The Verdict: Cautious optimism – but Ipswich Town must remain pro-active, not passive with their performances

Ipswich Town striker Joe Garner tries an overhead kick in the Gillingham penalty area. Photo: PAGEPI

Ipswich Town striker Joe Garner tries an overhead kick in the Gillingham penalty area. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD

Whisper it quietly, but Ipswich Town may just be a bit easier on the eye this season.

The Blues suffered their first set-back of pre-season on Saturday, losing 2-1 at League One side Gillingham, but the positives of the performance outweighed the disappointment of the result.

Just like at Peterborough last Tuesday, Town stamped their authority on the game, got on the front foot, kept the ball on the floor, moved it quickly and created chances.

It was a pro-active display rather than a passive one – and that’s exactly what we’ve all been crying out for over the mind-numbingly dull last 18 months.

Town lost this game thanks to a soft penalty and a wonder strike. And they will undoubtedly lose games in a stronger-than-ever Championship too.

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Stick with this bolder approach though and they could just turn some of those dire home draws into victories. One thing’s for sure – win, draw or lose – the entertainment value would be higher.

Mick McCarthy has decided to return to the system he knows and loves – a traditional 4-4-2 with attack-minded wingers.

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Grant Ward running at the full-back and delivering teasing crosses, combined with either Bersant Celina or Danny Rowe cutting inside from the flanks, will get fans off their seats.

Dominic Iorfa, Jordan Spence and Myles Kenlock have the potential to be the dynamic, athletic, attack-minded full-backs which are so key to modern football.

Emyr Huws and Tom Adeyemi have been signed to add some box-to-box positivity to the centre of midfield, but it’s 18-year-old academy graduate Flynn Downes who has really caught the eye in their absence through injury and illness respectively.

Bit-by-bit this summer the dark cloud which seem to linger permanently over Portman Road has begun to dissipate.

Owner Marcus Evans loosening the purse strings, homegrown players breaking through, Town passing the ball, a charity put on the shirts, matchday ticket prices cut... It feels as though criticism has finally been taken on board.

Perhaps it took a major drop in season ticket sales for the message to hit home. Ignore the DNA of this club – academy, entertainment, community – at your peril.

Signing a striker would add to some renewed, if not cautious, optimism.

• Gillingham report and reaction inside.

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