O’Connor and Murray set to face Haverhill

SHANE O’Connor will get his first chance to prove Paul Jewell wrong when he faces Haverhill Rovers in a pre-season friendly tonight.

The 21-year-old, who was left out of Jewell’s pre-season trip to the Netherlands, has instead been included in Russell Osman’s Town XI squad for the trip to the Ridgeons League Premier Division side (7.30pm ko).

Also included is striker Ronan Murray and promising full-back Joe Whight in what is largely an Under-18s squad.

The match also represents Haverhill Rovers’ first pre-season friendly this summer with manager Peter Betts predicting this season’s Premier Division will be the tightest in years.

And while he might not have a strong financial budget at his disposal, Betts believes work on the training ground – including double sessions on a Saturday – could make a massive difference.

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Betts said: “There are financial restrictions at the club and half the players don’t get paid.

“But they know what is required of them and that is why we have been training three times a week.

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“It is the most open division for five to ten years and I think getting off to a good start will be crucial. I could see any one of eight teams winning it – and I would put us among them if we can get the right players in.”

While still searching for an experienced new striker, Betts has been busy wheeling and dealing this summer with new defenders Darren Coe, Ryan Geoghegan and Jack Wilkinson all expected to feature tonight.

For some in Osman’s Ipswich squad, it will be their second match in consecutive days after the official Under-18s side started their pre-season programme yesterday with a 6-3 win against Leyton Orient.

Academy director Sammy Morgan this morning said he was pleased with the work-out which saw Jack Simmons and Jack Marriott both bag a brace.

Caolon Lavery and Nicolay Schroder, who missed all of last season with a knee problem, completed the scoring at Playford Road.

Schroder said: ““It was unbelievable to be back out there playing football again. Scoring a goal topped it off as well and now I’m hoping to push on.

“The knee still feels a little sore but the adrenaline rush of being out on the pitch again was amazing and helped get me through.

“I’ve had some bad times over the last year, both physically and mentally with the injury but the staff at the club and the players have been fantastic to me. They have really helped me cope and I can’t thank them enough.”

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