from 4 yards. A superb display of what he can do best. Despite there being 35 or more minutes left of the game Wolves barely had a further chance of note. Ipswich had bags of chances from Pablo, Gary Roberts (on for Billy Clarke) and Legwinski who hit the woodwork. We'd have to wait until Danny Haynes replaced Lee with 10 minutes left though, to see Town seal the game beyond doubt with a third goal. Haynes collected a pass after a good run from Dan Harding then turned 2 defenders, turned again, and again into space before unleashing a near-post rising shot which the keeper couldn't get close to. He's in fine form ready for Sunday... This game really marked how good Town can be, a hard test from one of the better sides in the division who we made look pretty dire at times. The whole side played together well today and again apart from one or two short lapses from individuals, were solid to a man. Dan Harding and Pablo Counago stood out as having top performances, both working hard to create and break down the opposition. As for the goals, it would be cruel to choose one our of the 3 crackers we saw today. Bring on the Budgies.
Just as last year Colchester treated this game like their cup final, they turned up in numbers very excited and making noise but went away with nothing to show for their efforts. Also like last season it was a pretty exciting match too. Our neighbours got the first goal, there was a bit of controversy then we wrapped it up, simple. Sylvain Legwinksi started the game once again, with Gary Roberts warming the bench. Pablo Counago, Alan Lee and Jon Walters provided the familiar and thus far successful home attack formation, alongside Billy Clarke making another start. Town got at the visitors straight away, and all the early exchanges were mainly towards Colchester's goal, although without much to test their keeper. Colchester's travelling fans were in good voice from the off, and this seemed to be reflected in their team's passion as they defended every ball pretty sternly and were keen to break. The first decent attempt on the Town goal saw Neil Alexander palm a long header over the bar for a corner. Colchester seemed to be able to take decent corners all night long, whereas ours seemed to fly way too long all too often, or maybe I only remember the bad ones. Two or three more chances came our way and just as we were beginning to think about the result looking more likely for us, Colchester went and scored. The goal was what the phrase "against the run of play" was invented for, although they had already been given a couple of sights at goal without using them. Our defence, pretty solid bar on or two slips, parted like curtains and allowed the visitors to set up a long range effort from Clive Platt, which to be fair he did strike perfectly, very solid and beyond the reach of Alexander. We did continue in fairly confident mood though, and the closest we came to an equaliser was from a Dan Harding cross after leaving their goalie stranded, Alan Lee shaped up at the far post to knock it home but a defender got between the two and blasted it over the bar - would've been an excellent own goal. Then as the half wore on we got caught out, Platt again was clean through and Alexander rushed out to meet him wide on the edge of the area, rounding the keeper easily before shooting at, but thankfully not into the empty net. A let off indeed. We were not the same in the second half, Colchester looked the more eager side and although we ran we looked panicky and the passes were going astray. The visitors were chasing us down but really didn't have a great deal of creativity themselves. Jim Magilton made his first change by withdrawing Billy Clarke who had certainly run out of ideas and not been as involved as he should, on coming Danny Haynes. Ten minutes later it looked as though our home record would be coming to an abrupt end when the ref gave a ridiculous penalty against us. Alexander came out wide to challenge Kevin Lisbie who, after kicking the ball forward leapt to the floor as if he'd been run through with a sword, which I'm sure wasn't the case. The ref dallied and consulted he lino before giving it. Neil Alexander after receiving a yellow card, rectified things and became a hero too by diving the right way and making a fantastic full length save from Yeates. The crowd were up, the players perked up, and the game for Town sprang back into life. Very soon we embarked on a 13 minute goal spree to turn the game on it's head. Jon Walters was first to register off a nice cross from Dan Harding. Sylvain Legwinski, quiet but reliable today, was taken off and Liam Trotter came on for his home debut. At last we took a decent corner, and none other than Liam Trotter was there to meet Owen Garvan's kick, heading home from the edge of the 6 yard box. As you can imagine the fans went ballistic. We wrapped it up minutes later when Danny Haynes, scoring the 3rd goal in the same fixture last season, headed the game beyond doubt from a Fabian Wilnis cross. Counago was subbed for Gary Roberts late on, a good performance from him even without a goal. Alan Lee too without score today, but ran madly for the whole match. This was a great result and very special to those locals who have Colchester supporting friends and colleagues. Bragging rights are ours for the time being. Not pretty at times, but an exciting match to the death for both sets of fans. Colchester will feel that they let the game slip from their grasp after missing the open goal, but particularly the penalty, a pivotal moment that swung the pendulum back our way. 9 games won in a row at home, double figures would be nice but a harder test is expected from the visit of in-form Wolves.
Town pushed for their first away win of the season but after taking the lead away at the bottom club in the league, once again surrendered it and ended up with just a point to show for their troubles. Jim Magilton decided to bring back Sylvain Legwinski into a 5 man midfield. Frontman Pablo Counago gave way and started on the bench, his away form being quite average at times. The first half was hardly a lesson in beautiful football. Town stuttered their way through it and whilst QPR looked eager to get their second win in a row and their second of the season (the first of course being to lowly Norwich last week), they barely threatened goal. The most significant event for Ipswich in the first was Tommy Miller getting injured and being replaced by Gary Roberts after half an hour. Roberts actually looked pretty keen. The second half started far more brightly for the Tractor Boys. After 5 minutes Billy Clarke had a good effort after a ball in from Roberts but the save was made. Shortly after we got the opener as Legwinski received the ball and after deftly lifting it off the floor, he thundered a volley from 30 yards over the keeper into the net. We kept the pressure up, but QPR were not for rolling over and gave it back in equal measure although again, not through quality chances. Almost inevitably we got caught out as we pushed for the goal to kill the game. Clarke could've scored 1 if not 2 before Nygaard collected a stray ball and raced goalwards with only Neil Alexander to beat. He made no mistake. Ipswich kept their peckers up and seemed to sense an injustice and continued to chase another goal. We came close, Jason De Vos putting a free header wide, Danny Haynes - on for Billy Clare later on - had a good header saved, but it was all in vein. Even the introduction of Pablo Counago for Alan Lee couldn't liven it up 5 minutes from time. So we remain without an away win, but it was yet another game in which we had the chances to win comfortably and really only have ourselves to blame for not taking all the points. We seem to be looking a better prospect on our travels albeit without that extra 2 points. It would be nice though to save our first away win for the trip up the road to Norwich, who of course have a problem at home as well as away.
