Town lose season opener

IPSWICH Town have much improving to do after losing their opening Coca-Championship game of the season at Portman Road this afternoon.

Elvin King

Ipswich Town 1 Preston North End 2

IPSWICH Town have much improving to do after losing their opening Coca-Championship game of the season at Portman Road this afternoon.

The Blues lost only once at home in the league last season, so this was not the start that Ipswich manager Magilton wanted.

Town conceded two sloppy goals after taking an early lead, and although play was in Preston's half for most of the second period the Blues failed to trouble Lonergan.

Ipswich included four debut-makers in their side with manager Magilton going for the rather brave policy of fielding two untried youngsters at the back.

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McAuley was captain after his move from Leicester, and his defensive partner was 18-year-old Smith, while Dutch 21-year-old Balkestein played at left back.

The other debut maker was former Colchester striker Lisbie, while Richard Wright was making his Ipswich re-appearance after seven years away.

Ipswich were unchanged from the side that started the 5-3 home defeat against West Ham last Monday.

Town fans in the North Stand broke out in song in salute of their former manager Sir Bobby Robson, who is battling against cancer at his Newcastle home.

It was a mixed afternoon for Preston goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes, who did a similar job at Portman Road for four years until he left Ipswich by mutual consent last May.

Rhodes warmed up Lonergan in the Preston goal before the kick-off on a drizzling untypical wet opening day of the season.

But within two minutes Lonergan was berating his fellow defenders after being caught in no man's land when a precise Haynes cross from the right enabled LISBIE to net his first goal for the Blues with a deft six-yard header.

Alan Lee netted a penalty for Town inside two minutes in the corresponding first day of the year fixture against Sheffield Wednesday last year.

Town went on to win that match 4-1, and a similar score today would be just what the doctor ordered.

After 17 minutes, Lisbie set up birthday boy Counago for a clear sight of goal, but the Spaniard's 20-yard shot was scuffed and rolled gently to Longeran.

The visitors were gaining in confidence, and the 21st minute saw them draw level with a thunderbolt 20-yard striker from McKENNA.

Sedgwick did the spadework down the left, and McKenna was unmarked to give a diving Richard Wright no chance with a rising shot to the keeper's right.

Ipswich were looking enterprising going forward, but were understandably looking vulnerable at the back as the visitors stepped up a gear.

There are early season boos from some quarters as Preston take the lead after sloppy Town defending.

They are caught asleep as a 33rd minute free-kick is taken quickly, and Jones is able to run free down the right to cross low for WHALEY to side-foot into the roof of the net just ahead of Richard Wright's dive.

Town were huffing and puffing, but making little impression on the Preston back line with the Lancashire side having gained the initiative.

It was still raining at the start of the second half with Town now attacking the North Stand end.

Miller, who always seems to score against Preston, replaced Quinn after the break to play on the right of midfield - with Haynes moving to the left of the middle four.

In the 48th minute, a Lisbie run down the left ended with the ball running free for Garvan to bobble a shot across goal and two feet beyond the far post.

Town were showing more urgency this half with manager Magilton - in a smart suit - now in the dug-out area.

A flowing Town move of many passes ends with Lonergan saving from Garvan in the 53rd minute. A busy Lisbie then crosses from the left, but picks out Davidson with David Wright and Garvan waiting.

Town fans find their voices as some rather desperate defending is needed before Preston clear their lines.

It is now all Ipswich with the Blues being able to trouble Lonergan in the Preston goal. Lee replaced Counago after 62 minutes just before Garvan had a goal-bound shot blocked.

Smith is doing well and he moves forward to try his luck only to send his 30-yard well over the bar.

Preston were sitting back hoping to keep what they have got, and it remained to be seen whether they would pay a price for this defensive attitude.

Mellor grappled with Balkestein on the floor, but the referee ignored what looked like a punch and raised only a yellow card at the Preston man who was now up front on his own.

Rhodes takes over from Haynes to play up front with Lee - with Lisbie dropping back to play just behind the front two.

It was all Ipswich now with Richard Wright a virtual spectator all this half, but the home side had still to seriously trouble Lonergan since Lisbie's early goal.

Preston were defending in numbers and Town were unable to carve out any openings despite having virtually all the possession.


Ipswich Town: R Wright; D Wright, McAuley, Smith, Balkestein; Haynes (sub Rhodes 73), Garvan, Shumulikoski, Quinn (Miller 46); Lisbie, Counago (Lee 62). Subs: Supple, Bruce.

Preston: Lonergan; Jones, Mawene, St Ledger, Davidson; Nicholson, Chaplow, McKenna, Sedgwick; Whaley, Mellor (Hawley 79). Subs: C Neal, Hart, carter, Wallace.

Referee: Mr P Taylor (Hertfordshire)

Attendance: 22,037