The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Rus­sell Cook

ACONCERNING in­jury to An­dre Dozzell aside, Ip­swich man­ager Mick McCarthy was left breath­ing a sigh of re­lief as his team in­di­cated they are up for the fight this sea­son with vic­tory over Birm­ing­ham.

De­spite be­ing just the open­ing day, the pres­sure was al­ready seem­ingly on the Trac­tor Boys boss af­ter a 6-1 pre-sea­son de­feat to Charl­ton last week­end, which fur­ther an­gered some fans who had called for his head last term.

He had spo­ken in the run-up to this game at Portman Road about the need to keep the sup­port­ers on­side and his play­ers ap­peared to take heed of his works with a spir­ited per­for­mance on their home patch.

Debu­tant Joe Gar­ner marked his re­turn to English foot­ball by scor­ing the win­ner on 50 min­utes to leave McCarthy de­lighted to get off to a vic­to­ri­ous start, de­spite a se­ri­ous-look­ing knee in­jury to Dozzell which saw the promis­ing young­ster leave the field on a stretcher.

“It was a per­fect first day re­ally apart from An­dre’s in­jury,” said McCarthy. “I’m wor­ried it might be a cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment so we’ll find out on Mon­day, I can’t con­firm or deny that un­til then.

“It was a good goal and we played re­ally well and over­all we de­served to win.

“Wardy (Grant Ward) was bril­liant and con­tin­ued his run and re­leased Jonas (Knud­sen) who put a re­ally good ball in and Gar­ner came from a wide po­si­tion and had a look over his shoul­der and scored. It was a re­ally good qual­ity goal.

“It’s lovely when it goes our way but we de­fended well too.”

It was the vis­i­tors who nearly took the lead when a throw-in from Marc Roberts was headed goal­wards by Michael Mor­ri­son, who beat Tommy Smith in the air, but Town goal­keeper Bar­tosz Bi­ałkowski smoth­ered the ball on the line.

The best move of the first half came in the 21st minute when Gar­ner freed Ward in­side the box but his shot sailed past the post.

Ip­swich con­tin­ued to threaten with City keeper David Stock­dale hav­ing to be alert to Gard­ner and Fred­die Sears, be­fore Dozzell, who helped Eng­land win the Un­der-19 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship ti­tle last month, fell awk­wardly and was re­placed by Flynn Downes.

Early in the sec­ond half Stock­dale came out to smother a shot from Sears and Jor­dan Spence was for­tu­nate to re­ceive only a yel­low card fol­low­ing a foul on Don­ald­son mid­way in the Ip­swich area.

Gar­ner put Town in front in 50th minute fol­low­ing a slick move down the left with Knud­sen cross­ing for the striker to fire home for his first goal in the Cham­pi­onship since April 2016.

And af­ter see­ing his side fail to muster an equaliser, City man­ager Harry Red­knapp con­ceded his side were still short of key play­ers.

“At 0-0 I could not see us get­ting beat. I thought if any­one was go­ing to win it was go­ing to be us,” he said.

“The play­ers gave every­thing as I knew they would but we are short. I looked at the bench and I had no change. I need op­tions.

“We have tried very hard but every­one we have tried for has not hap­pened. Peo­ple have asked for too much money.

“If I can get the play­ers then I be­lieve I can build a team that will chal­lenge for pro­mo­tion but it’s a weak squad at the mo­ment.”

PIC­TURE: Match Day Im­ages

DE­BUT TO RE­MEM­BER: Joe Gar­ner (right) is con­grat­u­lated by Luke Cham­bers af­ter scor­ing the win­ner

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