Town draw against Gillingham

IPSWICH Town fans eagerly waiting the start of the Coca-Cola Championship campaign were given a reminder that there is still some work to be done.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town fans eagerly waiting the start of the Coca-Cola Championship campaign were given a reminder that there is still some work to be done.

At a sunny Priestfield Stadium last night, Gillingham - relegated to League Two last May - created worrying gaps in the visiting defence. While up front there was little to worry home keeper Simon Royce until the latter stages.

With current season ticket sales a 1,000 up on the start of last season, manager Jim Magilton's summer signings have whetted the appetite for Blues supporters.

But against a hard working Gillingham side they struggled to stamp their authority.

Town, playing in all red started with Pablo Counago and Jon Walters up front in a 4-4-2 formation with Alan Quinn on the right of midfield and Gary Roberts on the left.

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But Walters soon moved to the right of midfield leaving the Spaniard up front on his own.

Richard Wright was making his Town return after seven years away, and he received an enthusiastic cheer from the smallish travelling band of Blues fans every time he touched the ball in the early stages.

Wright organised his defence in customary manner, but he could only look on when Gills skipper Andrew Crofts sent a skidding low left-foot shot against his far post in the 21st minute.

Within 60 seconds, Simon Royce had to be smart to palm away a 25-yard blockbuster by Walters.

Included in the Town starting line-up was 24-year-old Czech Republic central defender Roman Hubnik, who is having a trial with the Blues.

The captain of the Czech Under-21 side in last season's European finals last summer is currently on the books of FC Moscow and has played eight first team games in their current campaign.

Hubnik started alongside Gareth McAuley, who acted as the Ipswich skipper - perhaps a pointer to things to come.

Dutch signing Pim Balkestein filled the troublesome left back position enthusiastically, but Ipswich were under more pressure in the 26th minute when the lively Simeon Jackson fired two inches wide from 20-yards.

In the 38th minute the Blues went behind when Jackson took advantage of some hesitant defending to cut inside from the left and beat R Wright with a low right shot that beat the diving keeper at the near post. It was not a goal that R Wright will be happy about conceding.

A poor back pass set up Counago in the 55th minute, but the striker's close range effort found the side netting. Tommy Smith's arrival saw Hublik move to right back with David Wright venturing into midfield.

In the 62nd minute Ipswich equalised when Danny Haynes' first touch saw him stretch ahead of Simon King before being brought down for a definite spot kick that Tommy Miller despatched with his usual efficiency.

Town played much better in the second half but could not find a winning goal.

Although fit striker Alan Lee sat this game out watching from the sidelines while Alex Bruce was also given the night off and Kevin Lisbie was concentrating on getting match fit after his move from Colchester United.


Gillingham: Royce, Fuller, Nutter, King, Richards, Crofts, Bentley, Mulligan, Jackson, A Miller (sub Clohessy 82 mins), Oli (Lewis 69). Subs: thurgood, Southall, Wynter, Julian.

Ipswich Town: R Wright, D Wright, Balkestein (Shumulikowski 74), McAuley, Hublic, Quinn, Garvan (Smith 58), T Miller, Counago, Walters (Rhodes 74), Roberts (Haynes 58). Sub: Supple.

Referee: Mr C Penton (Sussex)

Attendance: 1,374