Keane left in crisis

IPSWICH Town boss Roy Keane is facing up to a left-back crisis, in the lead up to a busy week that could shape the club’s whole season.

All three of Town’s recognised left-backs are on the treatment table nursing injuries, following the premature return of both Darren O’Dea and Shane O’Connor from international duty.

O’Dea is back at Portman Road, having undergone a scan on a knee problem that saw him miss the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 win in Armenia in the opening match of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign last Friday.

The 23-year-old Celtic loanee, who has impressed in his first three outings in a Town shirt, should have been in the squad for tonight’s second qualifier against Andorra, but instead he is receiving treatment back in Suffolk. A scan on his knee has revealed a slight sprain.

Likewise, countryman and fellow left-back O’Connor has also returned home early after tweaking his hamstring during a training session, ahead of Republic of Ireland Under-21s 1-0 defeat in Switzerland last Friday night.

O’Connor would have been a natural replacement for O’Dea, for this Saturday’s trip to basement club Portsmouth, but he must be considered a big doubt. The 20-year-old former Liverpool Academy player misses the Irish Under-21s final Euro qualifier in Turkey tonight.

Before the current two-week break for internationals, manager Keane had expressed his concerns about his threadbare squad, and his fears that some of his international players might pick up injuries during their spells away from Portman Road.

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Now it appears that the Irishman’s worst fears have been realised.

Suddenly, the left-back slot has become a big headache, and this might even force Keane to rush back Mark Kennedy from his own hamstring injury.

Kennedy hobbled off during the closing minutes of the opening day 3-1 win at Middlesbrough, and has not featured since.

The 34-year-old, recruited from Cardiff over the summer, would ideally have been given time to regain full fitness, but he might now be thrown straight back into the fray at Fratton Park on Saturday. He could even feature for the Reserves at home to Oxford United tomorrow.

Keane’s other option, if O’Dea, O’Connor and Kennedy all fail fitness tests, is to shift Tommy Smith from central defence to left-back, and perhaps bring in either Troy Brown or Tom Eastman into the back four.

Third-placed Town have had a great start to the season. They are level on points with leaders QPR and second-placed Cardiff, both of whom they entertain at Portman Road next week.

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