Mixed messages from Town tour

IPSWICH Town's three-match tour to Holland and Belgium was a mixed success.One the plus side, the squad bonded well and increased their fitness levels considerably with the first Championship match less than a fortnight away.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town's three-match tour to Holland and Belgium was a mixed success.

One the plus side, the squad bonded well and increased their fitness levels considerably with the first Championship match less than a fortnight away.

On the minus side, performances on the pitch left something to be desired.

And manager Jim Magilton is well aware of the hard work necessary to turn his workforce into one that can be become serious promotion candidates.

He is banking on the two or three players he has been given permission to bring in having the quality to turn his squad into one that will fulfil his dreams.

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Magilton revealed on Friday after the third 1-1 draw of the tour - against Dutch second tier part-timers FC Dordrecht - that he expects to have permanent newcomers at the club before this Friday's home friendly with Italian giants Lazio.

“It is not a panic measure, as these signings have been in the pipeline for a while,” said Magilton, who was scathing about his side's first-half showing on Friday. I was expecting to sign two players but, having talked again to the chairman, it could be three. Something should be known soon and I am happy with the stature and ability of the players we have in mind.

“We want to get better, and we have some improving to do.

Apart from the keeper, there were no signs of encouragement in the first 45 minutes on Friday. Our passing was poor and we kept giving the ball away.

“We had stern words at the interval and after the break. The introduction of Darryl Knights and Billy Clarke perked us up.”

Magilton has a practice match arranged early this week so that his players can get the feel of the new grass that has been put down at Portman Road since the concert three weeks ago.

And he sees the Lazio match as one where his team will show their true colours. One where all the hard work put in on the training ground over the last month will bear fruit.

“There were plusses on the tour,” added Magilton. “The players are much fitter and have shown the right attitude, and we have to take into account the heatwave that took a toll.”

Ipswich remain unbeaten since Magilton took over from Joe Royle and the performances against Dutch top division side Willem II and Belgium FA Cup holders Zulte-Waregem were commendable.

But it was a defender and two midfield players who scored the goals as the Blues pocketed a hat-trick of 1-1 draws.

Matt Richards struck late to earn a draw against Willem II, Ian Westlake headed Town ahead against Zulte-Waregem and it was captain-for-the-night and central defender Richard Naylor who headed the leveller against Dordrecht.

While potential trump card Nicky Forster was bubbly and engaging off the field, his effervescent approach failed to bring any reward in the games.

But he is fully fit and determined to grab at least a dozen goals this campaign. Teenagers Clarke and Knights did their reputations no harm when coming on as substitutes and Dean Bowditch showed enough in the first game before suffering shin problems that his confidence is returning.

But Sam Parkin, who missed training one day with a foot knock, struggled in his two games and his inability to settle fully in the area could be taking a toll. The £400,000 signing from Swindon last summer is happy enough at the club and gives his all - and a couple of early season goals might still spark a successful season.

He was tried behind Forster and Danny Haynes, who continues to improve, in the game against Dordrecht but it was not a success.

All four triallists on the six-day tour failed to last the distance and, although Alex Bertin and Marko Kolsi in particular showed up well, they did not possess the magic that Magilton is looking for to transform his squad.

He is keeping his fingers crossed that he can announce signings this week that will do just that.

IPSWICH are hoping that Gavin Williams will be able to train with the rest of the squad this week and be in contention for a place against Lazio. Alan Lee could feature in some part of that game.

But Owen Garvan's problems are a worry. Even though he has recovered from shingles, his fitness levels are not as high as would be liked. Richards, Bowditch and Castro Sito are all under treatment for what are expected to be short-term ailments.

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