Lee Evans comes in as captain for Paul Cook's new-look Ipswich Town side as Tawanda Chierwa goal proves the difference at Dartford
Ipswich Town got their pre-season campaign off to a winning start at National League South outfit Dartford this afternoon, with a slender 1-0 scoreline courtesy of teenager Tawanda Chirewa's 73rd minute curling effort .
All six of Paul Cook's new signings started the 1pm kick-off game at Princes Park with one of them, former Wigan Athletic midfielder Lee Evans, handed the captain's armband following the departure of released Luke Chambers.
All the players and Town staff wore black armbands as a mark of respect following the news emerging this morning of the death of their legendary forward Paul Mariner.
A lively first half from the Blues saw debutant Macauley Bonne, on loan from QPR, hit the crossbar from outside the area early on.
An inexperienced young 11, with the exception of goalkeeper Tomas Holy, emerged for the second half with Cook choosing to leave out the likes of Flynn Downes, Teddy Bishop, Kayden Jackson and Myles Kenlock – who have all been training with the under-23s.
Holy was called into action on several occasions to keep Dartford out in the first half of the second period before Chirewa's low curling effort from outside the box found the corner of the net.
The lead could have been doubled late on but Nico Valentine saw his attempt to convert Cameron Humphreys' cross blocked on the line by a covering defender.
The afternoon was significant for the travelling fans among the 1,620 crowd, being the first time they had been able to return to an away ground following the Blues since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
"The atmosphere was great today and I really enjoyed it," Town boss Cook told the club's website.
"We gave the first-team lads 45 minutes and then were very young in the second half and it was great to see them come on and win the game.
"I was quite pleased with us to a point, but it's always difficult in the first game back and we will get stronger as the pre-season games go on.
"Football is about fans travelling, maybe having a few beers and watching your team play. It was fantastic to have them back and also really good to see the young lads (who played the second half) go and acknowledge them for their support this afternoon."
Cook also confirmed that Kane Vincent-Young and Jon Nolan missed today's game as they continue to recover from injuries.
He said: "Kane was a precautionary decision and Jon is almost ready to return from a calf injury, so they'll be back soon."
Town will be back in action in west Suffolk on Tuesday when Cook brings his squad to face non-league Bury Town at the Denny Bros Ram Meadow Stadium. The game (7.30pm) is already a 675 Covid-capacity sellout.
* Meanwhile, Matt Healy, Zanda Siziba and Cameron Stewart recently penned their first professional contracts at Town.
The trio are the latest youngsters to be awarded pro deals following on from Albie Armin, Cameron Humphreys and Ola Bello all signing last month.
* Two of Town's games in the upcoming Sky Bet League One campaign have been moved.
Paul Cook's side were set to host Crewe on Saturday, November 27, however, that meeting has now been moved back by 24 hours. Kick-off at Portman Road will be at 3pm.
Town's Good Friday trip to Rotherham - on Friday, April 15 - has been brought forward by two hours and will now begin at 1pm.
Ipswich Town 1st half: Hladky; Donacien, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Penney; Harper, Evans; Burns, Dobra, Bonne, Norwood.
Ipswich Town 2nd half: Holy, Agbaje, Stewart, Ndaba, Armin, El Mizouni, Chirewa, Humphreys, Nwabueze, Valentine, Buabo