Irish trip more than serves its purpose

THE goals flowed almost as freely as the Guinness for the fans in Ireland in a trip that more than served its purpose for Jim Magilton and his squad.

Derek Davis

THE goals flowed almost as freely as the Guinness for the fans in Ireland in a trip that more than served its purpose for Jim Magilton and his squad.

Town rounded off the tour with a 3-1 win at Glentoran's Oval, after beating Donegal Celtic 4-1 and Cliftonville 7-0 earlier in the week.

The players put in hours of gruelling work with double sessions some days, with team bonding on the golf course and in the Belfast bars and it culminated with Magilton proclaiming the trip a success.

But there were other things that still need to be worked on and the sluggish starts that hurt Town away from home last season is a lesson that still needs to be learned.

All three games went pretty much the same way, and indeed the friendly at Brentford the Friday before, with the Blues looking second best to begin with but finishing strongly.

Most Read

Magilton vowed: “Starting games better is something we will be working more on. We talk about it often. It was noticeable last year how we started games at home very brightly but not so good away from home.

“Against Glentoran we looked disjointed first half and didn't play as a unit.

“We started the game very slowly and were sloppy and so were made to pay for it. Glentoran played very well. They were first to the ball and sharper and it took us time to get going. Maybe that was down to the tough week they have had.

“We played better second half and I was delighted to see Alan Lee and Pablo Counago score and Gary Roberts - again - who has been very good on tour.”

Roberts has probably been the stand out player of the pre-season so far but the test will be as the opposition gets stronger with home matches against West Brom and West Ham to come.

After experimenting with Jaime Peters at right back, Magilton reverted to David Wright in that position, with Gareth McAuley and Alex Bruce in the centre and Ben Thatcher, who could be offered a deal, at left back and that looks like a possible starting back line for the new season.

Despite Roberts' form, the midfield of Jon Walters, Owen Garvan, Tommy Miller and Alan Quinn, is the most probable, while Kevin Lisbie will look to dislodge Counago or Lee up front when Magilton goes with the traditional 4-4-2.

David Norris is likely to get a run out this week either at Gillingham or Tiptree. Town have no injuries worries right now, just a few aching limbs.

Magilton was pleased with the work his players had done at the campus where the Northern Ireland national team also train.

He said: “It has been a tough week training-wise for them. They have been pushing themselves.”

“We have seen the competition within the squad has improved. There has been a real tempo to training and keenness to train and everyone is desperate to play.

“We have noticed one or two things about individuals - good and bad.”

The bad included Danny Haynes flashing up at Donegal Celtic and being the only substitute, apart from goalkeeping coach James Hollman, not used at Glentoran was part of his punishment.

The Glens finished behind champions Linfield in the Irish league and it was their third game in five days after drawing with Hearts in a friendly on Monday and being held by Latvian side SK Liepajas Metalurgs in the UEFA Cup

The Glens went ahead on ten minutes when Daryl Fordyce, who had a spell at Portsmouth, met Jason Hill's cross with a powerful header directed past Shane Supple

The Blues had earlier been served a warning when former Blackburn Rovers striker Gary Hamilton hit a post with a 20-yard free kick.

The friendly coupled as a testimonial for Glentoran skipper Paul Leeman who has served the Irish League club for 11 years and literally lives just round the corner from the Oval ground. Ironically the man of the moment conceded a late penalty for Town to secure the win.

Alan Lee equalised for Town seven minutes later when he nodded in a Jon Walters' cross. After the interval Counago glanced home a Tommy Miller corner before Roberts wrapped up the scoring when he netted from the penalty spot after Jordan Rhodes was brought down by Leeman.

Glentoran: Morris (James Taylor) McGovern (Gardener, 73) Neill (McMenamin, 32) Hill, Leeman (Harris, 89), Fitzgerald (Carson, 68 - Berry, 71) Ward (John Taylor, 46 - Simpson, 62) Fordyce (Maxwell, 46), Halliday (Burrows, 32) Hamilton, Scullion (Boyce, 45). Subs not used: Ferguson,

Ipswich Town: Supple: Wright (Balkestein, 67) McAuley (Smith, 71), Bruce (Naylor, 65) Thatcher (Casement, 58): Walters, (Roberts, 69) Miller (Trotter, 62) Garvan (Shumulikoski, 62) Quinn: Lee (Rhodes, 56) Counago (Peters, 56). Subs not used: Holman, Haynes.