Mac's back for Blues

A DEFENSIVE crisis has turned into a defensive headache for Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane.

Carl Marston

A DEFENSIVE crisis has turned into a defensive headache for Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane.

A leaky defence had been haunting rock bottom Town during the first couple of months of this season, with Keane unable to find a perfect partnership at the back.

However, the Irishman now has some decisions to make, and welcome ones at that, with a choice of two from four centre-halves for this Saturday's televised game against Sheffield Wednesday (kick-off 5.20pm).

The new-look centre-half duo of Alex Bruce and Damien Delaney, thrown together due to injuries, have impressed in Town's last two outings, the 1-0 home win over Derby County and the 1-1 draw at Reading.

But now they have competition from both Gareth McAuley and Tommy Smith, who are champing at the bit to play again following their respective injuries.

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Keane confirmed yesterday that McAuley had recovered from a thigh injury, and would be in contention against the Owls, while Smith returned to action for Town Reserves in their 3-1 win at Luton Town yesterday afternoon.

Smith had needed surgery on his hand, which had been damaged in training, but he was back playing at Kenilworth Road - goals from Liam Trotter, Pablo Counago (penalty) and out-of-favour midfielder Owen Garvan securing a comfortable Combination win.

Keane said: “Hopefully, Gareth (McAuley) should be available for Saturday and we will see how Tommy (Smith) is, but he should also be OK.”

On the day that ex-Town manager Jim Magilton joined in the mad scramble to sign Garvan, for his current club QPR, it was ironic that the 21-year-old maestro should score a wonder goal for the Reserves.

Garvan connected first time with Ed Upson's corner, sending an 18-yard shot into the net via the underside of the bar.

Ironically, the Dubliner should not have even been at Kenilworth Road yesterday - he should have been playing in Armenia instead!

However, a late booking during Republic of Ireland under-21's 1-1 draw in Georgia, last weekend, had ruled Garvan out of yesterday afternoon's European Championship group qualifier in Armenia, which the Irish lost 4-1.

He has been frozen out of the senior picture since the 2-0 defeat at West Brom on August 22, when he was substituted at half-time. That equates to 13 matches in the wilderness.

A trio of Championship clubs - Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest and Scunthorpe United - have been linked with Garvan over the last few days, and yesterday it was the turn of Magilton's QPR to join the fray.

At the moment, any move would have to be a loan deal, before the transfer window reopens (for permanent transfers) in January.