Sad day for Town as Roberts loses battle

GEORGE Burley last night spoke of the honesty, loyalty and integrity, of best friend and former assistant Dale Roberts who yesterday lost his battle against cancer.

GEORGE Burley last night spoke of the honesty, loyalty and integrity, of best friend and former assistant Dale Roberts who yesterday lost his battle against cancer, writes Derek Davis.

The former Blues boss said: "Dale and I have been best friends since we first met as 16-year-old YTS lads at Ipswich Town. We have shared many magnificent times together over the past 30 years.

"His honesty, loyalty and integrity were respected by everyone.

"In the past year he has shown incredible bravery with magnificent support from his family."

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Black armbands were worn and a minute's silence preceded last night's reserve team game against Fulham as a mark of respect for Town's assistant-manager Roberts who passed away at his Ipswich home yesterday morning.

Roberts led the reserves to the championship title last season and played an influential part in Town's success in reaching the Premiership 30 months ago and qualifying for Europe.

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Burley and Roberts first teamed up in a managerial capacity at Ayr and linked up again at Colchester United before moving on to Ipswich Town.

A host of big football names paid tribute to Roberts, 46, who fought non-Hodgkins lymphoma for the past year.

Sir Bobby Robson, David Sheepshanks, Peter Heard and Brian Horton were among the former managers and chairman who knew and liked Roberts.

Given his popularity with the players, young and old at Portman Road and the staff, it must have been difficult for the team to perform against a strong Fulham side last night, which included Pierre Wome and Junichi Inamoto who played in last summer's World Cup.

But just as Roberts was the consummate professional so the game went on but the spirited young Town side lost 2-0.

Goals from Malik Buari and Andrejs Stolcers killed them off, although Chris Hogg, fresh from his exploits with England Under-18s in Egypt, hit the crossbar and Dean Bowditch could not believe the Fulham keeper saved from a close-range header.

Alun Armstrong was played in after just three minutes but his powerful 10-yard shot was tipped over the bar.

Martin Herrera also produced a super stop moments before the break to dive low to his right and push away a Bowditch effort after terrific work by the Town 16-year-old to dribble into the area.

Fulham's multi-million pound midfield included John Collins and Inamoto, whose presence ensured a following of a dozen journalists from the land of the rising sun.

But it was the unknown No. 7 Malik Buari who snatched the lead five minutes before half-time.

He hit a spectacular 20-yard shot with the outside of his left boot to beat the stranded James Pullen by looping it over him.

Stolcers was also in space to finish well in the 71st minute watched by Colchester United caretaker-manager Geraint Williams along with Micky Stockwell.

Ipswich Town Res: Pullen, Bloomfield, Richards, Murray, Beevers, Hogg, Abidallah (Mitchell, 75) Westlake, Armstrong (Morrow, 46) Bowditch and Robinson (Boardley, 75).

Fulham Res: Herrera, Ouaddou, Wome, Hudson, Knight, Collins, Buari (Fazakerley, 71), Inamoto (Timlin, 61), Stolcers, Willock and Doherty (Shevel, 61).

Referee: M Harris.

Attendance: 461.

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