Preston came to town off the back of a 5 - 1 thumping of George Burley's Southampton during the week, so presumably were in confident form having found their scoring boots. They showed little of that form in this match though, barely getting a shot on goal of any note and having to rely on a more than iffy penalty late on for their consolation goal. Jim Magilton stuck with Billy Clarke after his good display at Burnley on Tuesday with Pablo Counago and Alan Lee up front again, and with Jon Walters too out wide it gave a very positive looking starting line-up. This meant that Gary Roberts had to drop to the bench, and Sylvain Legwinski sat it out, on his birthday too! Elsewhere Alex Bruce made way for Fabian Wilnis. From the start it was all Town. Pablo and Walters got efforts in, and Jason De Vos crashed a header goalwards from a corner but could only direct it straight at the keeper, the Town defender bellowing his frustration. Soon after we won a free kick wide outside the box which Owen Garvan curled over towards the far post. Billy Clarke had easily lost his marker but sent his free header outside the post. It was an easy chance that would've done him the world of good. Even Fabian Wilnis got in on the action, although was left kicking himself at his missed opportunity after he pounced on a De Vos effort which came back off the bar into his path. The ball had been sent in from a Garvan free kick, but Fabian nodded the ball against the post from 2 yards. It took half an hour for Town to finally score, and it was Alan Lee who added to his tally with an extremely low header. Pablo exchanged passes with Walters who crossed towards the near post and as the ball came in at about a foot off the ground, Lee launched himself at it head first when most would've probably opted for the foot based lunge approach. Who cares though, his connection was perfect and in it went for one nil. The play was clearly all with Town, we were controlling the game which was almost "all up their end". Wilnis was involved in a good Preston move, the Town defender lashing a high foot at a nothing ball that Neil Alexander seemed sure to collect. His kick only made half contact and the ball spooned in the opposite direction over Alexander and goalwards, thankfully going just wide for a corner. This was about the only thing Wilnis did wrong all game though, he was pretty charged and made some good solid tackles. We should have stamped on this game before half time, but that was how the score stayed when the ref blew for the break. The danger was that Preston would receive the much justified kick up the arse in the dressing room and come out all guns blazing to rectify things, a story we've become familiar with and a situation we've fallen foul of. Although Preston did indeed come out fired-up, it was more a case of all laggy bands blazing as they didn't seem to have the quality up front to trouble a Town defence that had been pretty stubborn thus far. Town did weather a brief storm of possession from the visitors but they never really came close to the equaliser. Billy Clarke saw a powerful long range shot whiz past the keeper from outside the box, but his shot cannoned back off the far post. We were clearly still on top when we at last doubled the lead a few minutes after Billy Clarke had left the field for Gary Roberts. Tommy Miller fed Pablo in the box, who held the ball up before cheekily back heeling it into the path of the advancing Miller, who made no mistake with his powerful effort to open his Ipswich account for the second time with Ipswich. We saw Danny Haynes late on when he replaced Pablo and as usual, he hit the ground running taking no time at all to get stuck in. He made use of his time on the pitch getting in a decent shot and some handy crosses. With just a couple of minutes left and most of us still sighing with relief from getting the much needed second goal, Preston were handed an undeserved lifeline from the ref. Mellor ran into the box across David Wright, and as he advanced wide Alexander came to tackle him. Mellor seemed to have lost his footing and the ball before he met the Town keeper, but although Alexander seemed to make no contact at all with him the ref blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. It was ridiculous, the lino hadn't seen anything wrong despite being well placed so the ref consulted him, but still never changed his mind. Mellor scored the penalty and we were left with a full 5 minutes injury time to sweat out and mutter to ourselves about not taking chances. We weathered a late rally from Preston, but could also have scored ourselves, and the game ended 2 - 1, a score line which flattered the visitors. Jim had apparently been asking for more from Miller and Lee, and so it was good to see them bag the goals to win the game. Our 100% home record is still intact, 25 years since we last strung 8 home wins together by all accounts.
Town are still winless on their travels but picked up another away point at Turf Moor after being 2 goals to the good after less than 10 minutes. Sylvain Legwinski and Alan Lee were on target with headers and the elusive first away win looked like it might just be on the cards, but after being pegged back to 2 - 1 moments later, after half time Ipswich gave away a freak equaliser. Leggy scored the opener from a corner taken by Owen Garvan, skilfully skimming his header home. Very soon after Billy Clarke, starting in place of travel-sick Pablo Counago, raced forward after receiving the ball from Alan Lee who himself sprinted on and met Clarke's cross, brilliantly heading home over the keeper. As if those two goals had not happened quickly enough, Burnley pulled one back almost immediately from close range. Town continued to play well for the first half and deserved to be in front having creating numerous chances. The positive play continued into after the break but it was Burnley who would score next. They found themselves back in the game on 60 minutes, and unfortunately it was a bit of a gimme. Neil Alexander had rushed out of his goal to clear a ball as Andy Gray chased in the opposite direction, and although the Town keeper made it to the ball first his hoofed clearance thumped off the advancing striker, back over Alexander and into the net. Bugger. We still had the chances to win the game, and also a good penalty shout when Jon Walters appeared to be felled in the area but, nothing doing. Pablo was brought on with 20 minutes to go replacing Billy Clarke, and with just minutes left Town thought he had bagged them the 3 points. He fed Walters who advanced on the keeper then unselfishly slotted it forward to Pablo who tucked it home. Although the Town striker was clearly onside, the lino waited an age then raised his flag to wipe out a worthy winner. That was a shame (for us of course!) as the effort today deserved a win. Yes we surrendered a 2 goal lead, but had it not been for a couple of bad decisions from the officials we might be up in the right half of the table. Burnley were never going to roll over that early in the game, and although conceding so soon after scoring falls into the schoolboy error category a point and a good performance is a step in the right direction.
Former Tractor Boy George Burley returned to Portman Road with Southampton to take on his old club, but was unable to overcome a Town side still containing a few connections from his era. Burley brought along a couple of fellow ex-Townies, Jermaine Wright and Kelvin Davis. Ipswich managed to score a goal in either half, and to keep a clean sheet sending the Saints home with nothing. Jim switched Billy Clarke and Gavin Williams from Saturdays match and otherwise made no changes. Clarke took the chance to put in a hard working performance and was very busy all evening, despite sporting a rather trim Matt Richardsesque haircut. After a brief flash of the pace we now expect from the start of home matches, the game faltered a little style-wise, with neither side really clicking or taking control of the match. It was one of those matches where both sides seemed to mimic the other, Town giving the ball away and Southampton giving it straight back for example. Chances at either end did little to test the keepers, and both teams could've done better with what came their way. Half an hour in, lady luck was to smile upon Town and give us a lead. We were showing signs of improvement having gone close, when Billy Clarke found himself on the edge of the box and able to strike goalwards. His shot was well struck, but Davis seemed to be heading in the right direction. However the man of the moment Jon Walters ran across its path, and despite taking the sting out of the shot managed to direct it inside the opposite post, the keeper and defender looking on helplessly as it spun over the line. Walters obviously knew nothing of it but didn't look at all embarrassed to score - they all count, right?! This had a settling effect on Ipswich, and we came close again a couple of times before the break, but were still not on top form. The first half had been unspectacular and maybe a little disappointing. Southampton showed signs of what George Burley's style of football is about, enjoying a fair amount of possession but without the finished product. Surprisingly they were a very tetchy side, bordering on dirty at times. They would not stop arguing with the officials and had gone in heavy on a few occasions. Within minutes of the restart the visitors came close to equalising, a ball into the area the was flicked on and headed goalwards from just 3 or 4 yards by Bradley Wright-Phillips. Neil Alexander reacted instinctively and tipped it over his head and the bar for a corner. In reply Town had a couple of corners in quick succession, Owen Garvan hitting the woodwork with the first and having an effort deflected with the next. At this point in the game Ipswich were starting to get on top and the majority of chances were coming their way. But the Saints came very close to levelling things when Alexander was chipped from a wide position, the ball came back off the inside of the post and was cleared. After a very good penalty shout for a challenge that saw Jon Walters sent crashing to the floor, the linesman flagging but the referee overruled, Town eventually gave themselves an extra bit of breathing space and got the second goal. It was perhaps appropriately scored from a free kick, Southampton having enjoyed some lenient refereeing were punished for a foul on Billy Clarke, way our left. Gavin Williams stepped up, and having only just come on for Garvan banged in a strong kick to the centre of the box which was met by the head of Pablo Counago past Davis. There were numerous chances for the Blues in the second period, and we were easily better than in the first. Danny Haynes came on quite late today, only getting 10 minutes if you include stoppage time. Southampton withered badly, before a brief last breath of effort before the final whistle. A dozen games straight now, impressive stuff indeed. So why are the home crowds a tad disappointing at the moment? It doesn't get much better than this for wins, so just under 20k is strange, although we are now *only* 4th...
