Cardiff for starters

Ipswich Town kick off their new 2005-06 season in the middle of the summer holidays - with a home clash against Cardiff City.The big kick-off seems to creep forward year by year.

By Dave Vincent

Ipswich Town kick off their new 2005-06 season in the middle of the summer holidays - with a home clash against Cardiff City.

The big kick-off seems to creep forward year by year.

The August 6 first day is one day earlier than in 2004, when Gillingham were the visitors to Portman Road and Town won 2-1 thanks to a fine Dean Bowditch goal.

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A much-changed Town team from a year ago will run out on August 6 with Darren Bent, Shefki Kuqi, Tommy Miller, Kelvin Davis, Pablo Counago and Drissa Diallo all having gone from the club.

And there will be a brand new strike force.

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New signings Nicky Forster from Reading, wearing the No. 8 shirt, and strike partner Sam Parkin, probably wearing No. 9, will certainly be involved.

They are the first of Joe Royle's new recruits to arrive and they will be joining up with their team-mates for pre-season training on July 1.

Town manager Royle said: “It is always interesting to see where the season will take us.

“Inevitably supporters will look first for the local derbies against Norwich City with extra interest. It is nice for the supporters to have them back.

“And I am sure the tractor boys and girls will be happy to have home games on Boxing Day, against Crystal Palace and New Year's Eve against Luton Town.”

Town face six games in a hectic August, giving many fans difficult choices to make between their holidays and football.

Ipswich visit Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City and Millwall and are also at home to promoted Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End in that first month.

The two fixtures fans most eagerly await are the renewed local derbies with Norwich City.

Relegated City, already one of the promotion favourites, visit Portman Road on Saturday, September 17 for what will be an emotional occasion.

Like all fixture dates these are provisional, with live televised games still to be selected by Sky.

The date and kick-off time of this fixture, and Town's visit to Carrow Road - currently set for Saturday, February 4 - could be moved. Even when they have not been televised in previous seasons, these derbies have sometimes been switched to Sundays to satisfy police requests.

December is a hectic time for Ipswich with four home fixtures including Boxing Day (Monday, December 26) when Crystal Palace and their supporters make the short trip from South London.

Ipswich also face Wolves at Portman Road on Saturday, December 3, Queens Park Rangers on the following Saturday and promoted Luton on Saturday, December 31.

Town go to Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City in between those games.

The fixture list is always a bit of a lottery but the final month of the season looks to have fallen kindly if Town are in the promotion mix come April.

There are home fixtures against Stoke City, Brighton and Derby and visits to Luton, Watford and finally Plymouth Argyle.

Travelling Ipswich fans will have slightly fewer miles to cover to follow their team on the road next season..

The promotion of Sunderland, Wigan and West Ham has removed two lengthy journeys while relegated Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Southampton are quite easy to get to.

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