Can Ipswich upset the title party?

YOU should never fear the worst, but Ipswich Town’s players and supporters could be forgiven for feeling just such a dread this afternoon.

YOU should never fear the worst, but Ipswich Town’s players and supporters could be forgiven for feeling just such a dread this afternoon.

Town boss Roy Keane is hoping that his side can spring a surprise, and so dampen the spirits of Newcastle’s United’s title-winning party.

But it would be more than a surprise - it would be a huge upset - if under-performing Town were to become the first visiting club to record a Championship victory at St James’ Park this season.

The Magpies thumped Town 4-0 at Portman Road last September, and although Keane’s men are now a better organised side than they were seven months ago, they are not in the same league as mighty Newcastle.

Another expected home win today, in front of a sell-out crowd of 52,000, which would be a record for the second tier, would confirm Newcastle as the first club to win promotion to the Premier League without losing a home game.

Ironically, the last club to remain unbeaten at home on their way to the top flight was north-east rivals Sunderland in 1979-80, in the days of the old First Division.

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Keane insisted: “We’re hoping it’s not going to be the same scoreline as earlier on in the season when, as strong as Newcastle are, we were particularly poor as well.

“The players responded well after that result. There was disappointment that night, but the signs were there about how far we had to go and how strong Newcastle were.

“They haven’t been beaten at home all season, and I’m sure they’ll want to finish in front of their home fans with a good victory.

“But as a club you’re always gauging your progress, when you play the teams at the top.

“We’ve done mostly well against them at home, but at Forest the other week (3-0 defeat) we came up short.

“So we’ve got to be careful that we don’t go too gun-ho, as much as we want to get a positive result,” added Keane.

In addition to Damien Delaney, who is out for three months with ankle ligament damage, Sunderland loanee striker David Healy remains sidelined with a knee injury.

Winger Carlos Edwards, who also missed last weekend’s 1-1 home draw against Doncaster Rovers, has been staying away from Portman Road after contracting chicken pox. He will not play today.

But whoever does play for Town, the chance is there to shine on the big stage.

“As players, if you’ve got anything about you, you’d want to go these stadiums and do well,” said Keane.

“My younger players should be rubbing their hands at this game, but we mustn’t give the ball away cheaply.

“Newcastle will be looking to finish the job off and they certainly won’t be going easy on us.

“We’re certainly going into the game as underdogs. I just hope we can perform our best and express ourselves. It’s the toughest away game in the Championship.”

Newcastle have won 18 and drawn the other four of their 22 home games. They will breeze past the 100 points mark, if they can see off Town, before receiving their championship trophy after the match.

Andy Carroll (18 goals), Kevin Nolan (18), Peter Lovenkrands (15) and Shola Ameobi (10) have been the main goalscorers.

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