Grant Leadbitter ready to lead Town in absence of Keith Andrews

GRANT Leadbitter is set to lead Ipswich into the New Year aiming to win over the doubters – and earn a new contract.

The 25-year-old has been forced to watch Town’s turnaround from the sidelines after recovering from a groin injury.

And speculation has been rife that Paul Jewell could be ready to cash in on his club captain after Leadbitter failed to even make the subs bench in the last two unbeaten matches.

But Jewell has been quick to dampen down the rumours, revealing that the limited nature of the five-man bench was the only reason why Leadbitter was excluded.

Jewell said: “I can only name five subs. Grant was disappointed as was Josh Carson. As a manager, you have to look at a game and see how it might pan out and what might work best.

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“It actually would have been better if Grant had been on the bench against Leicester. We might have been able to change our shape in the second half.”

Now the former Sunderland man, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is ready to once again take over the armband and his place in the heart of the Blues midfield after Keith Andrews hobbled off with a hamstring strain in Monday’s 1-1 draw at Leicester City.

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The club was yesterday keeping tight-lipped over the extent of Andrews’ injury with Jewell wanting to keep his cards close to his chest before the trip to the Championship’s form team Reading on New Year’s Eve.

But it would take some recovery if Andrews made the match and it seems likely he has played the last match of a fruitful half-season loan with the Blues – and possibly his last in a Town shirt.

The nine-goal midfielder, the club’s top scorer this season, will take some replacing and Leadbitter looks set to be given the task at the Madejski Stadium.

He will do so with a section of supporters still not convinced by his worth – more than two years after he signed from Sunderland for �2.3 million.

The other option is mercurial midfielder Jimmy Bullard who came on for Andrews just before half-time at Leicester and kept the armband.

But after showing initial promise, a hugely experienced but ageing central midfield duo of Bullard and Lee Bowyer struggled as the second half wore on.

While Andrews will be a massive loss, not least for his prolific goalscoring, the improving form of Bowyer in the centre of midfield will offer Town fans some solace.

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