Classy Rangers bowl Town over

Ipswich Town 0 Rangers 2A BALL is yet to be bowled in the eagerly awaited cricket Test series against Australia, yet the new football season began in earnest for Ipswich Town last night.

Ipswich Town 0 Rangers 2

A BALL is yet to be bowled in the eagerly awaited cricket Test series against Australia, yet the new football season began in earnest for Ipswich Town last night.

Rangers provided the first real test of the Tractor Boys' potential for the 2005/6 season - and the jury is still sitting on its verdict.

There is no doubt that the Blues are going to miss Kelvin Davis in goal, Tommy Miller's goal output from midfield and the fluid partnership that Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent evolved up front.

And it remains to be seen whether manager Joe Royle can get as much out of his current squad as the one that went so close to the Premiership in 2004/5.

Rangers are among the aristocrats of the football world, and although not at full strength - or power - they would still have taken some holding by a Championship side.

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Knockers of the game north of the border would suggest that Alex McLeish's multinational side would finish way down the Premiership and with such a dearth of Scottish talent at the moment Jocks should stick to games they can play like golf.

But that is to decry the fanatical support that saw 6,000-plus Rangers converge on Portman Road and spread their banners all over the south stand.

Their heroes may only have a handful of tough matches every season, but that does not reduce the impact Rangers have on Scottish life.

And on this showing McLeish has got an accomplished squad; one that gave Town little opportunity in front of goal, and carved out two well-constructed goals.

Looking more rotund in their new strip, Ipswich can have no complaints at losing and they will have to step up a gear to make an impact at Championship level.

But it is early days and there were positives for the jury to consider before coming to a verdict.

Owen Garvan came on and proved himself perfectly capable of making a big name in the game. He has that precious quality of time on the ball, rarely misplaced a pass, and tidied up a couple of times with the awareness of a veteran.

The 17-year-old from Dublin will surely either join forces with other members of the FA Youth Cup winning side and lift Town back into the top flight in a couple of years or so - or join the likes of Bent, Darren Ambrose and Titus Bramble and provide much needed cash if he has to be sold.

Darren Currie was at his trickiest, and if he plays like this every week he will prove a trump card, while Nicky Forster and Sam Parkin did enough to suggest they can rattle Championship defences.

It is not difficult to see why Royle rates the latter as Parkin's play bears a resemblance to the Town manager in his Everton and England days.

Good in the air, not electric on the floor but with a goalscorer's strength and positional sense.

Parkin will clock up around 20 goals if fed with the right service, while Forster has already shown his goal power in the wins over Cambridge United and Boston.

Lewis Price saved well when Rangers' best player Barry Ferguson took the ball off trialist Edwin Ouon and went through alone.

And he made a leaping save from a Ross McCormack free-kick after Ouon had been booked for a foul.

Fellow trialist Rui Marques looked a better bet, switching with Ouon and ending the game at the heart of the defence, but neither did enough to cement a place on the permanent Town staff.

Stefan Klos, back in action after a long injury lay-off, saved instinctively when Currie swung in a cross that Parkin headed goalwards from close range.

In the 54th minute Nacho Novo crossed for Danish international Peter Lovenkrands to break free of a square defence and head down and beyond Price.

Eight minutes later Forster's left boot found the net as his shot from Ian Westlake's long pass flew a yard wide of the far post. Klos retrieved the boot for Forster to put back on.

With two minutes left Rangers broke and Charlie Adam found Novo in space to finish like a £25,000 a week player should with a thundering low shot that entered the net under the body of Price.