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Town 2-1 Osasuna
Town 2-1 Osasuna
Monday, 2nd Aug 2004 22:56

Town ended their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win over Spanish side Osasuna. Despite their victory, it was a disappointing display from the Blues with both summer signings, Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos, leaving the field due to injury.

The Blues lined up 4-3-3 with Jim Magilton and Matt Richards sitting out due to thigh and foot injuries respectively. Neither is considered too serious. Fabian Wilnis made his first ever Town appearance at left-back.

Osasuna ought to have been in front within three minutes, Ortiz contriving to miss a low cross from the right with the goal gaping.

Seven minutes later the Blues were ahead. Diallo, again at right-back, won the ball on halfway and played it down the flank to Bowditch. The striker cut in and shot, the ball striking a defender and falling to Pablo Couñago who beat Sanzol from 10 yards.

On 12 there was a bizarre incident when a member of the Osasuna coaching staff was spoken to by the fourth official for blowing a whistle during play. Two or three times a whistle which wasn't the referee's had been heard.

Valdo missed another good chance on 16 when he blazed over from point-blank before Moha hit a freekick on to the stanchion of Kelvin Davis's goal.

The visitors were much the better side and didn't deserve to be behind, and yet on the half hour the Blues went further ahead.

Dean Bowditch found Shefki Kuqi in space on the right, the Finn taking a touch to bring the ball inside before lashing the ball into the net.

Town's star of the show was to be Kelvin Davis who, as against Newcastle, made a string of fine saves, the first from former Villa man Savo Milosevic, A minute later Davis did brilliantly to tip Ortiz's shot from the edge of the area over the bar.

On 40, Milosevic missed yet another sitter for the Spaniards, heading a corner wide when it seemed impossible not to score.

Despite the lead, it had been a poor half from the Blues. With Jim Magilton missing from the start and Kevin Horlock off with a leg injury in the 27th minute, Town had failed to impose themselves in midfield, the visitors enjoying most of the possession.

The second half would be little different with the Spaniards running the show throughout but with few chances at either end.

Town introduced French trialist Pascal Nouma in the 59th minute for the ineffective Pablo Couñago and the former PSG man created himself an opportunity four minutes later, winning the ball and bringing it forward before slicing his shot well wide.

Davis continued to make good saves, including a header from former Everton man Ibrahima Bakayoko.

The game was not being played in the best spirit with several of the Spaniards keen to spend as much of the evening as possible on the turf and Savo Milosevic in constant discussion with referee Kevin Wright.

Matters reached a head in the 70th minute when the Serb reacted angrily to a tackle by Ian Westlake on a team-mate and things threatened to boil over. Referee Wright, who seemed completely out of his depth, made a half-hearted attempt to calm things down before suggesting to Town that they substitute Westlake, who had clashed earlier with Valdo, which they duly did.

The referee was a frustration throughout, awarding innumerable petty freekicks, never allowing an advantage and missing the few truly bad tackles in the game, particularly a two-footed challenge on Nouma on halfway which failed to warrant even a freekick.

On 83 the Spaniards had the ball in the net but with a player in an offside position. However, with three minutes left Miguel Flaño tapped in from six yards out to pull a goal back for Osasuna.

A disappointing game from a number of perspectives. The crowd was just 4,817, the Blues were outplayed and looked a pale imitation of the side which beat Crystal Palace and Newcastle and the two new signings picked up injuries.

Horlock was on the end of a heavy first half tackle, while De Vos went down in the second period and carried on for a few minutes before being replaced with Scott Barron.

A good result against decent opposition but, had Kelvin Davis not been on top form, the game could have ended with the visitors scoring four or five goals. A performance more like the one against Newcastle or Palace would be preferable on Saturday against Gillingham.

Town: Davis, Diallo, Wilnis, Naylor, De Vos (Barron 80), Horlock (Murray 27), Kuqi (Bent 46), Miller, Couñago (Nouma 59), Westlake (Mitchell 72), Bowditch.

Photo: Action Images

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