IT'S amazing how the smallest, simplest things make the biggest, most striking difference.

That was certainly the case on Friday night, as whipped-up Town fans generated the best atmosphere I've experienced in a decade at Portman Road.

Gone was the reluctance and weariness - the sense of obligation that made the hardcore compelled to go along.

Back was the sense of occasion, anticipation and excitement that many of us remember fondly from yesteryear.

As I say, minor, subtle tweaks made all the difference and the real result of the night - aside from the 2-1 defeat - was the bumper backing of nearly 23,000 supporters. Hugely impressive for a match screened live on Sky.

The Black Friday ticket promotion was clearly a pivotal factor. Unfortunately, it's not often watching football becomes a cheap, affordable pastime.

Clacton supporter Karl Fuller's inspired initiative that led to hundreds of tickets being donated obviously helped, too.

The Friday night scheduling will have heightened the appeal - football is always special under the glare of floodlights - and so will the opposition, former Premier League side West Brom.

Appetites may also have been whetted by the international break, with Town's previous home game being back at the turn of November.

But the biggest ingredient, for me, after the slashed ticket prices, was the rousing encouragement of boss Paul Lambert.

I've read the word "reconnection" many times this year, referring to the coming together of England fans and Gareth Southgate's Three Lions.

It was a popular soundbite at the World Cup and again after last week's National League thriller against Croatia.

Now the same thing is happening at Ipswich.

Lambert's plea to create a "vibrant" atmosphere - proactively attending meetings with supporters, telling them to "sing, dance and jump around" - and telling them the club is nothing without them has gone down a storm.

He really meant it, too. It was no calculated PR stunt.

Hardly rocket science or biomedical engineering but instead a blindingly obvious stroke of genius.

The Town boss knows he needs his supporters onside and they responded en masse.

Everything was louder, from the applause (aided by the London Olympics-style cardboard clappers left on every seat) to the singing to the noise blasting from the PA system.

Someone, somewhere reached for the volume dial and cranked it to maximum.

It felt special again, a real event, and I genuinely hope and believe many will be back.

I'm not suggesting 20,000 will be there for the visit of Bristol City on Wednesday night.

No way. Not on a school night, with normal service resumed in the ticket office.

However, many will hopefully feel compelled to return soon.

As for Friday's football, there was the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good in terms of the energy, industry and enthusiasm of the players, especially in the second half.

Bad, or worrying, in terms of Town's lack of quality in the final third, certainly until the latter stages. Chances were few and far between and a striker has to be top of Lambert's January wishlist.

Ugly in terms of the defending for both Baggies goals.

The first was soft and needless, following some half-hearted defending from Jordan Spence and Matt Pennington.

The second, inexplicably, came from a fluffed Town corner. Ten seconds later the ball was being rolled invitingly to goal-scorer Harvey Barnes.

Town rallied, showed their resolve, pulled one back (albeit slightly fortuitously) and then clipped the woodwork during a grandstand finish.

In truth, however, a point would have flattered them, given the visitors' stranglehold on the first half.

Nevertheless, what happened after the break offers hope and encouragement.

Positives, for sure, and most definitely green shoots of recovery.

Home form will be key and that's where the club needs its supporters.

Friday night can't be a one-off. One memorable occasion during an otherwise turgid, forgettable campaign.

It needs replicating again and again and while the players clearly and obviously have an enormous responsibility, the supporters must keep playing their part, too.