Fitness boost for Shefki

SHEFKI Kuqi has been given the go-ahead by a specialist to take the next step in getting back to helping Ipswich Town's promotion push, writes Derek Davis.

SHEFKI Kuqi has been given the go-ahead by a specialist to take the next step in getting back to helping Ipswich Town's promotion push, writes Derek Davis.

But the chances of the Blues' leading scorer playing at Wigan look slim with the Nottingham Forest game on March 12 more likely for Kuqi's return.

The Kosovan will train with fitness coach Simon Thadani today and depending on how that goes, he may join in with the full squad later in the week.

Kuqi is prepared to be patient and is looking at the long haul rather than a risky early return.

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He said: “The specialist was very pleased with how the injury is healing and I'm a couple of weeks ahead of schedule so he has told me I can do some jogging.

“I feel good in myself but we will take it steady. The season will not be decided on one game and it would be better to miss the Wigan match and be right for the rest of the season than come back too early and be out again.”

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Kuqi was injured when Leicester City's Dion Dublin caught him with his studs as the pair challenged for a ball.

The deep wound needed surgery, where it was discovered a quadricep muscle had been split and was repaired with dissolvable stitches.

Since Kuqi has been missing through injury Town have picked up just one point from a possible nine.

With James Scowcroft and Jason De Vos suspended, Blues boss Joe Royle will have to make changes but won't take unnecessary risks with Kuqi.

Royle said: “Shefki is making great progress and has been given the go-ahead to take the next step with the aim for him to be fit to play in the Nottingham Forest game.

“We will see how he is but I would say he is a long shot for the Wigan match. We knew he was ahead of schedule and he is a quick healer, but he won't train with the squad just yet, but will work with Simon Thadani and Dave Williams.”

If Kuqi doesn't do a Lazarus and turn up at the JJB Stadium ready for action, then Pablo Counago could get his first start since the 2-2 draw at Watford last October.

Royle has been focusing his troops on the task ahead and was pleased at how the players responded in training yesterday.

He added: “Everyone is fine. No one is getting carried away with what is going on around us. We are still joint top on points after two poor results and one poor performance in a week.”

Dean Bowditch missed training yesterday as a precaution after arriving with a tight hamstring, although he would have played in last night's reserve match against Charlton if it had not been postponed due to a frozen Portman Road pitch.

A distraught De Vos misses a return to his old club Wigan after picking up his fifth booking of the season against QPR. With Drissa Diallo still not quite ready it is likely that David Unsworth will partner Richard Naylor at the back with Danny Karbassiyoon or Matt Richards going in at left-back.

Town could return as undisputed Championship leaders on Saturday if they can beat Wigan for the second time this season and Sunderland slip up in the Friday night game with Burnley.

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