Town must not let McAuley go

SIGN him up, before it’s too late!

SIGN him up, before it’s too late!

All eyes were on Kieron Dyer, following his return to his beloved Ipswich Town, during Saturday’s 0-0 draw at promotion-chasing Leeds United.

But it was Town centre-half Gareth McAuley who stole the show, once again, for another masterful performance in the heart of defence.

He even lost his temper at one point, which is completely out-of-character for the quietly-spoken Northern Ireland international. That angry flare-up particularly impressed manager Paul Jewell.

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McAuley must be a leading contender for Town’s player-of-the-season, and it remains a huge concern that both he and regular defensive partner Damien Delaney are amongst those whose contracts expire this summer.

Town fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that McAuley and Delaney will both be persuaded to stay, with the offer of new deals.

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Jewell was certainly full of praise for his defensive unit at Elland Road, and especially lynch-pin McAuley.

“I thought Gareth was excellent today,” enthused Jewell.

“He seemed to get angry in the second half, and that’s the first time I have seen that!”

McAuley’s heroic display on Saturday was all the more impressive when it is considered that he was floored by Leeds front-man Billy Paynter after just four minutes.

Paynter escaped with just a booking, after his flailing arm caught McAuley on the side of the head, opening up a wound that required five stitches at half-time. A furious McAuley did not forget this incident, and was booked for a late challenge on Paynter in the second-half, as well as exchanging some heated words.

Jewell confirmed: “Gareth had five stitches in his ear. I have to say it was the longest five stitches I’ve ever known, because he went in at half-time and only just about made it for the second half.

“I think the doctor was doing them with his blindfold on!” added Jewell.

McAuley refused to be side-tracked by this early roughing-up. The ex-Lincoln and Leicester defender won virtually every header, and every challenge, to help secure another precious point for Jewell’s men.

Town are safely installed in 16th spot, on 46 points, a healthy 12 points clear of the relegation zone.

McAuley has played every minute of every game since Jewell took over the managerial reins at Portman Road. In fact, the 31-year-old has started and finished the last 17 matches.

New recruit Dyer, meanwhile, successfully came through 72 minutes at Elland Road, following his loan move from West Ham on Friday. He should enjoy a great reception at tomorrow night’s home game against Watford.

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