Another fruitless away day for Town made for a long trip back from Wales and plenty of time to mull over what exactly is wrong when we leave Portman Road. Jim will have to come up with the answer to that one, and hopefully in time to see us add enough to the nice tally of points built up from the home performances to maintain our flirtation with the top end of the table. We started with 3 players with Cardiff connections, unsurprisingly former Bluebirds Alan Lee and Neil Alexander started as usual, and also Gavin Williams who had not featured at all this season after crocking himself in the pre-season friendly with Panathinaikos. Billy Clarke made way for the [presumably reformed] Cardiff fan who slotted into the midfield. The opening minute was quite good for Town, Alan Lee striding forward from the off and attempting to lob the Cardiff keeper, only to be thwarted by the goal post. Then it was pretty much downhill from there. Just after the half hour mark the home side scored what would turn out to be the winner. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had narrowly missed from a free kick minutes before Paul Parry strode forward from his own half and was pretty much unchallenged before banging in an excellent shot past Alexander. Although Cardiff had edged the chances, they were hardly exciting enough to warrant a lead, but there you go. Cardiff almost added a second shortly after, and had another attempt before half time with Town having a go from a Tommy Miller free kick, but one nil it was at the break. To say that the second half was dull, was an understatement. Yellow cards outnumbered efforts on goal, there were a few personnel changes which brought little impact, and apart from a late run from Alex Bruce and a close chance very late on created by Jon Walters, that was it. Nothing worth scribbling about. A few of our previous away failures had at least been after a decent performance, or even after having perfectly good goals disallowed, but we could take little from this match and smile about it. I hope our away hoodoo changes soon, very soon.
High-flying Bristol City were trounced by 6 (six!) great goals on Saturday afternoon after Town extended their fantastic run of wins at Portman Road to 11. As with Wolves a fortnight ago, we were expecting a bumpy ride in this one but it turned out to be anything but, and after leading at half time Town went into overdrive and cruised home with ease. As expected (well he'd be daft to tinker with it) Jim Magilton went for the regular home formation of 4-4-2, and Town were out of the blocks running and pushed City from the off. The visiting support was in good voice and in reasonable numbers considering the trip. Jon Walters got in Town's first effort on goal, driving forward on the right and lashing a 20 yarder high and wide of goal when perhaps the cross over to Alan Lee or Pablo Counago might've been a better bet. He was very obviously a man on a mission today though, and after another similar run forward just a few minutes later he dribbled into a central position this time before seeing a gap and dispatching a shot. The low ball although well struck took a slight deflection that sent it nicely just inside the post beyond the keeper, who did not seem to be expecting it either way. And so it started. Town passed the ball so well in the early stages that the second goal seemed inevitable. Their domination was rewarded after 15 minutes when a Walters cross was cleared beyond the box on the left, but Alan Lee muscled the defender out of possession and seemed to take all the time in the world to pick out the advancing... wait for it... David Wright who appeared to trampoline into the air and thump a header home from 7 yards or so. The look on Wright's face as he wheeled away to celebrate matching his entire tally for last season was priceless. Now many teams would easily crumble having gone 2 goals down away from home, but give City their dues, they stuck to the task and continued to play their passing football without panic, although there was an unnecessary physical edge to some of the challenges dished out to Town players. The visitors game was almost all about defending against a hungry Town attack though, and they were not able to enjoy much in the way of possession until the last 10 minutes of the half, when Alan Lee was withdrawn due to injury. Danny Haynes came on but seemed out of place until half time, and it was obvious that we missed the creativity and eagerness of Lee. City's final chance to influence the outcome of the game was shortly before half time when Neil Alexander came out to punch on the edge of the box, the ball falling to a City player who's attempt, with our keeper stranded was unfortunately for them straight in front of him into Alexander's arms. We did have a player on the line too though. A goal back at this point might well have rattled the Blues and given Bristol hope at the interval. Any hope that City may have had returning to the field was quickly dashed when Town scored again from the penalty spot, with the visitors losing a man to a red card at the same time. Danny Haynes raced forwards and his speed put him clear in the box with just the keeper to beat, as he pulled the trigger on what looked like a shot to the far right beyond the goalie, Bradley Orr swung his leg and sent Haynes crashing to the floor. It was nice to see Danny looked peeved rather than jubilant at winning a penalty, he was obviously convinced he was about to score, but instead Tommy Miller placed the spot-kick just inside the post to make it 3 nil. The ref had no decision to make, it was a clear cut penalty and there was no quibbles about the red card. At this point the game was dead for City who continued to pass the ball and look for a goal, but maybe they would have saved themselves face had they gone down the shut-up-shop route. Great that they didn't of course, its all about entertainment, and that is just what we got from hereon in. Number 4 came barely 10 minutes after the penalty, a very lively Billy Clarke was clearly fouled whilst claiming the ball just outside his own box, but advantage was well played by the ref and Clarke battled on and ran it out before getting a forward ball to Owen Garvan who managed to find Jon Walters just inside City's half, but with no opposition player between him and the goal. He took a couple of forward touches as he ran in, set up his stride and unleashed a vicious arrow-straight shot, which was rising all the way into the back of the net from distance. The keeper got a hand to it, but luckily was not killed or maimed by the power. The game was definitely getting that "will we make double figures" feel to it now, and Pablo Counago was next on the score sheet, with Walters feeding him out wide before the Spaniard entered the box. He tricked the ball round 2 or 3 defenders before looking up and seeing a gap then calmly passing the ball through the remaining defence into the far corner. Strike 6 saw Walters complete his first ever hat trick and cap a simply superb performance. Pablo fed the ball through from way out, with Walters doing the running before slotting home. Jim gave the crowd a chance to show their appreciation and admiration for today's hero as Walters was replaced soon after by Gary Roberts. The game went a little flat for periods after this, although the pressure was still on Bristol. It was a shame that Billy Clarke who had worked so well did not get the goal he deserved, but he came close with a late run but his shot was saved, and rebound just cleared off the line. We've been treated to some great football at home in recent months and it was hard to see how it could get any better, but it did. This was a highly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable match which Town dominated from start to finish. Bristol City will lick their wounds and no doubt bounce back, but how they explain this one after good away form will hopefully complement our performance as well as berate their own. We were simply brilliant today.
