THE dawn of a new era began in encouraging fashion for Ipswich Town as the Blues marked Paul Lambert’s first game in charge with a 1-1 draw at home to Preston North End.

The Scot was appointed manager last Saturday morning but watched from the stands as his new side – bottom of the Championship table, with just one victory so far - collapsed to an alarming 3-0 defeat at Millwall.

Seven days on and this performance, while far from perfect, offered cause for hope and optimism.

Lambert was unveiled to the media on Tuesday morning and spoke passionately about his desire to bring the fun factor back to Portman Road.

It’s very early days, obviously, but on the strength of this improved display, the initial indications look positive.

The most striking factor was the players’ confidence levels, certainly compared to the previous home game here against QPR.

That surely ranks as one of the most uninspiring, inept performances in recent years at Portman Road.

This time, Town played with the shackles off.

Clearly and obviously, it’s a work in progress and there’s plenty of room for improvement.

But they played with a zip and purpose in the first half, especially, and deserved their interval lead.

It came on the stroke of half-time after a poor back-pass from Joshua Earl.

Freddie Sears nipped in – only to be denied in the nick of time by keeper Chris Maxwell.

Jordan Roberts latched onto the loose ball but was unceremoniously tripped by the Lilywhites keeper.

Sears stepped forward and buried the resultant penalty.

Town appeared to play more conservatively after the break and were unable to build on their advantage.

They paid the price following an eventful, crazy five minutes for Preston substitute Paul Gallagher.

The Scot was introduced in the 71st minute and then scored with his first touch two minutes later, curling a low free-kick round the wall and inside the left-hand post, despite the despairing dive of Bartosz Bialkowski.

Then, bizarrely, Gallagher found himself having to deputise in goal after Maxwell was shown a second yellow card for a foul on speedy substitute Kayden Jackson.

Preston had just made two changes, taking their tally to three, so had to put an outfield player in goal.

That dubious honour went to Gallagher.

Town huffed and puffed in the latter stages but were unable to snatch a dramatic late winner.

On the positive front, this result snapped a run of three straight defeats and halted a barren run without scoring.

However, they still need to show more quality and cutting edge if they are to climb away from the bottom of the table.

Next up is another crucial game at fellow strugglers Reading, next Saturday.