Thatcher's return provides extra option

BEN Thatcher made a successful return to competitive football in last night's Combination Cup Group B game against Charlton at Ebbsfleet.

Elvin King

BEN Thatcher made a successful return to competitive football in last night's Combination Cup Group B game against Charlton at Ebbsfleet.

The experienced defender, who suffered a torn thigh muscle in the middle of September, will now come into contention for a place in the Ipswich Town team for their Coca-Cola Championship visit to Blackpool on Saturday.

Thatcher, 32, signed as a free agent after leaving Charlton in the summer, will not find it easy to get straight back into the Town team, with David Wright doing an excellent job in recent weeks, including an outstanding display in Saturday's 2-0 win over QPR.

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But his return strengthens manager Jim Magilton's hand just as confidence is growing in the Blues camp after a move up to eighth place.

Alex Bruce, who has sat on the bench since the end of September, also played last night, as did Ivan Campo, who was able to show his worth in front of the coaches of a Charlton club who expressed an interest in him last week.

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Pim Balkestein came through 90 minutes to prove his fitness after injury, and with Tommy Smith the only defensive injury problem at the moment, Magilton has enough talent at his disposal to keep the goals conceded column down to a minimum.

Teenage striker Jordan Rhodes was again on the scoresheet last night, with Izale McLeod equalising after the break. He later hit the post from the penalty spot for the home side.

Rhodes put the Blues in front in the 18th minute, heading home Kurt Robinson's cross. Defender Paul Watson had a header cleared off the line before Campo sent a free-kick just over as the Blues had the better of the first half. The Addicks got back on terms in the 61st minute when Chris Dickson crossed and McLeod finished from close range. Dickson came close to putting his side in front soon after but Bruce blocked his shot on the line.

Robinson missed a good chance for the Blues from a Thatcher cross, prior to Charlton missing a penalty after Bruce fouled Dickson.

Late on, Jai Reason came close to winning it for Town but his effort was cleared off the line.

Town currently sit second behind Charlton in the group, having played three games. The winners and runners-up in the two groups go through to the semi-finals.

Town reserves: Supple, Bruce, Thatcher, Campo (sub Eastman 79 mins), Watson, Balkestein, Lambe (Daniels 68), Reason, Rhodes, Upson, Robinson. Substitutes: Ainsley, Ward, Dunbar.

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