Forward dilemma for Royle

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night explained his forward dilemma after Town's comeback victory stemming from his striker substitution, writes Derek Davis.

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night explained his forward dilemma after Town's comeback victory stemming from his striker substitution, writes Derek Davis.

Royle bemoaned the Blues' lack of first-half thrust and believes that if they had had Jermain Defoe up front they would not have needed to worry about coming from behind to win.

He said: "Jermain Defoe was terrific, his movement and appreciation of where he is meant to be and what to do in the box is truly outstanding.

"If we had him in the first half we would have been well in front."


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Defoe may be heading out of Upton Park but he won't be joining Ipswich, who without him are the division's leading scorers with 45 goals, the latest two from Pablo Counago.

But after starting with Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent, who has hit four goals in seven games, Royle is reluctant to break up their partnership.

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He said: "They are not an obvious partnership but you just have to look at their goals record when they play together to see it works.

"You know what you are going to get with Shefki, especially away from home. He will chase waste paper across the pitch, and you need that away from home. He works and that gives everyone else a bit of time so for me he is a starter."

In the 10 games they have started together, Bent has scored four goals while Kuqi has netted once.

Counago's two goals, one from the spot, the other from a deflected Martijn Reuser effort, takes his tally for the season to 11 in 13 starts and eight substitute appearances.

Royle said: "Pablo takes a bit of time to get going but he did well we when he came on. When he came on against Norwich he gave the ball away but he didn't do that and has scored so it gets difficult to leave him out."

"There is a no shortage of spirit in this side but we have come from behind so often in the past year, just as the club has been behind for 12 months but we keep fighting back.

"We did it again, although the substitutions made a difference for us which is always nice when it works.

"It gives me plenty to think about for Sunday."

Despite dominating for large periods Town struggled to get on top of the game, which Royle recognised.

He said: "We can pass the ball really well although we were toothless. But we kept passing the ball and it paid dividends and we got our rewards in the end.

"We should have had a penalty in the first half when our Kosovan (Kuqi) was wiped out, but we got one we deserved on the second half."

After overhauling West Ham's lead through Defoe, Town then had to withstand a late surge by Alan Pardew's side

He said: "They could say they could have nicked it at the end when they had chances but, hey, they nicked it at our place so what the hell.

"We needed to come back after losing to Norwich and this is a big win for us because West Ham are a good side and they won't be far away at the end."

The win moves Town up to third while West Ham slip to eighth.

But Royle added: "West Ham have been able to hang on to players. The front men in particular are outstanding for this division.

"They have enough about them to put a long run together but then so have we and I still have not seen anyone better than us."

While Tommy Miller and Darren Bent's substitutions were tactical, John McGreal was withdrawn as he seemed to be feeling the effects of a cold from earlier in the week.

Royle though is hoping to have a fully fit squad available again for the visit of Crystal Palace, which leaves him with plenty of options to weigh up.

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