Under normal circumstances this game would have been marked down as a potential win with the home side not having won in 5 attempts, but after a fast paced and physical encounter in the local derby just 2 days before, we found ourselves off the pace and with - I presume - forced changes in the line-up. Sheff U had apparently been asked to move the game by 24 hours to ease things, but stood true to form and refused. Jim Magilton stuck with the 4-5-1 shape we have come to expect for away games, bringing in Liam Trotter who had impressed recently, to the midfield. Tommy Miller was back from injury, along with Gary Roberts and back in defence, Alex Bruce in place of Fabian Wilnis. The other unlucky ones were Owen Garvan, Pablo Counago and Billy Clarke. Things started pretty brightly for Town, with Alan Lee getting 3 or 4 shots in within the first 20 minutes or so. In reply Neil Alexander was barely tested although James Beattie was already showing signs of being a threat and after half an hour he scored. After a neat one-two he left Alex Bruce for dead and slotted past Alexander from less than 10 yards, some poor defending had let him in. Although Town continued to make chances, the momentum was fading and by half time the home side were having most of the action in front of goal. The second half was again quite positive for Ipswich, and within 10 minutes we were back on level terms through Jon Walters who collected a long ball straight from the keeper deep inside the Sheffield half, and only a short distance from the box he beat a defender and chipped a shot over the Blades keeper Ian Bennett. With Town's confidence now on the up once again, Walters came close to putting us ahead soon after, but saw his effort hit the bar. The point which turned the game back in the home side's favour was a penalty, dubious to say the least. Liam Trotter had "a moment" in the penalty area when he failed to clear a high-bouncing ball, there was a Sheff U player also challenging for the ball and the linesman flagged that he had been fouled. The referee had not given the incident, but the spot-kick was given and unfortunately this time Alexander couldn't make a save and was beaten by Beattie again. It was a total injustice; Sheff U had done little to deserve a lead. Jim made some later than expected changes, bringing on Pablo with just 15 minutes left who did his best without carving out chances for himself. Owen Garvan had replaced Sylvain Legwinski a few minutes before, and Jaime Peters took to the pitch in place of Gary Roberts with just 5 minutes left, moments before the Blades sealed the win with a great goal from Keith Gillespie from just outside the box. A surprisingly lively showing from Town given the short time since the derby, one which we should've taken at least a point from were it not for a mad moment from the linesman for the penalty decision. Taking heart from decent enough away performances though, is getting a little wearing and we really need that win on our travels to break the run.
Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton has extended his current 2 year deal and has now signed up until 2010. Talking to the official club web site, Jim said "We are all delighted to have agreed the new contracts. The Club have shown faith in us and have liked what they have seen so far. The Chairman and the Board believe we are heading in the right direction, we have new investment coming in and I think the future is encouraging." Bryan Klug and Steve Foley are also being offered fresh contract extensions. Official web site
Town's second eagerly awaited derby game of the season ended in a rather disappointing draw with both side bagging a brace to share the spoils. A point was perhaps considered fine by most level headed pundits before the match despite many Town fans expecting a win, but having pushed the home side in the first half and taking a 2 goal lead, the result actually felt a bit flat. As, it seems for so many of Town's opponents in recent times, Norwich were playing their first game under a new manager, Glen Roeder having been appointed during the week. This always spurs a team on, but thankfully Jim Magilton had missed out on falling under the curse of the Manager-of-the-month award which really would have ruined things. The line-up was the same team that made easy work of seeing off Wolves last weekend, and Town began the game with pace, as did Norwich of course, just what you'd expect from a derby match. Both sides had early chances and this continued without either side actually dominating, it was clear though that at this pace and with so many chances a goal wasn't far off. The deadlock was broken by Town striker Alan Lee who netted his 7th league goal of the season just before the half hour. He shot past keeper David Marshall after Lee had knocked a ball forward to Pablo Counago who then held it up before returning it into Lee's path as he raced forward. The opening goal of an East Anglian derby is always a great moment and the blues went wild on and off the pitch. Norwich showed good character and didn't wilt after conceding, but although they had more chances and indeed came close to an equaliser it was Town who would score again before half time. Neil Alexander in the Ipswich goal had been busy with several excellent saves throughout the half, and must've been relieved to take a 2 goal cushion into the dressing room thanks to a goal from a lively Pablo Counago. A free kick was taken and seemed to have been wasted but Billy Clarke got a shot in which the keeper pushed away, Clarke picking up the ball off the by-line wide of goal and crossing it back to the centre where Pablo tapped home unmarked. The Norwich players protested that the ball had gone out and it was certainly close, but the goal stood. The half ended shortly after Jamie Cureton had missed a great opportunity to reduce their deficit, finding himself faced with only Alexander to beat in the 6 yard box after a mad scramble, he poked the ball with the outside of his foot beyond the far post when it seemed easier to score. A different Norwich side came out in the second half and were very fired up and desperate to get back into the match. Roeder introduced a new face for the Canaries in rotund shape of John Hartson, who was very physical throughout the half. Town kept up the pace too without creating much, and it was clear that Norwich were building and we were starting to sit back. Inevitably the home side scored and the revival was on. A dubiously awarded corner was sent in and met 6 yards out at the near post and despite the presence of 3 or 4 Town players, Taylor headed goalwards. The ball took a fortuitous deflection off Owen Garvan but was probably bound to beat Alexander anyway. The Canaries tails were up. Town were looking edgy, the passing game almost dried up and Norwich enjoyed most of the chances. We had the odd attempt at goal on the break, but were really struggling to get the game flowing in our favour. The home side and crowd sniffed another goal which eventually came with 25 minutes to go. A Hartson ball found Cureton just wide of goal 10 yards out, he took a touch and despite the attentions of Jason De Vos he chipped the ball cleverly over the advancing Alexander and it at the far post. It was [gritted teeth] a very well taken goal. This did seem to wake Town up slightly, maybe they could now see what the rest of us had been worrying about for the last 20 minutes. Alan Lee thought he had got a third but it was given offside, and the only other effort was from Garvan and off target, and Jim decided on changes 5 or 10 minutes later. Off came Sylvain Legwinski and Pablo, on came Liam Trotter and Danny Haynes. Ah! Danny always scores against Norwich. The game was untidy at this point to say the least and barely another shot came from us before Jim made his final substitution with Gary Roberts replacing Clarke. Not long after this Town broke away with Alan Lee speeding down the right flank after a ball from Garvan. Lee looked up and saw Danny Haynes racing goalwards down the opposite side and he despatched a fantastic ball over beyond the stretch of the last defenders. Haynes' big moment was set up, but keeper Marshall blocked his goal-bound shot with his legs and although it cannoned up in the air and dropped towards the line it eventually bounced tantalisingly off the crossbar and behind. Haynes looked skywards in disbelief at being denied. The only final points of note were a few yellow cards and an unsurprising red card for usual suspect Darren Huckerby who had been his normal unsporting self for the whole game. His challenge on Jon Walters was disgusting, the striker crashing his studs down both legs of the Town player who crumpled to the floor. Soon after this the 4 minutes of added time was up, and it was honours even, a result that was probably fair with both teams able to look back at chances missed as well as expensive poor defending. Neil Alexander arguably kept us in the match with some exceptional saves, but we really should have wrapped this one up with the luxury of a 2 goal lead.
