McGreal after a shut-out

NOSTALGIC John McGreal returns to Ipswich Town tomorrow, determined to blank the division's top scorers.Now starring in the meanest defence in the Championship, McGreal admits leaving Portman Road was a massive wrench but intends repaying the Blues for all the good times by preventing them from scoring at home for the first time in 42 matches.

By Derek Davis

NOSTALGIC John McGreal returns to Ipswich Town tomorrow, determined to blank the division's top scorers.

Now starring in the meanest defence in the Championship, McGreal admits leaving Portman Road was a massive wrench but intends repaying the Blues for all the good times by preventing them from scoring at home for the first time in 42 matches.

While Ipswich are level top of the table with Wigan on 24 points, they are the hot-shots with 23 goals scored.


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A revamped Burnley, under Steve Cotterill, boast the best defensive record in the league with just seven conceded.

The Clarets' past three away games have been goal-less draws at Reading, Leicester City and Wigan.

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They have conceded just one on the road in the league, when they lost at West Ham and scored just one, when they beat Watford, while they also had a nil-nil at Rotherham.

McGreal, who rejected a contract offer from Joe Royle to join the Clarets in the summer, is impressed with how Town have done but insists it is early days yet.

He said: “It's going really well for them. Joint top and I'm sure Joe and Willie (Donachie) will be going all out to finish top.

“At the moment, we know after 12 games that no one team is going to run away with it. I'm sure they will be feeling confident in themselves and, with their terrific home form as well, it's going to be a very tough game for us.

“But we will set our stall out again for a clean sheet and try to turn our own possession and chances into goals.”

Burnley will play with just one striker and will get 10 men behind the ball to make life difficult for Ipswich and McGreal, who signed for the Blues for £650,000 from Tranmere Rovers in August 1999, is expecting an onslaught.

He said: “The pitch there is so big. Joe makes it a big pitch to suit the way they play but I was there five years and it has always been that way.

“I can't see Joe changing his ways and that means Ipswich will always be very offensive. Everything he does in training is geared to scoring goals and that is borne out in their goal-scoring record.

“They play 4-3-3 and they have goals everywhere, from Kuqi's power and strength, Bent's pace and Bowditch's touch. Tommy Miller from midfield scores his fair share of goals, so there are goals right through their team.”

The popular Scouser's departure came as a shock at the time, after he had fought so gallantly back from a nightmare injury season. He admits it was not an easy decision but one he is now glad he made.

McGreal said: “It's a big day for me because I had happy times there - the best of my career so far. We had promotion twice, UEFA Cup football, Premiership football, relegation ... I've had the lot.

“They were happy days, but now it's a new challenge. It was a wrench to leave because I was settled down there with young children, but after I spoke to Steve and a few of the lads here, who I knew from my Tranmere days, it seemed the right club.

“It also gave me the chance to move back up north after five years away, so a combination of things made this the right move and it's worked out brilliantly so far.”

McGreal notched 150 games for Ipswich and helped them win promotion to the Premiership, but a series of injuries last season curtailed his involvement as Town narrowly missed out on another play-off final.

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