Town still looking flawed at the back

RESULTS may not matter in pre-season but Jim Magilton will be relieved that Town managed a win over non-league opposition after twice failing during the week.

By Derek Davis

RESULTS may not matter in pre-season but Jim Magilton will be relieved that Town managed a win over non-league opposition after twice failing during the week.

Defeat at Stevenage and a scrambled draw at Chelmsford highlighted the deficiencies in the Blues' make up and, while the score is not always relevant, what does matter is performances and Magilton and his coaching staff will not be best pleased by yet another inadequate defensive showing.

That the team can score goals is not really a doubt. Boosted by Tommy Miller and Pablo Counago, who both made a decent enough return to action in a Blues shirt, Town turned on the style in the second half.

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Jon Walters, in particular, is in sparkling summer form and Gary Roberts showed glimpses of the quality he possesses to supply and finish.

Chances were plentiful for Town, even in a sluggish first half, but, worryingly, Rushden & Diamonds also had enough opportunities to totally embarrass the Blues.

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There were times when it looked like two teams tearing Town apart when, in truth, it was one Blues Square Premier outfit who will be sunning themselves in Portugal this week talking about how close they came to actually beating Ipswich in a similar manner to how Stevenage did last Tuesday.

Although Town, especially Walters, looked dangerous early on, with the striker hitting a post and going close, it was the Diamonds who looked more polished as the first half wore on.

Shane Supple did not do much wrong in his first-half outing before being replaced by new boy Neil Alexander.

The young Irishman was much the busier though as Lee Tomlin and Simeon Jackson enjoyed the freedom to manoeuvre at will up front as raking balls from deep stretched Town.

Sylvain Legwinski was clearly just using the game to step up his fitness gradually and offered his back four little protection.

Owen Garvan didn't look particularly interested in covering either, although he played a couple of good balls forward.

Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos had difficulties in keeping tabs on the lively front two and were caught out defending a high line as Diamonds skipper Chris Hope played a ball through the middle.

Tomlin outstripped the centre-halves and decided against taking on Supple, preferring to beat him with a well-struck early shot from 20 yards.

The Town defence were in disarray moments later when Jackson reacted quickly while Town were appealing for offside against Tomlin, who left the ball as it was squared for Dean Howell who amazingly missed an open goal from 10 yards. It was a lucky let-off for the Blues.

They escaped again early in the second half when Jackson got away from De Vos to hit a low drive which Alexander collected at the second attempt. From then on, the Blues upped their game and Alexander's main contribution was his impressive distribution.

Ipswich looked better when they had the ball and Danny Haynes showed good skill to cut inside his marker but tried to do too much instead of looking to pass. Roberts hit a dipping free kick over bar and Rushden wobbled.

Ten minutes after the break came a wonderful equaliser, when Roberts played a clever ball over the defence and Walters took it on his chest before beating the keeper. Moments later he almost grabbed a second but Paul Bastock pulled off a good save.

The Diamonds keeper then unintentionally laid out defender Tom Bonner with a driven clearance and, as he was stretched off and replaced, Town introduced Counago. The Spaniard took just six minutes to make his mark with a super ball in for Alan Lee, who was thwarted. The ball ended up at Roberts' feet and he finished from 16 yards.

That was the cue for Tommy Miller to make his return and one sublime diagonal pass reminded the 271 travelling Town fans what he is capable of. Those glimpses bode well for Town but the underlying concern is that the Blues will once again concede too many goals.

The teams

Rushden & Diamonds: Bastock (Margarson, 78) Osano, Hope, Hatswell (Gulliver, 46) Challinor (Bonner 46 - Rankine, 66) Woodhouse (Shaw, 66) Jackson, Foster, Tomlin (Lambley, 73) Howell, Watson (Krause, 71) Subs not used: None.

Ipswich Town: Supple (Alexander, 46) Wright, Harding, De Vos, Naylor (Wilnis, 80) Legwinski (T Miller, 66) Garvan (O'Callaghan, 80) Haynes (Counago, 60) Lee (Clarke, 73) Walters, Roberts. Subs not used: Bruce.

Referee: Andy Woolmer. Attendance: 1,060

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