It was business as usual at home again with Town running out comfortable winners in the end in a match perhaps spoiled by the sending off of Leicester man Patrick Kisnorbo. The game took a few turns but on the whole Ipswich will feel that this was a deserved win. Danny Haynes had a rare start, and with Pablo Counago, Alan Lee and Jon Walters all in from the kick off, we looked quite threatening on paper at least. Another unfamiliar face these days was Sito who was in ahead of Dan Harding. Although we started the match with obvious intent, our passing and running was not producing much in front of goal. Leicester showed little to break down our building momentum though, and after less than 20 minutes we were ahead after some excellent persistence from Danny Haynes out on the right. He paused on the edge of the box with the full attention of a defender who obviously did not expect him to then burst forward once again after his tap forward. Haynes crossed just before the ball reached the by-line and Pablo met it 10 yards out at the near post, his first touch chipping the ball up and forward, setting up a great volley for himself which sailed past the keeper. We had a penalty shout turned down for a very obvious to all except the ref hand ball in the box a short while after, and we were left bemoaning this just a few minutes later when the Foxes equalised. Neil Alexander cleared a ball up to the midfield which was headed back in his direction, but as Iain Hume picked the ball up in a central position and decided to follow it goalwards, our defence thought better of it. While they tracked him at closeish quarters it was soon obvious that it wasn't close enough as he looked up and shot from 25 yards, his effort dipping nicely beyond the exposed Alexander and into the net. Frustrating stuff to watch. You could argue that it had been against the run of play, it was just about Leicester's first real attempt on goal, but after this their tails were up, but thankfully only briefly. We settled again quite soon and were passing well, Pablo and Jon Walters coming very close to scoring before the most controversial moment of the game 10 minutes before half time. As Pablo raced forward into the box with the ball, Kisnorbo challenged on the edge of the box and Pablo went down, but it must be said not in "Pablo fashion", he just went down and didn't really have that "hey ref!" look on his face. The ref briefly pointed for a corner, then, spotting the lino flagging like crazy he consulted him and awarded a penalty. At the time I must admit I thought it was a pen, but having seen the replay I can't make my mind up 100%. However, the red card the ref produced for Kisnorbo looked harsh at the time, and even more so on replay. The ref agreed and rescinded it later. Lee dispatched a far better penalty than we saw at Charlton, and we were ahead again. Although we came close to adding another, that was pretty much it until half time. After the break, we were very much the better side, not needing to soak up much from Leicester who were under par, perhaps understandably with only ten men. As a 3rd goal looked almost inevitable, Town looked slightly more at ease, and after almost 65 minutes we got the goal to relax us in the stands. David Wright was making use of some regular gaping holes on the right and surged forward, sending in a cross which Pablo got a head to. The ball travelled on to the far post where Jon Walters crashed it into the net from a few yards. It was frustrating that we never really made use of the chances that came our way from this point, another high scoring game might've been possible, but Town remained professional and would not let the Foxes back into the game. We saw Liam Trotter get another run out and Billy Clarke too, the pair combining at one point when Clarke looped a forward ball to Trotter on the left, who confidently crossed to Pablo close to goal but his shot was saved. All in all an enjoyable game if not the most free flowing or spectacular. A wins a win and all that, and on balance the points deserved to come Town's way.
Neither team were exactly in form going into this fixture, Town away from home are at best average, and Charlton were putting together a poor home run of their own, having won only once in their last 6. This game had draw written all over it, but turned out to be anything but with Charlton making easy work of killing the game in the first half. Town lined up with only a couple of changes despite various bouts of flu in the camp, Fabian Wilnis started with Alex Bruce dropping out altogether, and Gavin Williams was once again preferred in midfield. Tommy Miller made a comeback as Sylvain Legwinski was not fit to play any part. The formation was the much maligned 4-5-1 which has seen little success so far for Town, meaning Pablo dropped to the bench. Charlton got off to the perfect start by scoring within the first few minutes, and to rub salt into the wounds, it was a couple of former Tractor Boys who combined to set the home side on the way to victory. Matt Holland sent in a cross from the right which Darren Ambrose headed in at the back post. Easy stuff for them and sloppy from us. Town were struggling to keep up, or wake up as Charlton worked hard at increasing their lead, and it was probably surprising that it took another half an hour for the second to come. The goal was from a corner and should have been claimed or at least cleared by Neil Alexander, but the ball found its way through to Iwelumo who couldn't have missed from all of less than a foot. Poor again. This triggered Jim Magilton to change the formation to 4-4-2, bringing on Pablo Counago for Gavin Williams. This certainly proved to be a positive mood for Town who at last seemed to be able to at least threaten to be a threat. It would get worse before it got better though, and the tally at half time was 3 nil as a long ball was ignored by the Town defence but picked up by Charlton, the ball being passed out to Ambrose who rifled home again. After the halftime break Jim had obviously given out a few rollickings and he made his final two substitutions, removing Dan Harding and Gary Roberts and bringing on Danny Haynes and a stranger to the side this season, Sito. The changes certainly had the desired affect, and Town looked sharper and pushed Charlton as they should have done from the start of the match. Just as Charlton had a dream start in the first half, it seemed Town would do exactly the same when Pablo Counago won a penalty just a couple of minutes in. Alan Lee stepped up but conjured a pathetic spot kick which was comfortably saved. Heads didn't drop though and we continued to push, Town now very much the side on top of the match in all but goals. We had shots against the woodwork, near misses and blocked efforts but the goal would not come, and as the home side started to counter Town's new found rythm it looked as though we had missed our chance to get back into the match. We did however finally make a breakthrough. It was worth the wait. Haynes and Walters were both involved before Lee crossed into the box to Pablo, who feigned to go one way and went the other before sending a fantastic back heel shot into the corner from 10 yards out. It was a special goal and a shame that it ultimately earned us nothing. The hunt for a second goal came close on several occasions, Town played with style and were hungry to avenge the first half humiliation, but ultimately time ran out and our away woes continue to be a problem. The game had turned nasty late on and after the final whistle had gone, Alan Lee was floored by a punch from Jonathan Fortune who was duly sent off. Plenty of positives to take from the second half, but the first half outweighed it in terms of sheer incompetence. It was good to see Pablo put in a good display away from home, something that he'll hopefully be doing with some consistency.
