PETER JACKSON was today celebrating three big plus points from Town's first outing of the 2004-05 campaign.
Jackson - given a warm reception by 1,589 fans at the Welfare Ground - watched Junior Mendes and Chris Brandon make debuts with his promotion-winning squad in last night's 2-1 friendly victory against Wakefield & Emley.
While he was pleased with the new signings, Jackson was even more delighted to welcome back goalkeeper Ian Gray, midfielder Lee Fowler and highly-rated centre-back Nathan Clarke.
"Those three were the big plus points," said Jackson today.
"When you consider Ian Gray hasn't played since last November because of an injury which threatened his career, it's no surprise he had a big smile on his face at the end.
"I thought Lee Fowler showed what a controlling influence he can be in what was his first start since February, and he has come back really strongly from the summer break after his penalty decider in the play-off final.
"It was great, too, to see Nathan Clarke getting 90 minutes under his belt, because he hasn't played since the middle of March and has worked hard to recover from his ankle injury.
"I know there has been lots of media speculation about other clubs being interested in Clarkey (Ipswich and Sheffield United to the fore), but I can tell our fans that I have had no conversations with any clubs about Nathan.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's just pure speculation and paper talk."
Defenders David Mirfin and Andy Holdsworth scored the goals last night while their former McAlpine teammate Steve Kenworthy, released only last season, scored a clever equaliser for Emley, who now tackle Halifax at Belle Vue tomorrow night (7.45) and Barnsley at the Wakefield venue on Saturday.
Town head to Middlesbrough for a friendly behind closed doors on Saturday when Jackson will decide whether to include defender Steve Yates, who is recovering from minor Achilles surgery, and striker Andy Booth, who watched from the sidelines last night.
"We have had no adverse reactions to what was a good workout and no injury problems reported this morning," said Jackson, whose team retained the Mick Green Memorial Trophy.