Derby drama already

The East Anglian derby might be another 11 days away, but the drama is already unfolding, both on and off the pitch.

The East Anglian derby might be another 11 days away, but the drama is already unfolding, both on and off the pitch.

Ipswich Town’s inspirational centre-half, Gareth McAuley, faces a race against time to be fit for the trip to Carrow Road on Sunday week.

McAuley has been one of Town’s most consistent performers this season, and was badly missed during last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Barnsley. The ex-Lincoln and Leicester defender has already been ruled out of this Saturday’s visit to Hull City, due to a sore Achilles tendon.

A possible replacement for McAuley, if he does fail to shrugg off the injury, might be Darren O’Dea, even though the Celtic loanee has not featured in any of Town’s last nine games.

O’Dea underwent knee surgery, while away training with the Republic of Ireland squad, after playing in Town’s 1-0 defeat at Reading at the end of September. He only returned to the squad a week ago and was an unused substitute in the home defeats by Derby and Barnsley.

But the 23-year-old is in Republic of Ireland’s squad, for a friendly against Norway this evening, so Town boss Roy Keane will be hoping that his left-sided defender emerges unscathed.

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David Norris (ankle), Mark Kennedy (hamstring) and midfielder Luke Hyam (hamstring) are also set to miss Town’s game at Hull, and this trio might also struggle to return for the following weekend’s Norwich fixture.

Meanwhile, the Norwich City camp received a boost yesterday, when star striker Grant Holt was given the go-ahead to play in the big derby.

Holt was sent off during the Canaries’ 3-3 draw at Reading on Saturday, and was facing the prospect of a three-match suspension.

However, City’s appeal against skipper Holt’s red card was upheld by the FA yesterday, so the former Shrewsbury Town hit-man will be available to face Town.

But whether Canaries boss Paul Lambert will be able to watch his team from the dug-out, to give out instructions at close quarters, is very much open to question.

Lambert could be forced to watch the derby game from the stands, after the Scotsman was yesterday charged with improper conduct by the FA. The Norfolk club have until this Friday to lodge an appeal.

Lambert was sent to the stands in the closing stages of the Reading game, after remonstrating with referee Michael Oliver.

After the game, the ex-Colchester United boss branded Mr Oliver’s decision to send off Holt as “ludicrous,” and labelled the referee’s decision as “pathetic”.

Last April, Lambert was given a one-game touch-line ban, and a �1,000 fine, after comments he made about referee Eddie Ilderton following his side’s 3-1 defeat at Tranmere in League One.

Now it is feared the fresh charge could yield a greater punishment with City due to host Leeds United on Saturday before next weekend’s big derby match.

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