ONE football writer at the weekend argued that there is always a moment during pre-season that gives a good hint of what lie ahead over the next nine months.

At Cambridge United last night, the impressive contingent of Town fans were given glimpses of both a potential play-off push and another season of mediocrity.

For fear of not wanting to sound too negative so early into the new season, let's start with the positives - and a real sign that Paul Jewell's men could do something in the Championship.

I am of course talking about Michael Chopra, a rare beacon on an overcast night at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, on and off the pitch.

Town's £1.5 million acquisition was prolific personified. Bundling home a first, and displaying the stereotypical 'fox in the box' attributes to boot, his real class came with his second, remaining still, while his marker moved, to pick up a cool cross from Josh Carson and drill clinically home from 10 yards.

Of course we can only go on pre-season friendlies against weaker opposition, but Chopra looks the real deal. He has quickly broken his duck in a Town shirt, and then wasted little time in scoring goals two, three and four. His general movement and touch rose the former Cardiff man above anything his new team mates could offer in a largely lacklustre display by the boys in blue.

The one thing Chopra often lacked was actually nothing to do with the frontman - service. I make no apology for keep harbouring on about the need for pace and creativity. Lee Martin again flattered to deceive and while Josh Carson showed moments of his undoubted young talent, more is needed from the flanks. As it is in the heart of the team with Bowyer and Leadbitter both decent players but still missing something. Whether that is a holding, defensive player or a more attack-minded playmaker is open to debate. Both, some fans might think.

There were other negatives. Lee Bowyer, complete with the captain's armband, will never have a worse start playing for his new charges, well at least I hope not. The Marmite midfielder was at fault for both of Cambridge's two goals with little over three minutes on the clock.

After that he settled a little without really shining, in fact impressing most with his constant cajoling and barracking of team mates. Town have been too quiet in recent years but with Bowyer, Mark Kennedy and maybe one or two new additions, that is one problem Paul Jewell seems to have successfully addressed.

Bowyer always looked for the ball while a second half on-the-ground tussle with young United midfielder Luke Berry proved he is both a winner and a fighter. Pre-season friendly? Bowyer was having none of it.

Again I can only judge on 90 minutes against a youthful and often exuberant Blue Square Bet Premier side, but the ease in which Cambridge broke down the flanks, especially the one marshalled by Carlos Edwards in the first half, is a cause for concern. And even Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith looked more than a little shaky in the heart of the defence, as if they know one of them won't be starting against Bristol City in two-and-a-half weeks time  - depending on Ivar Ingimarsson's fitness and the pursuit of a new defender of course.

So plenty of food for thought for Jewell, but you would imagine nothing that surprised him too much. He was straight out of the blocks last night saying that he needed a few more players, even breaking with tradition to name some potential targets.

Messrs Moussi, Whittingham and Henry should all give cause for optimism as it highlights the pedigree Jewell is searching for. But he is facing a race against time to secure the two, three or even four new faces before Town travel to Bristol City on August 6.

A busy time for the manager is guaranteed. But judging on last night's performance, it also needs to be a successful one to support Chopra and Co and keep the Town fans in good spirits.