Town win first game

REASONS to be cheerful – three points in the bank, a sublime goal from Dean Bowditch to underline his class, the character to come back from being a goal down, an outstanding keeper and two excellent full Town debuts for new boys Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos.

REASONS to be cheerful – three points in the bank, a sublime goal from Dean Bowditch to underline his class, the character to come back from being a goal down, an outstanding keeper and two excellent full Town debuts for new boys Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos.

Causes for concerns – needing to show the character to come from behind against a poor side who could easily have shared the points, a lacklustre attacking midfield, a defence which allowed too much space for the Gills attackers to get free and missed chances.

Focusing on the positives, Town will be pleased to beat Gillingham at home for the first time in 51 years. Granted, they have not played them very often.

The Blues will also be delighted that Horlock and De Vos have fitted in so well and had such a good effect on the side, taking their pre-season form into the Championship.


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Horlock bossed the game from his position just in front of the back four and once again showed he has the awareness and experience to be in forward areas at the right time.

It was his far-post corner in the 35th minute, which was met by an unmarked Richard Naylor to equalise with a downward header.

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Horlock broke play up in the central areas, sprayed accurate passes to all parts of the ground, got in decent shots and was not far away with a couple of left-footed free kicks.

Unfortunately, Ian Westlake and Tommy Miller never got their game going fully. Westlake appeared to be trying too hard and lost possession too often, instead of keeping things simple and swift. His was the error which led to the Gills getting the breakthrough after 23 minutes when he failed to find the right pass for Dean Bowditch. Paul Smith pounced, played it up for Darren Byfield and carried on his run with Bowditch in hot pursuit.

Byfield, a free signing from Sunderland in the summer, played a perfectly-weighted pass for his skipper Smith to hit first time past an advancing Kelvin Davis.

It was a wonderfully executed counter-attack and last season's comeback kings were forced to play catch up again.

The Blues went behind a staggering 11 times last season, almost a quarter of their league games, before coming back to snatch victory on five occasions and earn a draw on another six. They also led the league in scoring from corners, 12 times, Naylor was largely to thank for that with Jim Magilton often the provider.

This time there was no Magilton. The Blues skipper, who was an ever-present in the league last season, missed out with a slight tear in a thigh muscle which could also see him missing the trip to Nottingham Forest.

His influence, while not always appreciated, was missed, although Westlake got better in the second half, as did the whole team.

The Supporters' Player of the Year last season had a great opportunity to make amends on the stroke of half time after linking well with Bowditch.

But inexplicably he chose to prod in his shot left-footed, when it seemed more natural to stroke it in with his right, and the effort was subsequently saved. Tommy Miller skied a 25-yarder in the first half, hit a post in the second and struggled to finish the game with a very painful foot.

Royle chose to continue with the 4-3-3 he used extensively, and successfully, in pre-season and spookily got the same 2-1 result that he did in the previous three home games.

This time it was a touch of magic from 18-year-old Bowditch that provided the winner.

Virtually straight from the second-half restart Ipswich went ahead.

Drissa Diallo, coming to terms with the right back role in place of the out-of-favour Fabian Wilnis, was there to take a lay off from Darren Bent and pump in a deep cross from the flank.

The ball skipped up nicely from the immaculate Portman Road turf and Bowditch, with the awareness of a seasoned veteran, clipped the ball in with the inside of his boot over the despairing defender and flat-footed keeper to nestle into the top far corner.

They might have gone further ahead when Bowditch ran at the heart of the Gills defence before slipping a ball to Darren Bent. The England Under-21 international crossed low for Matt Richards, whose shot was superbly saved by Steve Banks and no one could reach the follow up cross shot.

Richards was enjoying himself more in attack than at left back, where Patrick Agyemang was giving him a hard time. If the former Wimbledon player had been a better crosser, Town would have been in more trouble.

As it was Byfield was enjoying plenty of space and saw one shot shave the bottom of a post with everyone beaten.

He also got clear to guide in a powerful header which Kelvin Davis somehow managed to push away with the most acrobatic and agile of one-handed saves. Byfield's withdrawal would have come as a relief for Town, as he looked the biggest goal threat. When Iwan Roberts went off, inevitably to boos, the worry was that Mama Sidibe would once again be a thorn in Town's side.

But instead he scorned a great equalising opportunity on the final whistle when Diallo did just enough to put him off making a clean strike to another low Agyemang cross.

Roberts has never scored on the opening day of the season in his 20-year career and still has not. He did get booked after just 13 seconds when he recklessly led with his elbow into a challenge on Diallo, and Horlock insisted the referee meted out justice.

It was the only card Andre Marriner had to show all afternoon and he handled the game very well.

Town finished the game strongly but scorned chances to get a third goal. Pablo Coungao had a shot saved off Steve Banks's legs, which also clipped a post, and the Gills' keeper made an excellent save in a one-on-one situation with Bent.

De Vos, who along with Naylor dealt with every thing straight at him and in the air, showed presence up front and claimed a penalty when Nyron Nosworthy appeared to handle but few people, and certainly not the officials, saw the offence.

Town go to Forest and Derby this week with plenty to be cheerful about, but the win has glossed over some of the deficiencies.

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