Stuart Watson’s Ipswich Town verdict: Blues look a team we can be proud of again

Joe Garner scored on his Ipswich Town debut and looks like he'll bring extra fire to the Blues this

Joe Garner scored on his Ipswich Town debut and looks like he'll bring extra fire to the Blues this season. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

A gritty win, full of character, secured in the face of adversity and a touch of quality – Ipswich Town have shown they can win back our affections with the manner of Saturday’s opening 1-0 home triumph over Birmingham City.

Was it the perfect performance? No. Are there tougher challenges ahead? Undoubtedly. Did supporters leave feeling proud of the boys in blue? You bet.

When teenager Andre Dozzell, the home side’s brightest spark, was stretchered off with a suspected cruciate knee ligament injury just before half-time, Mick McCarthy must have felt the football Gods were conspiring against him.

Town had already gone into the new campaign with midfield quartet of Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop and Luke Hyam sidelined and key trio Adam Webster, Bersant Celina and David McGoldrick only deemed fit enough for the bench. In truth, senior duo Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse – who have both been ill – were not fully up to speed either.

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Harry Redknapp’s functional and physical visitors had posed the greater attacking threat up until the interval. It was a 45 minutes which did little to shake that nagging doubt that last season’s dire displays would drag into the next.

McCarthy prides himself on his teams digging deep though. He’d promised they would respond following a 6-1 friendly thrashing at Charlton. Respond they did. And, as Town fans have proven time-and-time again, they will play their part if given something to shout about.

The onus was always on the players to inspire rather than be inspired. The nature of what proved to be the winning goal, in the 50th minute, certainly did that. The dynamic Grant Ward drove forwards, Jonas Knudsen’s cross was sublime and Joe Garner’s movement was timed to perfection prior to his close-range finish. You could feel the unity flood back into Portman Road.

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There’s a new homegrown hero in the making in the tenacious and assured Flynn Downes, athletic wing-back Dominic Iorfa looks like a right-sided Tyrone Mings, while the aggressive Garner plays on the edge. And there still might be another couple of signings.

Positivity, pace, fight, energy – that’s all the Blues fans wanted. It feels like the spirit of 2014/15 can return.