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.