Ipswich Town praised for providing an ‘unbelievable night’ at Walsham-le-Willows

IPSWICH Town have been praised for providing an “unbelievable night” following their John Banks Suffolk Premier Cup tie at Walsham-le-Willows.

A strong Ipswich line-up won Tuesday night’s first-round tie 5-1 at Summer Road against the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side.

The match attracted a ground record attendance of 745, and provided a memorable occasion for the non-league club and their players who have been used to playing in front of an average home league attendance of just 61 this season.

Ipswich Town’s decision to withdraw from the competition after winning it in the 2009/10 season was greeted with dismay in many quarters beyond the corridors of Portman Road.

But former manager Paul Jewell instigated their return this season which was universally welcomed in non-league circles in the county, and Ipswich did their standing in the local community a power of good at Walsham, where the club’s hierarchy were out in force.

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Not only was new manager Mick McCarthy sat in the stand but his assistant Terry Connor, under-18s manager Russell Osman, chief executive Simon Clegg and player liaison officer Simon Milton were among those also in attendance.

Walsham chairman Mike Powles, who initially anticipated a crowd in the region of 200-300 before knowing who would be playing for Ipswich, said: “The financial implications will be tremendous for our club.

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“If you add the food sales, the raffle and programmes as well it will be a significant amount. We have had an unbelievable night – if you had one of these every four or five years you would be happy!

“Not only did Ipswich send a strong side, but the new management team came along and so did Simon Clegg.

“The players mixed afterwards and signed autographs and they have all been very amenable.”

Walsham manager Paul Smith said he was proud of his players, who were not overwhelmed by the presence of nine players in the visitors’ starting line-up who have appeared in the first team this season.

He said: “We spoke to them beforehand and asked them to give it all they had got, and they have done that.

“We moved the ball well, didn’t panic when we were in possession and the players didn’t hide. We had three or four chances in the first half but we didn’t work the goalkeeper.

“I was very wary of the strength of the squad they brought, and I didn’t want us to concede an early goal. I looked at my watch and realised half-an-hour had gone and it was still 0-0, which was a big plus for us. Had they scored early it would have made the evening so much more difficult.

“We have been playing 4-3-3 and could have gone 4-4-2, but didn’t want to get outplayed in the middle, so we went 4-5-1 with a diamond shape and they didn’t penetrate us in the opening half-an-hour.

“We knew it was going to be backs-against-the-wall, so we wanted to keep it as tight as we could and not concede too many goals, and to score at the end was the icing on the cake for us.”

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