Town have perfect chance to win back fans
PORTMAN Road will be bursting at the seams tonight when Ipswich Town take on mighty Arsenal in the Carling Cup semi-final, first leg (kick-off 7.45pm).
There will be a virtual full house of around 29,500 for a game that has caught the imagination of Town fans who have not been this close to Wembley since Ipswich’s 2000 play-off victory over Barnsley saw them win promotion to the Premier League.
It’s an ideal stage to win back supporters who have drifted away disillusioned by the lack of success and dire football played during Roy Keane’s depressing 20 months’ reign.
After being slammed 7-0 by Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday, Town will face, on paper at any rate, a stiffer task against a fast-shooting, highly-talented and in-form Gunners.
While barely 10,000 fans braved bitterly cold weather for the 1-0 win over West Brom in the quarter-final, the atmosphere tonight will be in complete contrast.
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Segregation when the away team take the upper tier of the Cobbold Stand means that the attendance figure will not go above the 30,000 mark as a number of seats are lost for sale.
Caretaker Town manager Ian McParland says he will be emphasising to his players the importance of doing well tonight.
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“They must look to put a mark on the game – to do something special,” said McParland.
“It up to them and they can handle it. I’m sure they’ll sweat blood but also enjoy the occasion.
“The players have worked hard to get this far as it was tough at Exeter, Crewe and Millwall. And to beat Northampton and West Brom at home.
“Upsets happen and we’re going into the game respecting Arsenal but thinking we can get a result.”
New manager Paul Jewell telephoned McParland only hours after his appointment and confirmed that he will take a back seat until tomorrow.
“That’s fine, and I expect to leave later this week,” added McParland. “If he does ask me to stay I will cross that bridge when it happens.”