Counago has a point to prove

PABLO Counago, frozen out for the last couple of games, returns to the Ipswich Town line-up with a point to prove against visiting Preston this afternoon.

PABLO Counago, frozen out for the last couple of games, returns to the Ipswich Town line-up with a point to prove against visiting Preston this afternoon, writes Carl Marston.

Counago enjoys a recall, due to Shefki Kuqi's one-match suspension, and the Spaniard wants to stake a claim to stay in the side for the rest of the season.

Town manager Joe Royle certainly hopes that his 24-year-old striker regains his confidence, and his scoring touch, at the expense of Preston.

"Pablo (Counago) has saved his best form for home games," explained Royle last night.

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"It's a great chance for him, and he will be a straight swap for Shefki (Kuqi). Pablo has lost his confidence a little recently, and he really needs a goal. Hopefully, that goal will come against Preston.

"He was our leading scorer last season, and we really need him to be back to his best," added Royle.

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Counago has scored 12 goals this term, 11 of them in the league, but he has only netted once (in the 6-4 win over Crewe) since the turn of the year.

He has been on the bench for three of the last four games, at Coventry as well as against Bradford and Burnley, and he was substituted at half-time during the 3-1 home defeat by Wigan.

Darren Bent replaced him against Wigan, but the duo will form a strike-force partnership this afternoon. Bent has scored seven goals this season.

Royle might consider other changes, following his side's disappointing 4-2 defeat at Burnley last weekend.

Midfielder Chris Bart-Williams did not feature at Turf Moor, due to his niggling back problem, but he benefited from a rest during the club's mini-break in Tenerife at the start of this week.

Bart-Williams is in the squad, as is right-back Fabian Wilnis, who suffered a recurrence of his shoulder injury at Burnley and was replaced by Matt Richards after half-an-hour.

"Chris (Bart-Williams) has trained this week and he seems fine, as is Fabian (Wilnis)" continued Royle.

"We need to put a run together now, if we are to stand any chance of catching the top two.

"We also need to stay clear of the chasing pack. They are closing up behind us, and they include this weekend's opponents Preston, who are not far off the pace.

"Ricardo Fuller is a big danger. Preston rejected a big-money move for him from Fulham during the transfer window," added Royle.

Preston are in mid-table, after losing four of their last five matches. But Craig Brown's side are only four points behind Town, with a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Town keeper Andy Marshall has agreed to extend his loan spell at Millwall to a second month.

Young striker Sam Morrow has been handed a free transfer by the Suffolk club. The Northern Ireland under-20 international had a short spell on loan at Division Three club Boston United before Christmas.

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