Magilton targets defensive blockade

IPSWICH Town manager Jim Magilton today said Monday's friendly with West Ham at Portman Road (kick-off 7.45pm) has a special meaning.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town manager Jim Magilton today said Monday's friendly with West Ham at Portman Road (kick-off 7.45pm) has a special meaning.

Confident that the Blues will carry on from last season and continue to score goals, Magilton sees the key to securing promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship is making considerable improvements in their defensive record.

And a consequence of this would see a marked improvement in Town's pretty woeful away record with just three wins achieved away from Portman Road last season.

“I have no problem with us when we have the ball,” said Magilton. “And when we are going forward.

“What I want to see is an improvement when we do not have the ball.

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“West Ham will give us a good test. With players of the calibre of Craig Bellamy coming at us we will have to be on our mettle when defending - and defending goes right through the team.”

Magilton's side on Monday will give fans a good idea of what his line-up will be for the Championship opener against Preston a week today.

He says that he knows what his side will be next weekend adding: “There might be a little bit of tinkering from the side selected to face West Ham.

“But it will not be much and the West Ham game will give us a last chance to try a few things before the big kick-off.

“Apart from David Norris I will have everybody to select from and Monday's game will give me a good insight into our fitness levels.”

Town fans will be having an educated guess at what Magilton sees as his best current side - bearing in mind that he would still like to bring in players of the right quality if they became available over the next month.

Richard Wright will be in goal and the rest of the side on Monday could well be along the following lines: David Wright, Gareth McAuley, Alex Bruce, Pim Balkestein, Jon Walters, Tommy Miller, Owen Garvan, Alan Quinn, Alan Lee, Kevin Lisbie with Danny Haynes, Pablo Counago and Tommy Smith pushing hard for places against Preston.

If it was that line-up, Magilton would be starting with all four of his summer signings.

The Town manager says that he is happy with the way his four new signings have fitted in, although he added: “It takes time for players to slot in.

“The more you play the easier it becomes, and we have had the right amount - and right mix - of pre-season games.

“Our focus has been on the Preston match from the day we reported back after the summer break.”

Magilton is still looking to gain regular football for his fringe players, including Dan Harding and Billy Clarke who were made available for transfer loan in May.

“The sooner we can arrange things the better for those who will not feature regularly in the Championship,” said Magilton.

“The important thing is that they are playing football and I am still trying to arrange this.”