Best possible game says Jim

AFTER losing at high-flying Birmingham City there is no better game than fourth-placed Sheffield United for Ipswich to play today, according to manager Jim Magilton.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

AFTER losing at high-flying Birmingham City there is no better game than fourth-placed Sheffield United for Ipswich to play today, according to manager Jim Magilton.

Like Birmingham the Blades have a mean spirited defence that have conceded just 16 goals and with strikers in the calibre of James Beattie and Billy Sharp, they are capable of punishing sides.

But the Blues have shown they are no mugs at home with recent wins over QPR and Derby County and Magilton is convinced a hat-trick is on the cards.

He said: “This is the best possible game for us to bounce back.

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“Our form at home has been very good and we have played text book football against good side sin QPR and Derby.

“We need to keep the ball better than we did at Birmingham. Sheffield have very good players and we have try and starve them

“Set pieces will play a big part so we have to defend properly and we have to start quickly and take control early on.”

Blades boss Kevin Blackwell was a goalkeeper in his playing days and that may have a bearing on how well his defence is organised.

Magilton said: “Because he is a goalkeeper he probably knows what he wants from a back four. They have a lot of experience and they have the young kid Kyle Naughton who reminds a lot of people of George Burley.

“He is a real threat who likes to get forward and with Greg Halford down that side they are dangerous.

“We also have a good defensive record too so it will be entirely down to who produces on the day.

“We have enough in our side to keep a clean sheet although I do like the balance of Sheffield United and they have goals in them.”

The Town boss also has the utmost respect for top scorer Beattie but is delighted to have secured Jon Stead from United.

He said: “James Beattie is a top player who should probably be playing in the Premier League and has the ability to fire them back into the top level.

“Jon has all the attributes to be a top player. He was so desperate to do well when he started at Birmingham he was probably overwhelmed. When he is free relaxed and believes in himself he is great for us.

“He and Pablo have done well together and at home we know what they are like.

“That is why I wanted to partner them together and with the confidence in the side and the way he was so sharp in training I put them open.

“Any of the partnerships have done well so it doesn't matter which partnership we put out.”

With Jon Walters struggling with a hamstring injury, David Norris could return providing he has no reaction to yesterdays training after missing out on Tuesday with a dead leg.

Owen Garvan will be assessed this morning after suffering from a virus but was rated very doubtful yesterday afternoon.

Skipper Gareth McAuley could win his place back after the loss at Birmingham with Richard Naylor the most likely to be dropped.

Magilton said: “Richard has done very well and has been one of our best players. Alex has done very well since he came back in but I feel we have missed McAuley.

“He picked up a hamstring at a time when he was playing well but he is well rested and will probably play.”

Ipswich Town: R Wright, Supple, D Wright, Thatcher, Balkestein, Bruce, McAuley, Naylor, Shumulikoski, Miller, Garvan, Norris, Quinn, Walters, Haynes, Lisbie, Stead, Counago.

Sheffield United: Kenny, Bennett, Naughton, Ehiogu, Morgan, Kilgallon, Naysmith, Halford, Howard, Spring, Jihai, Speed, Quinn, Beattie, Sharp, Henderson, Dyer, Webber, Cotterill.