Bent will be back for Easter games

BLUES boss Joe Royle is confident that striker Darren Bent will be available for the vital Easter programme next week.Bent misses the trip to Coventry City this weekend as he recovers from a torn hamstring but Royle feels he could be back to face Portsmouth on Good Friday and then Rotherham on the following Monday.

BLUES boss Joe Royle is confident that striker Darren Bent will be available for the vital Easter programme next week, writes Derek Davis.

Bent misses the trip to Coventry City this weekend as he recovers from a torn hamstring but Royle feels he could be back to face Portsmouth on Good Friday and then Rotherham on the following Monday.

He said: "It is sore. He was playing on with it but we have had to be firm and stop him training. The rest will do him good and it is not as if he needs fitness work so he could come back very quickly."

All Ipswich eyes will be on the game at the City Ground tonight as Nottingham Forest entertain Wolves but Royle is more concerned at his side winning their remaining five games.


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He said: "The lads are up for the challenge and are in good form. We are not favourites to make it and people keep saying this is it, but it is not a do-or-die game.

"There will be changes at the top in these last five games and all the time we have a mathematical chance we will go for it."

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Coventry have been releasing players all week after saying at least 10 had to be axed. Keeper Morten Hyldgaard was dropped last week as four more Sky Blue appearances would trigger another £100,000 to Danish side Ikast.

Youssef Chippo is close to agreeing a settlement on his contract and moving to Qatar to play. And Robert Betts, who signed in acrimonious circumstances from Doncaster Rovers, has also been told he can leave.

But despite all the upheaval at Highfield Road, Royle does not see City as an easy touch. He said: "They have struggled with the fall-out with relegation. I'm surprised they are not higher up in contention for the play-offs. They were good at our place and their manager is still a good player.

"It is not an easy game but for us it is a good ground to go to, a good pitch."

Thomas Gaardsoe is expected to be welcomed back into the Ipswich Town defence when they travel to Coventry tomorrow afternoon.

The Danish defender has recovered well from a groin strain which forced him out of the win at Gillingham almost a fortnight ago and caused him to miss the 4-3 defeat at home to Forest last Saturday, a defeat Royle says was brought about by goals Gaardsoe might have helped prevent.

Royle said: "We missed Thomas last week. We got done for size and three of the goals originated from headers. We will be all the stronger for his return."

Converted defender Richard Naylor had a rare off-day but is a definite starter at Highfield Road for tomorrow's Division One clash.

Royle said: "He has been outstanding since he has gone in there. Just because Richard has had one wobble that doesn't mean he won't progress. He was desolate after the Forest game but we had a little chat and he is fine."

Naylor is one of three players who will be offered new contracts in the summer and after refusing to sign a new deal when offered one by George Burley, the Yorkshireman is likely to be happy to stay now he is playing regularly.

As one of the more modest earners Naylor's wage demands are more realistic in this day and age, especially if Town remain in Division One.

There is concern over Jim Magilton, who is also struggling with a groin problem.

He has been training with the physio and will be tested this morning and again tomorrow if necessary.

If he fails to come through Matt Holland, who is 29 today, could push back into the middle, but only if Gaardsoe makes it.

Royle said: "We didn't fancy Jim's chances at all earlier in the week but he has progressed well so we will see how he goes.

"At the moment though I would say Thomas was a better bet."

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