Roy likes to keep them guessing

UNPREDICTABILITY is a trait that Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane approves of, especially in his team selection.

Carl Marston

UNPREDICTABILITY is a trait that Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane approves of, especially in his team selection.

Keane likes to keep his players on their toes, and that will again be the case as Town enter a hectic period of three games per week over the next month.

The Irishman hinted that key midfielder David Norris, who has been so influential since his return from a long-term knee injury, will not be starting all of Town's games over the coming week.


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And Keane is also expected to keep changing his front-line, especially as joint leading scorer Jon Stead will be available for Tuesday night's home match against West Brom, after serving the fourth of a four-match suspension in the FA Cup at Southampton this afternoon.

"We try not to be too predictable with the players in a build up to a game," revealed Keane.

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The Town boss then added wryly: "People might think that's the case when looking at my teams every week!

"But we do try to mix it up a bit. We're certainly not going to Southampton for just a fun day out. We're going for the win."

Hosts Southampton will be weakened by injuries, suspensions and eligibility. By contrast, Town will be virtually at full strength.

Today's trip to the south coast will come too early for keeper Brian Murphy, who damaged his ankle during the warm-up at Leicester City a fortnight ago. But otherwise, Keane has no injury doubts.

However, Keane is not resting on his laurels.

"You're never completely happy with a club. The day that happens will be a sad day!" insisted Keane.

"You've always got to look for the club to get stronger, for the staff to get stronger, and for some of the younger lads to get fitter.

"There's never a quiet day at the football club. It's never boring, which is what I like. There's always something going on.

"I was fairly happy at Sunderland too; it's just that others were not happy with me!" added Keane ruefully.

Predicting Town's starting line-up has become a big challenge this season. More often than not, Keane pulls at least one rabbit out of the hat.

The left-back position, and the strike-force pairing, are the most tricky to predict.

Keane has operated with three different left-backs in Town's first three games of 2010, and this trio of David Wright, Pim Balkestein and Jaime Peters are all in today's squad Skipper Jon Walters and Crystal Palace loanee Stern John partnered each other up front in last weekend's last gasp 3-2 win over Coventry.

Keane could stick with this duo, although Pablo Counago is pushing for a start after netting the winner as a substitute in the seventh minute of injury-time against the Sky Blues.

"Scoring goals had been a problem going back over the last few months," said Keane.

"But it's looking better now. Stern John got his first goal (against Coventry), Jack Colback is finding the net (four goals), Steady (Jon

Stead) was scoring for us before his suspension and Pablo got his goal last week.

"We've been back in business over the last five or six games, in terms of hitting the back of the net. We've been averaging three goals per home game recently.

"I'm fairly pleased with the progress of my players, and their attitude.

"But that needs to continue. It's going to be an interesting few months ahead."

Town claimed a 2-1 win at Blackpool in the third round, thanks to goals from Colback and Owen Garvan.

Southampton, though, have had to progress past three rounds to reach this far in the competition. Alan Pardew's men won away at Bristol Rovers and Northampton, before beating Blue Square Premier visitors Luton Town.

Keane continued: It's going to be a tough game for us, but we've got make sure it's a tough game for them as well.

"Our supporters went up to Blackpool, and you saw what it meant to them and to us. Blackpool was a difficult game, and this will be another tough one."

Probable starting line-ups

Southampton

1 Kelvin Davis

3 Wayne Thomas

5 Chris Perry

12 Jose Fonte

2 Dan Harding

23 Lloyd James

10 Paul Wotton

37 Michail Antonio

20 Adam Lallana

7 Rickie Lambert

38 David Connolly

Ipswich Town

28 Arran Lee-Barrett

5 Alex Bruce

4 Gareth McAuley

3 Damien Delaney

15 Pim Balkestein

12 Jaime Peters

6 Grant Leadbitter

17 Jack Colback

7 Owen Garvan

19 Jon Walters

21 Stern John

The last time

Southampton 2 Ipswich Town 2

THE struggling Saints, with head coach Jan Poortvliet at the helm, salvaged a point in this Championship game on September 17, 2008.

Goals from Owen Garvan and Alan Quinn had put Town 2-1 up by early in the second-half, only for Tottenham loanee Tomas Pekhart to net an equaliser on his home debut. Later in the season, Southampton recorded a shock 3-0 win at Portman Road, but went on to suffer relegation after winning just one of their remaining 11 games.

Carl's prediction

Southampton 1 Ipswich Town 1

THE Saints are on a good run, but they will be weakened by injuries, ineligibility and suspension this afternoon. Town should be strong enough to secure at least a draw, and so earn a replay, though this would further clutter up the February fixture list. Overcoming the Saints would mean a place in the last 16, a mouth-watering prospect.

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