Fortress favours the Blues

THE omens definitely favour Ipswich after their whirlwind home start to the new season.Joe Royle's team boast a 100 per cent record at Portman Road - three wins in the league and another in the Carling Cup.

THE omens definitely favour Ipswich after their whirlwind home start to the new season.

Joe Royle's team boast a 100 per cent record at Portman Road - three wins in the league and another in the Carling Cup.

And the last time that happened, Town secured promotion to the Premiership thanks to a play-off triumph at Wembley, one of the most memorable days in the club's history.

This season's dazzling home form has re-ignited the feel-good factor all over again as Ipswich look to put their darkest hours, when they were plunged into administration last year, firmly behind them.

They may still be in recovery mode, restricting Royle's spending power in the transfer market, but the recent rejection of Charlton's £3million bid for Darren Bent is confirmation that the club's cash crisis is all but over.

Chief executive Derek Bowden said today: “It has been a fantastic start for Joe and the team and it is obvious that the feel-good factor is returning to Portman Road.

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“Finances, of course, remain tight but our destiny is in our own hands.

“It is important for our supporters to continue backing the club as they have done so far. Their contribution is invaluable.”

Town boast one of the biggest home gates in the revamped Coca-Cola Championship and hopes are high that fortress Portman Road will prove a launching pad for the club's return to the big-time

Five years ago, George Burley's side stormed to successive home wins over Nottingham Forest, Bolton and Barnsley, little realising they would meet the Tykes again in a winner-take-all clash at Wembley.

Royle's team of 2004 have seen off Gillingham, Cardiff and Wolves and, in a remarkable coincidence, have also KO'd Brentford in the Carling Cup. Back in 1999, Burley's boys also eliminated the Bees at the same stage of the same competition, also at home!

But the present players still have some work to do if they are to rewrite the history books.

The club record home league start to a season occurred in 1953, when Colchester, Torquay, Leyton Orient, Gillingham, Aldershot and Walsall were all sent packing from Portman Road.

Town ended that campaign in considerable style by claiming their first major trophy, the Third Division (South) crown.

Going back 30 years, Bobby Robson's team launched into a memorable 1974-75 campaign with five successive home wins. Burnley, Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea and Stoke were all defeated as Town set the early pace in the old First Division. They eventually finished third behind Liverpool and champions Derby.

Ipswich also started the 1951-52 season with five home wins on the trot, claiming the scalps of Southend, Millwall, Reading, Brighton and Port Vale.

There have been many occasions, most recently in the 1995-96 campaign, which was Burley's first full season in charge, when Town have started with four home wins in a row.

This feat was also achieved in 1948-49, 1960-61 en route to the Second Division title and in 1980-81, when Robson's team did not concede a goal in defeating Brighton, Everton, Aston Villa and Coventry. In a season when they were chasing a unique treble right to the end, eventually settling for the UEFA Cup, Town avoided defeat in their first 18 home league games.

If Royle's men can emulate that feat there's an excellent chance they will be playing top-flight football next term.

The next test for Town comes with Millwall's visit to Portman Road on Sunday week, for a game that kicks off at 1pm and will be broadcast live by Sky Sports.

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