Town's youngsters impress
Ipswich Town 2Newcastle United 1SORRY Sir Bobby – they are not for sale.Although the Newcastle side are packed with quality, including three home-grown talent from Ipswich, the Toon boss must have been licking his lips after seeing yet more young Blues at close quarters, writes Derek Davis.
Ipswich Town 2
Newcastle United 1
SORRY Sir Bobby – they are not for sale.
Although the Newcastle side are packed with quality, including three home-grown talent from Ipswich, the Toon boss must have been licking his lips after seeing yet more young Blues at close quarters, writes Derek Davis.
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Dean Bowditch, Darren Bent and Matt Richards all showed why they are so highly thought of at Portman Road and beyond as each, in their own way, looked at home in such illustrious Premiership company.
Bowditch played a huge part in Shefki Kuqi's goal, Bent, who Robson has twice been turned down by, got at Olivier Bernard and Titus Bramble, while Richards made a stunning tackle inside the area on Darren Ambrose and looked the business going forward down the left flank.
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The security guard posted on the Newcastle team bus would have been extra vigilant to ensure none of the bright young things were snaffled away by Sir Bobby, who did so much for Ipswich during his stay in the 1970s and early '80s.
Of course, all player have their price but Town will need all three, plus Ian Westlake and the others who will be kept secret from watching scouts for a while.
The man revered in East Anglia almost as much as in his native North-east brought a terrific team for Dale Roberts' Testimonial match and both sides contributed to an entertaining and surprisingly competitive affair, watched by almost 25,000 people.
The game was won by a Pablo Couango goal after Laurent Robert had equalised Kuqi's opener.
Roberts was much-loved and respected as a player, coach and a man throughout his career, the bulk of it spent at Portman Road.
His humour, honesty and hard work left an impression on all those he worked with, including this reporter, and for his reserves to win their league title in his final working year was a fitting tribute.
The dinner held in his honour in April, and now this game, are fully deserved for his wife Cheryl and their two sons Mark and Tom and many local charities will also benefit.
The presentations and the minute's silence before the game were dignified and moving, with Dale's parents also meeting the players in the line-up.
There could hardly have been a better game to have as a testimonial, given Roberts' roots, the way both teams play and the Ipswich connections of Robson, Bramble, Ambrose and Kieron Dyer.
Westlake missed out with an abscess on his tooth, so the Blues again went with a 4-3-3 formation.
Drissa Diallo was again given the nod over Fabian Wilnis at right-back with the Dutchman struggling with a back injury of late.
Newcastle left new signing Patrick Kluivert on Tyneside as he catches up on his fitness, while England midfielder Nicky Butt passed his medical in the afternoon but was too late for inclusion.
The Blues opening goal on seven minutes was quite scintillating.
Kuqi, on the edge of the area, laid the ball back 25 yards to Kevin Horlock, who in turn picked out Bowditch with a neat left-foot pass.
The 18-year-old played a one-two with Tommy Miler before crossing a low ball for Kuqi to side-foot in from 10 yards with the Newcastle defence ripped to shreds.
Kuqi almost grabbed a second on the half-hour when he got to a good low ball from Richards but steered his near-post shot wide.
Bent stung Shay Given's hands with a twisting shot from 14 yards after escaping Bernard.
Skipper Jim Magilton tucked the ball away but an offside flag had already gone up and the first half ended one-each.
The Magpies had Craig Bellamy back after a knee injury kept him out of the Far East trip and the ex-Norwich player was booed throughout.
He almost silenced the Town fans after 10 minutes when he got a head on to the end of a Robert cross but hit a post.
Robert then blazed a shot high and wide and when he did get the ball into the net it was ruled offside.
Ambrose got a volley all wrong and it went high into the North Stand but he was not far away midway through the first half with a clever angled chip after neat play with Dyer.
Davis made a brilliant save to deny Alan Shearer, who was left unmarked to head down a Lee Bowyer cross from eight yards – but somehow the keeper got to it.
The Blues keeper made an even better save to deny the former England captain when he got down low to push away with an outstretched arm after Shearer got on the end of a good deep Bellamy cross.
But even he could not get to Robert's equaliser. Five minutes before the break the Frenchman got to another Bellamy cross from Newcastle's right flank.
Davis produced another top quality save to push away a terrific 30-yard Robert free-kick and came out sharply to thwart Dyer.
Counago put Town back in front when Kuqi pulled the ball back to him and the unmarked Spaniard's 12-yard shot went in between substitute keeper Steve Harper's legs.
Ipswich Town: Davis, Diallo (Wilnis, 55) Richards (Barron, 89) Naylor, De Vos, Horlock, Magilton (Murray, 46) Miller, Kuqi, Bent, Bowditch (Counago, 55). Subs not used: Price, Mitchell.
Newcastle United: Given (Harper, 46) Bernard (Elliott 77) Bramble, Hughes, O'Brien, Ambrose (Milner, 62) Bowyer, Dyer, Shearer, Bellamy (Ameobi, 62) Robert. Subs not used: Chopra, Brittain, McClen
Referee: Mike Thorpe (Suffolk).