Can Pablo strike it lucky?

ONE question burns more brightly than any other, ahead of tonight's home game against West Brom - will Roy Keane start with Pablo Counago?

Carl Marston

By Carl Marston

ONE question burns more brightly than any other, ahead of tonight's home game against West Brom - will Roy Keane start with Pablo Counago?

Incredibly, Counago has not started a game for more three months, ever since he was substituted just before the hour mark in a 1-1 draw at Plymouth on October 24.

But the Spaniard is pushing hard for another chance, following his last gasp heroics in the last Portman Road game, and then another goal at Southampton on Saturday.

Many thousands of fans had already streamed out of the stadium, before Counago tucked home a 97th minute winner in a 3-2 home victory over Coventry City 10 days ago.

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The 30-year-old's last minute goal at Southampton was not enough to prevent Town from bowing out of the FA Cup, beaten 2-1 by their League One hosts, but he is now surely on the brink of a recall.

Keane will be without front runner and skipper Jon Walters this evening, due to a hamstring injury, although he has fellow joint leading scorer Jon Stead available again after a four-match suspension.

The Irishman could throw Stead straight back into the starting line-up, especially as it's asking a bit much for veteran front-runner Stern John to start two games in four days, but Counago may also get the nod.

"I've been pleased with Pablo (Counago), but then he's only done what I expect all my players to be doing. He's staked a claim to start on Tuesday," explained Keane.

"I expect all my players to do their talking on the pitch, and Pablo has done that. He's got a chance.

"I already have a good idea of what my team will be.

"We will miss Jon Walters for another week or two. He's having a proper scan, so we'll have more news later.

"But he'll be missing the next two games, without doubt. He's a leader and a good player for us, but we've got to get on without him. Players do get injured.

"Steady is available again, but whether we decide to start with him remains to be seen. He was unlucky to be sent off (at Crystal Palace), let alone get four games for it," added Keane.

David Norris will return to the side, after being rested for the FA Cup game at Southampton, where he was an unused substitute.

Fellow central midfielder Grant Leadbitter took a knock at St Mary's, and so did not train yesterday, although he is expected to be fit to start against Baggies.

Town are unbeaten in their last eight home games, but tonight's clash promises to be one of the toughest of the season.

West Brom are going great guns, despite the recent blip of a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of automatic promotion rivals Nottingham Forest.

In fact, manager Roberto Di Matteo is set to name an unchanged side for the third game running, following the two most recent games against Newcastle.They drew 2-2 in the league and beat the Magpies 4-2 in the FA Cup on Saturday.

The Baggies are particularly dangerous away from home, having collected 23 points from 12 away games, as opposed to 23 from 13 home fixtures.

Keane admitted: "I don't think we gave our fans enough to shout about on Saturday. It was a reality check for us.

"But we have a chance to put that right against West Brom.

"It's no coincidence that West Brom are near the top of the table.

They are very, very good in attacking positions, and they have a lot of pace in the right areas.

"But I think we have progressed over the last month or two, and this will be a chance to see how far we've come since the 2-0 defeat at West Brom."

Squads

IPSWICH TOWN: Lee-Barrett, Rosenior, McAuley, Delaney, Peters, Garvan, Leadbitter, Norris, Colback, Counago, Stead, John, Edwards, Balkestein, Wickham, Priskin, Wright, Martin, Bruce, Quinn, McLoughlin.

WEST BROM: Carson, Olsson, Cech, Tamas, Jara, Koren, Brunt, Thomas, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Bednar, Mattock, Zuiverloon, Martis, Filipe Teixeira, Moore, Miller, Cox, Kiely.

Referee: Mr Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)