This one started out so well, we ran Stoke ragged in the early stages, but it all went downhill from there. The equaliser triggered a Stoke wake-up and from that point both sides struggled to dominate, and the second half was more than disappointing. At least we were treated to a fantastic opening spell. The line-up looked more like a side Jim would've picked earlier in the season with Alan Lee returning up front with Pablo Counago, and Jason De Vos back in after a knock meaning Fabian Wilnis made way. Jon Walters played in the left of midfield. The pace at which Town started also was reminiscent of one of our stronger early season performances, but unlike many of those games we never made it count and as it tailed off we were punished for it overall. Danny Haynes had one of his better days, running rings round the opposition out on the right and carving out chances for himself and others, and to cap it all he scored a superb goal. He showed his intent in the first few minutes, after racing away down the wing he appeared to cross the ball which soared high over the keeper towards the far top corner from an acute deep angle, the keeper just tipping it over. Cross or shot? Stoke had their chances in the opening stages but were not as tidy as Town in their build up. They were boisterous from the start without being nasty, and certainly had a physical presence which they used to their advantage. I took just 18 minutes for Town to unlock the Stoke defence, with Alan Lee feeding Danny Haynes out wide towards the edge of the box. The ball tempted the defender out towards it but Haynes just beat him to it and nicked it around him neatly, this left him free to lash home a shot across goal which went in off the far post, a really sturdy finish. The same player almost doubled the lead a few minutes later but this time keeper Simonsen was equal to it. As efforts came in from Owen Garvan and Alan Lee to name but two, it looked like we had settled ourselves and has Stoke on the ropes, but instead we faded, sat back thinking we had it in the bag maybe and allowed Stoke back into it. It was around the half hour mark when the visitors got back on terms. Former Town man Ricardo Fuller was put through wide of goal but just 10 yards out, and he hit a very hard and low shot through Neil Alexander and in at he far post. It hadn't been coming, although there had been several warnings that might've encouraged the Town defence to get an earlier foot in. Stoke were obviously lifted by this and finished the half in postitive fashion. After the break Town made efforts to rediscover the rhythm that had been lost in the closing stages on the first half, but Stoke defended solidly. A Tommy Miller free kick never really caused trouble, but Ipswich came really close to regaining the lead from the not-as-unlikely-as-before-but-still-unlikely source of David Wright, who walloped a 25+ yards effort narrowly over the bar. We soon began to resort to the long ball over top, which given Pablo's height was perhaps a little hopeful. Alan Lee was barely noticable after the break and so it seemed unlikely that he would be gathering such balls. Town had spells of play that almost sparked us back into life, but frustratingly the ball always seemed to be a yard beyond our feet, or the defender would intercept in the nick of time, that sort of thing. Pablo had a shout for a penalty turned down when he was clearly held with 2 arms around his neck a couple of yards from goal. One of those days. A crucial point of the game came with 20 minutes left, when Ricardo Fuller broke free of all around him and found himself one on one with the keeper. Alexander came out to meet him and as Fuller tapped the ball around him, the Town keeper kept his composure and dived perfectly gathering the ball with 2 hands at arms length. Fuller should have done better, but the timing from Alexander was spot on. At this point I think I realised I'd be happy with a point. Points of note then, Danny Haynes had a blistering show, really hit the ground running and kept going until the end. Sito was again excellent bar the odd lapse, perhaps exposed once or twice by Haynes not tracking back. Neil Alexander made some good stops and denying Fuller through that brilliant save was itself worthy of the point we took.
Town can consider themselves hard done by after a great performance against one of the Premier League’s best away sides was spoilt [once again] by a very poor refereeing decision. Liam Trotter was sent to the dressing room for nothing more than a hard challenge midway through the first half, a moment that tarnished what was proving to be an exciting cup tie. Pompey looked strong, they did not stoop to weakening their team beyond recognition, their African stars were present as Portsmouth would lose them to the Africa Nations Cup after this match anyway, so nothing to lose. Town are obviously not in a position to do so anyway, but were forced into changes by illness and injury. The most notable and concerning change was Jon Walters missing out altogether. Jaime Peters joined the party on the bench alongside long term absentee Richard Naylor. Fabian Wilnis started and as Jason De Vos was injured, he was handed the Captain’s armband. Billy Clarke started the game alongside Pablo Counago. Pompey’s composure and class was quite clear from the outset, they did most things well and looked like a threat whenever they broke forward. Thankfully their shooting seemed more than a little off today, and in fact overall they didn’t seem 100% interested in the game, not in an arrogant way but maybe minds elsewhere. For the opening stages, we largely matched them shot for shot. It took less than 25 minutes for the game to be ruined by referee Mark Halsey, and in spectacularly mad fashion. Liam Trotter who had been having a steady game, challenged Pedro Medes in the wide midfield. The tackle looked hard, and Mendes appeared to get to the ball first, but it didn’t look malicious let alone two footed. Halsey called over Trotter and gave him a talking to, no other players got involved in what looked like a normal challenge, and perhaps a booking. But after an age during which he obviously consulted someone via his earpiece, Halsey reached for his back pocket and showed a red card. Ipswich players and fans alike were stunned, as was Liam Trotter. It was clear that Halsey was going to give a yellow, and in fact Trotter himself confirms that this is what the ref told him, but something changed his mind. A moment later Mendes, who had obviously been recovering from some sort of multiple gunshot wound, sprang to his feet and received pats on the back from team mates. Premier League football had come to Portman Road. The whole incident just served to spur Town on. The game was still well balanced and both sides had chances, with Town having an Pablo effort cleared off the line. It was good to see that Ipswich kept their tails up, and at half time were still very clearly in with a shout. After the break we saw David Nugent come on for the theatrical Pedro Mendes who had been constantly booed by the home fans after the sending off. “Oh no, he hasn’t failed to score at Portman Road in 5 or so previous visits, he’s bound to… yes, one nil”. We’d had a chance saved at the other end, but just 5 minutes into the half Nugent broke through the middle after a huge punt forward. Clearly onside, the Ipswich back line faltered arms aloft before giving chase. Despite being bustled by Alex Bruce, Nugent knocked the ball past Neil Alexander from 15 yards to score what would be the only goal of the game. Pompey now enjoyed a more buoyant spell with 2 or 3 good shots, one cannoning off the bar beyond a stranded Alexander. Town did keep at it and showed great character to keep up the pressure on the visitors, but they were now getting some of their best chances of the game and only their poor finishing really kept them from scoring again. The most glaring miss came as former Blue Herman Hreidarsson crossed right across goal, and with not a defender in sight Utaka jumped to tap home from 3 yards but completely missed the ball. This almost proved costly as Town upped their tempo in the final 20 minutes and carved out good chances for themselves. David James was now the busiest Pompey player, and he made 3 or 4 fantastic saves. Alan Lee came on for Gavin Williams ten minutes from the end, added a bit more muscle in the final push for an equaliser and he got in a powerful header that James stopped. Jaime Peters had replaced Billy Clarke slightly earlier and had added some pace on the left which gave Portsmouth some trouble. Danny Haynes was also running on all cylinders and was proving a handful for the visitors. He managed a couple of cracking efforts, the last being our final chance to pull anything out of the hat, when late sub Richard Naylor laid off the ball to nearby Haynes on the edge of the box who lashed in a goal bound shot. It looked to be going inside the post but James dived full stretch to save the low level effort to cap a great performance from him. Had the game finished with the same score line with both sides having 11 players on the pitch, I might have felt comfortable with this result and still pleased with the performance from Town. But after the ridiculous red card handed Portsmouth the advantage, it all seems a little sour. Who knows how the game might have panned out? One thing though, the ref has once again played far too great a part in our downfall in the FA Cup. It was a really poor showing from a “Premier League Ref” and I hope he is man enough to admit the mistake. I hope the matter is probed further too, and that we find out exactly what the conversation was over his head set. But on both points, I doubt it.
