Hope for the future despite poor result

HOW people will perceive this defeat, and performance, will depend much on preconceptions.Those who agree with some bookies and national pundits that Town are in for a relegation fight will point to two sloppy goals conceded and think nothing has really changed, with the same old problems continuing.

By Derek Davis

HOW people will perceive this defeat, and performance, will depend much on preconceptions.

Those who agree with some bookies and national pundits that Town are in for a relegation fight will point to two sloppy goals conceded and think nothing has really changed, with the same old problems continuing.

If you are among those that genuinely feel Town can be in the play-off places, then the first-half display, especially by Gavin Williams and Alex Bruce in midfield, and Nicky Forster throughout, will give them much to be pleased about.


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Certainly, there were many encouraging signs and it should be remembered that both Reading and Watford lost on the opening day of last season.

But the early signs are that the Blues won't be troubling the promotion challengers, but neither will they have cause for concern at the other end.

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Jim Magilton's first Championship game in charge started well enough, with skipper Jason De Vos rousing the troops with a pre-match huddle.

The animated Magilton showed more passion and encouragement in the 90 minutes than Sven-Goran Eriksson did in his five years with England.

That fiery approach was translated on the pitch, mostly by debut-making Bruce, who set about the Palace players with determination and controlled aggression, with Williams looking to get play going once the ball had been won.

Bruce is a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international and that may reflect Charlie Woods' input as a scout under Steve McCall. Woods, a long-time associate of Sir Bobby Robson, who was presented to the crowd before the game as the club's President, does a similar role for the FAI and Town's Irish links are increasing all the time.

The other new boy, Dan Harding, got down the left flank well, showing a good understanding with his former Brighton team-mate Darren Currie.

Up front, Dean Bowditch showed plenty of good movement and clever touches but is in desperate need of a goal and will feel pressure from an increasingly-fitter Alan Lee, who had a battering-ram presence in the second half.

The constant for these two is Forster and a lot depends on him staying fit because there is no doubt he knows where goal is.

Forster took his fifth goal in as many league games on the half- hour superbly, but he won't come across many centre-halves as slow and immobile as Mark Hudson very often.

The Blues also had enough chances to go in at the break more comfortably ahead but Richard Naylor and De Vos could not guide Currie's crosses and corners, on target.

Currie is very much the Marmite of Town players, you either love him or hate him and the split appears pretty even.

But, even with his highwayman style - stand and deliver - Currie is the most likely avenue for a goal with his precision balls into the box.

Those missed opportunities hurt Town when Palace changed things around in the second half and found the Blues' soft underbelly and hit two goals in as many minutes.

De Vos had floored James Scowcroft with a convincing header but the ball fell kindly for an unmarked Jobi McAnuff, who finished superbly from a tight angle.

Then a free-kick was met by Hudson and, although Naylor cleared of the line it was hooked back in at close range by Scowcroft under pressure from Shane Supple.

Town regained their composure and Fabian Wilnis might have made amends for his defensive lapses by nodding in from Currie but again he went over the bar. Jamie Peters put a lot of effort in without making much of an impression, although he may have snatched an equaliser with a 10-yard shot that was deflected wide.

So, in front of more than 90 members of the media, the most ever at Portman Road, Magilton could not secure his first points as boss. He couldn't have asked for a better reception from the crowd, who were trying to make more noise than any other club with a decibel test. The Portman Roar, like the team, could not inspire victory but at least it offered plenty of hope and encouragement for the coming weeks and months.

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