Town's best display so far

WHILE you should always beware Greeks bearing gifts the result and display in this pre-season finale will give the Blues some optimism for the coming campaign.

By Derek Davis

WHILE you should always beware Greeks bearing gifts the result and display in this pre-season finale will give the Blues some optimism for the coming campaign.

In truth while Panaithinaikos were very giving in defence Town deserved the victory for their endeavour, organisation and aptitude, even if things did go flat in the second half.

The big drawback for Town though was the loss of Gavin Williams who collapsed with 15 minutes left with what looks like a serious ankle injury.

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Pablo Counago will rightly take the plaudits for his two goals but he just epitomised a good all-round effort.

It was the Blues' most impressive showing of pre-season as they look to have peaked at just the right time with their campaign opener at Sheffield Wednesday coming at home on Saturday.

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The Greeks are veteran Champions League campaigners, although usually in the early stages, and have a rich tradition in their own country with seven domestic league and cup doubles to their name.

Sir Alf Ramsey was technical advisor to Panathinaikos from September 1979 until October 1980 when he fell foul of the club's internal politics and returned home never to coach again.

While Ipswich showed their strong Irish presence the Greek club has none, even though the Greens introduced a Shamrock onto the badge during the First World War.

Town lined up as they did last week in Antwerp with Gavin Williams on the left side of midfield and Jon Walters on the right.

It was Walters who had first sight of goal after a lovely little pass from David Wright, but the keeper saved low at his near post.

From the resulting Owen Garvan corner the ball fell to Pablo Counago and he had the fans singing Ole, Ole, when he finished from 10 yards after just seven minutes.

Counago's second came when he out-muscled Avgerinos Katranas and sprinted clear before hitting a confident shot under the keeper for his second of the afternoon moments before the break.

Walters was also outstanding in the first half before being replaced at the break by Danny Haynes, and he was involved again setting Alan Lee bursting free but he was denied by an excellent save from Arkadiusz Malarz. Polish keeper Malarz became a record breaker at his old club Skoda Xanthi last season when he kept seven successive clean sheets, totalling 683 minutes, which was unprecedented in the Greek League.

He spilled a Williams shot but it went behind anyway but held on to a sweeping shot from Tommy Miller.

Substitute Haynes had a shot deflected wide following excellent work from Williams before the midfielder was downed.

Town worked hard throughout and that was highlighted when Lee sprinted 60 yards to get back and help defensively as the Greens countered and Town got plenty of bodies behind the ball to quell the danger.

The striker, who has agreed a two-year-deal with the possibility of a third year at Town, was less convincing moments later when a Georgios Karagounis corner almost squirmed in past him and Alexander cleared off his line.

The Blues keeper, signed from Cardiff last month, also pushed a 25-yard drive around a post from 2004 European Championship winner Karagounis early in the second half.

Sylvain Legwinski got a vital half-hour of match play when he went on in place of Owen Garvan that will make up for the 30 minutes he missed at Leiston on Friday night when the floodlights failed and the game was called off after an hour.

Romero, former team-mate of Sixto Peralta in Argentina's World Youth Cup-winning side in 1997, was among the Greek side's subs along with Swedish international Mikael Nilsson.

It was testament to the Town players' fitness that they did not wilt in the summer sunshine, so rare this year, which was more suited to the Greek side. As is customary in warm-up games the officials allowed a drinks break, which seemed to confuse the Panathinaikos players who were content to carry on as usual.

Either way, Town were just a little too hot for the Greeks to handle.

Ipswich Town: Alexander, Wright, Bruce, de Vos (Wilnis, 75) Harding, Walters (Haynes, 46) Garvan (Legwinski, 64) Miller (O'Callaghan, 75) Williams (Peters, 75) Counago (Clarke, 64) Lee. Subs not used: Supple.

Panathinaikos: Malarz, Katranas, Goumas (Salpingidis, 65) Mattos, Seric (Nilsson, 65) Tziolis, Leontiou, Karagounis, Vintra, Papadopoulos, Mantios (N'Doye, 65). Subs not used: Galinovic, Ninis, Dimoutsos, Pagalis, Tsitsis.

Referee: P Walton.

Attendance: 8,165.

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