Town put their Christmas blues behind them and came up with a great display of what they are capable of on the pitch, and against the league leaders too. West Brom are most peoples tip for the title, and therefore presumed a very tough cookie even with our fantastic home record. It was business as usual for Town at home however, and the 2 nil score line was well deserved. Luis Castro Sito was back in the side after his short spell out with concussion. He was straight back into his recent form though, and completed the whole game with a very good shout for man of the match. Alongside him, Alex Bruce was fit again. Alan Lee was rested for most of the game, sitting it out on the bench until the latter stages. Jonathan Walters and Pablo Couñago paired up at the front with Liam Trotter earning himself a start. Tommy Miller found himself suspended; Gavin Williams was slotted into the midfield once again. It looked bad for Ipswich from the off as West Brom came at us as expected, and came close to scoring. Most of the first 10 minutes was in the visitors favour. But we eventually settled and play balanced out, and we were far more creative than we had seen at Leicester and Coventry. Town had a guilt edged chance to take the lead within the first quarter of an hour after Walters was clean through onto a ball from Pablo. Advancing into the box he looked sure to score, but very un-Walters like he blazed over from 15 yards. Town were easily equal to the Baggies now, and it was end to end stuff, both sides having good chances on goal. Liam Trotter was getting involved with some nifty exchanges from the midfield up to Pablo, and got into shooting situations himself. Gavin Williams had been putting himself about in the middle of the park, but continually gave the ball away after doing the hard work, which was earning him a bit of negative attention from the crowd. Another excellent chance passed without reward as Town found themselves with 3 men in space on the edge of the West Brom area. With Walters and Pablo closer in on goal and virtually unmarked either side of him, Danny Haynes chose to shoot from outside the box, with his effort rising over the bar as we all seemed to know it would! Very soon after the Baggies missed a sitter, with Ishmael Miller finding himself free of the attentions of the defence wide of the back post but unable to direct a powerful header on target, although only narrowly over the bar. The best effort of the half went to Pablo though, who carved out a chance for himself left of goal then unleashed a curling effort towards the far post. Keeper Dean Kiely was beaten but the ball frustratingly rebounded off the inside of the post before being cleared. Pablo was really running on all cylinders now, chasing everything that was remotely near him and skipping over challenges with the ball at his feet. Town had several good chances that were in fairness mainly well defended by West Brom, although a few were narrowly off target. The Baggies had a few good efforts that reminded us who we were playing, Kevin Phillips rattling the bar with a long range effort. Both teams restarted after the break at a similar pace, however Town soon established more of an attacking pattern and were creating more of the chances. West Brom continued to look threatening but were becoming wasteful. It seemed that chance after chance was going begging for Town and as the game wore on it began to look like “one of those games”. It wasn’t until 15 minutes from time that we finally unlocked the Baggies defence, but the goal was worth waiting for. David Wright played the ball out of defence and to Jon Walters who in turn fed Liam Trotter wide left. Trotter galloped forward and sent in a cross from a deep position which was met by Wright following up the move at the near post. His header beat the keeper for what must be one of the most satisfying goals all season, a cracker. Just a few minutes later Town almost doubled their lead after Sito tricked around a player in his own half then sprinted into the oppositions half. He rounded another before taking the ball on into the box and knocking it back to Pablo in the centre who’s shot was saved. Sito was close in at this point and was surprised by the rebound which the keeper was able to gather. A goal for Sito would’ve been the icing on the cake. Alan Lee came on shortly before Ipswich wrapped up the points. Town were awarded a free kick a good 25 yards or more out and left of the area. Gavin Williams consulted closely with Jason De Vos over the ball as the ref marched out the ten yards, before sending in a decent delivery to the back post which was met by De Vos who headed home. Straight off the training ground by the looks of it. Late sub Billy Clarke almost got a third for us as he was sent clear but his touch was too close to the advancing Kiely who got something on it and leapt to his feet to catch the looping rebound. This was a truly fantastic result, one of our best performances of the season, in a game where keeping a clean sheet was itself an achievement. Two very good goals to claim the points, and results elsewhere having been kind to us over our Christmas blip, we are now back in the top 6. Will steer clear of the subject of away form for a fortnight or so. I will give the ref a mention, who was absolutely dreadful in his inconsistency and lack of grip on the game.
Blackpool gave Town a run for their money not so long ago in the away fixture but started this game missing a key player in defence, and with Ipswich wanting to both bounce back from the previous home game as well as build on successive away wins they were expecting a tough test. As it happened the Tractor Boys looked comfortable throughout although at times didn't actually hit full pace. Jim Magilton decided to stick with the side that won at Palace in midweek, meaning Velice Sumulikoski started a home game for the first time and Pablo Counago dropped to the bench. Jon Walters partnered Alan Lee in attack, and Richard Naylor was included at the back. Things quickly got worse for Blackpool as the game got underway, as they lost 2 more defenders through injury forcing some early substitutions. This probably started the alarm bells ringing for the visitors who looked more and more defensive as the half wore on, having made an attempt to begin the game at pace, playing us at our own game. Town were on top from the early stages, and quite soon settled into a pattern where we had at least half-chance after half-chance, with some clear cut chances thrown in. Jon Walters was first to test the Blackpool keeper, running in from outside the box and coshing a low one across the goal which Rachubka palmed away. Walters then fluffed the return off a one-two with Alan Lee who delivered a perfect ball to his feet just 8 yards out, but Walters miskicked and keeper and defender cleared easily. David Norris was lively in the midfield and tried his luck in the box with a headed effort from 15 yards, but his effort went narrowly wide of the far post. Then it was Alan Lee's turn to have a go as he rattled the bar at the Greene King Stand end with a volley from just inside the box, the ball bouncing back down into play but safety too. Between these periods of good pressure for Town, the game was often a little flat, and after half an hour there was a brief stoppage and this seemed to kill the momentum for us. In the final 5 minutes of the half, Blackpool found legs and pushed a bit more. After half time things were quite similar to the passage of play that saw our best chances in the first. This time though we made a couple of them count. The opener was a superb effort, Sumulikoski brought the ball out of defence after a Blackpool attack broke down, and slotted forward to Walters who evaded the attentions of a couple of defenders to get the ball in the box before passing back to Miller. Miller then slotted the ball over to Lee, who with his back to goal himself, laid it off to Shumi who absolutely belted the ball into the roof of the net off the inside of the post. He seemed pretty pleased with himself, and after receiving the congrats from his team mates, ran over for high fives with the bench. Tommy Miller had a good game, apart from his shooting, and he blasted a good chance set up from Walters straight at the keeper soon after. But Walters himself doubled the score when he chased a cleared ball deep into the opposition's half and shrugged off the large defender to muscle through and shoot past the keeper. If any 2 players deserved to score today, it was Walters and Shumi. We should have mopped up the points beyond doubt with a few of the chances we missed, but we couldn't, and Blackpool pulled from the hat what thankfully turned out to be a consolation, thanks to some poor officiating. The goal was perfectly legal, but Town will feel more than a little duped into conceding this one in the 89th. Alan Quinn went in to challenge for the ball and the Blackpool player got their first, his kick cannoning off Quinn's boot and forward to Paul Dickov. The Blackpool frontman would've been offside had the ball been played forward by one of his own players, but it wasn't. This didn't stop the linesman flagging furiously, and every player except Dickov stopped playing. Even Bywater only made a slight gesture in attempt to save as Dickov rounded him and placed the ball in the net. Fair play to him, all this was behind his back and he was unaware that all in the ground thought he was looking like an idiot. The ref though, had seen how the ball came to be at Dickov's feet, and knew it wasn't offside, and he spoke with the lino briefly, then gave the goal. Unfair, sure, but what to do? Sack the linesman probably. Bottom line is harsh, but reads "play to the whistle". A good three points easily won despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise. Signs are that the strikers are starting to get some form back, as they're getting the chances again at least. On another day this could've been 6 nil, but we'd still have only got 3 points.
