Bent and Hermann back for Blues today

MARCUS Bent will lead the Ipswich Town attack today after recovering from a hamstring strain.

MARCUS Bent will lead the Ipswich Town attack today after recovering from a hamstring strain, writes Derek Davis.

The experienced front man's return, along with defender Hermann Hreidarsson, will further boost the Blues who are hanging on to the shirt-tails of the teams in the play-off places.

Bent has weighed in with five goals in an injury-disrupted season, but his hold-up play has been missed of late.

Royle said: “Marcus trained and came through fine so I'm confident about him but he will still have a fitness test to make sure. We need him back for his strength and ability up front.”

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Jim Magilton, Fabian Wilnis and Darren Ambrose, will also need fitness tests this morning, with Magilton (hamstring/back) and Ambrose (knee) the most doubtful.

Royle will not pick his team until lunchtime after consulting physio Dave Williams and his two advisors Willie Donachie and Tony Mowbray.

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Royle admitted: “I'm not sure who the team will be or what system we will use until after we see who is fit.”

Wednesday's goal hero Richard Naylor is more than capable of filling in up front or slotting into the back line, which would release Matt Holland if Magilton failed to make it and Town stayed with a 3-5-2.

Royle praised Naylor's recent input and added: “He never lets you down, he always gives his best but we will see who fits in where and what is the best balance after the fitness tests.”

Hreidarsson will resume his place on the left side of defence, either as a wing-back or full-back.

Royle said: “Matt Richards has done a superb job but I have already told him I will be going with Hermann. This is a time for experience and strength and the big man has that in abundance.”

Hreidarsson has been taking no prisoners in training, as Fabian Wilnis found to his cost last week.

Wilnis suffered a knee injury after colliding with the Icelander but came through to score a cracking goal at Norwich and then play well again at Wolves and is expected to make it again today.

John McGreal training next week but not quite ready and Mark Venus is making good progress after a little set back and both will be important in the run-in.

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis has added Mark Crossley to his squad after the Middlesbrough keeper signed on loan for the second time this season. Crossley was the Boro keeper for the Worthington Cup tie which Town won 3-1 at Portman Road, and will replace on-loan Bolton keeper Steve Banks this afternoon.

City have won away just once all season, when they beat Brighton, followed ironically with a home win over Ipswich. They beat Brighton 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday, so will be looking to repeat that sequence.

Royle said: “Stoke are battling for their lives. I have had many battles with Tony Pulis, including Gillingham. They will have a go, all Tony's teams do. They had a great win in midweek and will be lifted by that.

“We know there are no easy games, as Grimsby showed a couple of weeks ago here, and sides lift themselves when they come here.

“But if we play at our best, play as we did against Norwich then we are capable of beating anyone in this division.”

Defender Wayne Thomas is struggling with knee and calf problems and is extremely doubtful with 20-year-old Frazer Richardson, in his second month on loan from Leeds United, likely to replace him. Petur Marteinsson is another possibility after his red card for hand-ball was rescinded and he no longer has to serve the expected one-match ban this afternoon.

Lewis Neal could fill in for the struggling Peter Hoestra on the left side of midfield and if Pulis decides to keep it tight with just Chris Greenacre up front, Andy Cooke could step in as an extra man in midfield, leaving on-loan Lee Mills from Coventry on the bench.

Today's squads

Ipswich Town: Marshall, Wilnis, Holland, Gaardsoe, Makin, Miller, Wright, Reuser, D Bent, M Bent, Hreidarsson, Naylor, Pullen, Magilton, Ambrose, Richards, Abidallah and Bowditch.

Stoke City: Crossley, Richardson, Hall, Handyside, Shtaniuk, Gunnarsson, Gudjonsson, O'Connor, Mills, Greenacre, Neal, Iwelumo, Banks, Clarke, Hoekstra, Thomas, Cooke and Marteinsson.

Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton)

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