Dartford 0-1 Ipswich Town: Chirewa wins it as six signings make first appearances

Rakeem Harper with this first half effort during the pre-season friendly at Dartford

Rakeem Harper with this first half effort during the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix

Tawanda Chirewa’s second-half goal was the difference as Ipswich Town began pre-season with victory at Dartford. 

Manager Paul Cook fielded all six of his new signings as his senior side played a goalless first 45 minutes, before a young side emerged for the second half and eventually found a winner as Chirewa bent the ball home from outside the box. 

The game at Princes Park was played out in front of a vibrant atmosphere as fans returned for a first Ipswich away game since February of 2020, with the game also the first time the Blues have been in action at a match attended by both teams’ fans since the Coronavirus shut-down last March. 

Wes Burns under pressure during the pre-season friendly at Dartford

Wes Burns under pressure during the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix

It resulted in a pre-season game played an unusually high tempo, with Paul Cook’s six summer signings all playing the first half before the Town boss’s entire senior XI all exited at the break. 

Wes Burns, Lee Evans, Rekeem Harper, Macauley Bonne, Vaclav Hladky and Matt Penney all showed flashes of their ability during an opening 45 minutes of action which ended goalless, on an afternoon where former Town striker Paul Mariner was remembered with a minute’s applause just a few hours after news of his death was made public. 

Cook’s XI in the second half was made up largely of players from Town’s Under 18s side, as well as Tomas Holy, Corrie Ndaba and Idris El Mizouni, with the young side struggling to match their hosts power and intensity and, as a result saw little of the ball for long spells. 

But they found their feet well and eventually a winner, as Chirewa took aim from outside the box and fired home.  

Town players remember Paul Mariner before the pre-season friendly at Dartford

Town players remember Paul Mariner before the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix

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Next up is a pre-season visit to Bury Town on Tuesday evening, 

All six of Cook’s summer signings played from the start, with Bonne nearly making his impact inside two minutes as he rattled a shot against the top of the bar from just outside the box. 

The forward was paired with James Norwood in attack, with the former Colchester man dropping deep on occasion to form Cook’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, though played much higher than you would expect a No.10 to operate.  

The game was played at a good pace as Dartford pushed and probed at the Ipswich defence without finding a way through, before Woolfenden had a header deflected wide from an Evans corner. 

Macauley Bonne hits the crossbar with this first half effort during the pre-season friendly at Dartf

Macauley Bonne hits the crossbar with this first half effort during the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix

While Norwood nearly connected with a good low cross but couldn’t quite beat the Dartford goalkeeper to the ball as danger passed. 

Dartford kept Town honest, with Toto Nsiala needing to dig out a low cross well, before Norwood thumped the wall with a free-kick before the sides headed to the dressing rooms at the break. 

Cook changed his entire XI, with only Holy, Ndaba and El Mizouni having played for the Blues in league action previously, with the rest of the side made up of many of the players involved in Ipswich’s run to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup. 

Dartford changed their XI as well, with Holy needing to push Dan Roberts’ shot over the top of the bar, before El Mizouni shot wide from the edge of the box. 

Mixed message Manager Paul Cook pulls on the captainÕs armband before the pre-season friendly at Dar

Mixed message Manager Paul Cook pulls on the captainÕs armband before the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix

Holy was kept busy, before Chirewa took aim from nearly 25 yards out and bent the ball through traffic and into the far corner of the net to give his side the lead and delight the traveling supporters. 

It was ultimately enough for victory as the defence held firm under Dartford pressure to take victory, with the young Blues creating the better of the chances during the closing stages without being able to find a second goal.  

First half

Dartford: Wilks; Trialist, Graham, Wynter, Hill, Bonner, Husin, Murtagh, Robinson, Hyde, Azeez

Ipswich Town: Hladky; Donacien, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Penney; Harper, Evans; Burns, Dobra, Bonne, Norwood

Second half

Dartford: King, Trialist, Trialist, Essam, Oduado, Bonner, Jebb, Trialist, Porter, Wanadio, Roberts

Ipswich Town: Holy, Agbaje, Stewart, Ndaba, Armin, El Mizouni, Chirewa, Humphreys, Nwabueze, Valentine, Buabo.

The Town management team remember Paul Mariner before the pre-season friendly at Dartford

The Town management team remember Paul Mariner before the pre-season friendly at Dartford - Credit: Pagepix


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