Chance for Counago

BOUYANT Blues are looking to extend their lead at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship with victory at third-place Stoke City tonight.Although a few players picked up minor knocks in the 2-0 win over Millwall on Saturday, Ipswich Town boss Joe Royle has the option of fielding an unchanged side for the fourth time in a row.

By Derek Davis

BOUYANT Blues are looking to extend their lead at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship with victory at third-place Stoke City tonight.

Although a few players picked up minor knocks in the 2-0 win over Millwall on Saturday, Ipswich Town boss Joe Royle has the option of fielding an unchanged side for the fourth time in a row.

The one possible change could be up front, with Pablo Counago being rewarded for his goal and assist on Sunday with a starting spot in place of Shefki Kuqi.


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The only change to the 16-man squad, which travelled to Staffordshire yesterday, is Scott Mitchell coming in for Scott Barron, who is struggling with a groin strain.

Meanwhile, it looks extremely unlikely that Royle will be filling the vacant managerial role at Blackburn Rovers.

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While Mark Hughes and Iain Dowie are believed to top the Rovers' board wish-list, Royle has emerged among the favourites.

Rovers chief executive John Williams said: “We are delighted with the quality of the applicants and the huge interest the post has created.

“It is absolutely imperative that we get this appointment right and we will take whatever time we feel is necessary.”

Reports over the past few days have suggested Royle's name was put forward among those candidates, although whether he is on the reported three-man short-list is unclear.

Royle, who still has a home in the north-west, not too many miles from Blackburn, spent most of his managerial and playing life in the area.

But Royle told the EADT last year that he would like to finish his managerial career at Ipswich Town, ideally after winning them promotion.

A Blackburn source believes it is highly unlikely that Royle would be targeted by the club.

Although Hughes has insisted he does not want to quit Wales, it is possible he could do both jobs.

Wales take on England and Poland next month but then don't have another game until next March.

Dowie may be a little more difficult to prise away from Crystal Palace, although chairman Simon Jordan has also indicated he will be stepping down soon and so may accept compensation for his manager to leave as well.

Even if Royle does not get the job, being linked to a Premiership move may prompt Ipswich chairman David Sheepshanks to sit down with him earlier than planned and discuss a new contract.

The former Oldham, Everton and Manchester City manager is out of contract at Portman Road next summer, unless Town win promotion, when an automatic one-year extension would come into effect.

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