This was certainly not the fixture we were after in order to bounce back from a disappointing display against Watford, but Town stepped up and delivered a good performance away from home, bagging all 3 points too. Danny Haynes had been omitted from the team right up until the last moment when Alan Quinn unselfishly turned his ankle in the warm up, leaving Jim to pick a last minute replacement. Kind of typical that Haynes then scored the winner. Richard Naylor made a welcome return at the back, and put in a fine battling display typical of the old Naylor we know at the expense of David Wright. It was Naylor who was instrumental in this win, clearing off the line at one end of the pitch in the first half, before sort of scoring at the other. Sort of, as it was his volleyed effort that thumped into Haynes's head before looping into the net. Haynes of course claimed the goal, although it hardly proved a point on his selection for the match as he knew nothing about it. But hey, right time right place and all that, and it was the match winner. The midfield had a different look from the off with Velice Sumulikoski starting for Town for the first time, Danny Haynes and Tommy Miller alongside David Norris. Owen Garvan had to sit this one out on the bench. Jon Walters and Alan Lee were paired up front with Pablo Counago as a sub. The Macedonian 'Shumi', was at full pace for the entire match, a real non-stop performance, chasing every ball. He's looking better all the time. Miller had a good game perhaps rising to the challenge of having all those new faces in the centre of the park. The front two were a threat all night, although not getting a goal between them they looked comfortable and made the Palace defence work hard throughout. Pablo came on for the last 5 for Lee, and faced a tired defence but did not have enough time to carve out too many chances. All in all this was a well earned win, an intelligent performance that ground down Palace and latterly frustrated them right to the final whistle. There were few threats from the home side that weren't dealt with easily, the Naylor clearance probably their best effort. We remain in the play-off positions and look well placed fixture wise to push to at least cement that or even flirt with the top two. If we can only get that dodgy home form sorted...
PaperView updated We did it! Amazing, an away win after 11 months of waiting. And no more fitting place to end the run than at the place it started, Hillsborough. The game was won with a brace from the Alans - Quinn and Lee, either side of the break. Jim gave debuts to some of the new faces he'd brought to Portman Road in the last few days, David Norris and Stephen Bywater started while Velice Sumulikoski began his Town career on the bench. Almost new face Alan Quinn also started his first away game for Town. This of course meant that there would be casualties amongst the regulars, Danny Haynes dropped to the bench along with Alan Lee, and Gary Roberts was nowhere to be seen. No Neil Alexander of course who signed for Rangers and in fact made his debut as a late sub this weekend. Town looked bright throughout this match, the new signings all looked enthusiastic and solid. Alan Quinn looked like a very positive player with a good touch and was keen to break forward. David Norris looked like a quality player and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet, he was pulled back by Owls keeper Grant having jinxed around him with the ball. He did his best to stay on his feet and score but didn't hit the target, at which point the ref should have blown. His failure to go down perhaps illustrates the honesty of our new midfielder. Velice Sumulikoski got a quarter of an hour in the second half when he replaced Owen Garvan, he was solid enough and as with Quinn pushed forward eagerly. He will hopefully adapt to the English game easily and quickly. At the back Steven Bywater was never in trouble and seemed commanding of his back four when he needed to be. Also it was good to see that he and Alex Bruce never even laid a finger on each other for the entire match! The injection of new players into the team at short notice did not upset the apple cart too much all things considered. Perhaps expectedly, there was not the fluidity that we sometimes see from Town, although this is usually reserved for home games. We were however, a solid and attacking unit which given time should only improve as players get used to one another. The existing players appeared to be boosted by the new faces, one or two will need to make sure they keep it up or be at risk of losing out altogether. Healthy competition as they say. The opening goal came from Alan Quinn after just 4 minutes, the ex-Owl following up some excellent persistence from Jon Walters on the left. He laid the ball back to Quinn who then rifled in a rising shot from 25 yards to beat Grant. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes however, when Wednesday had a shot well blocked from a corner, the rebound found Marcus Tudgay lurking just outside the box who did well to punt it first time through a mass of bodies. As we quite often see at home, Town did not let this set-back put them off their stride and continued to push. It wasn't until 20 minutes from time though that Town regained the lead. Alan Lee had replaced a struggling Pablo Counago just 5 minutes before the visitors won a corner. This was cleared but only to Alex Bruce, worked his defender and got space to put in a deep cross left to right which was met by the head of Quinn. The ball back into the middle was strange, heading down and bouncing up towards Lee who, with his back to goal flicked the ball over his shoulder into the net from 8 yards, a kind of untidy overhead kick. You could sense the euphoria, and then the relief 20 minutes later as at last the final whistle came and gave Town their first away win of the season. The signs are all good with the new guys making very obvious impact, and maybe with the away hoodoo now broken we can start picking up enough points on the road to cement our place in the top 6, a place regained with this result and held onto thanks to some other fortuitous results.
This was not a game to write home about, Sheffield United were not exactly setting the league on fire and on paper should have been there for the taking. Town rarely played any of the structured football they are capable of against an average side. After trailing at half time to a recently goal-shy James Beattie strike, perhaps surprisingly Town got back on level terms with an Alan Lee effort. Unfortunately our man at the match, Dec, has had an attack of apathy after watching last nights uninspiring game and so a we'll spare you a full match report this time (send us your own report, if you'd like). Definitely 2 points dropped at home, which sees us slide out of the top 6, just hanging on to 7th place by the skin of our teeth (thanks Southampton for taking a point at Wolves).
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