Praise for Price

BLUES boss Joe Royle has offered keeper Lewis Price a new contract as he bids to keep hold of the man he is convinced will hold on to the Wales No. 1 spot.

BLUES boss Joe Royle has offered keeper Lewis Price a new contract as he bids to keep hold of the man he is convinced will hold on to the Wales No. 1 spot.

The 21-year-old's current Ipswich Town contract expires next summer and talks are already well under way about a new, improved deal.

Royle confirmed: “We are talking about a new contract and things are fine.”

Price made his long-awaited Wales debut with an excellent performance in his country's dismal display in Limassol and Royle can see Price keeping the jersey for a long time.

He said: “Lewis was excellent against Cyprus. I'm delighted for him, as he has waited a while to get his debut. It has almost been a jinx position for him but he has come in and done very well.

“He has made a big claim to be the Wales No. 1. (Wales boss) John Toshack was eulogising about Lewis after the game and rightly so. Lewis had plenty to do and made three very good saves.”

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Price returns to Portman Road today, along with Welsh team-mate Gavin Williams who won his second cap, and both are likely to start at Coventry City tomorrow.

Kevin Horlock is suspended after picking up five bookings but Royle still has plenty of options in midfield.

He will speak with on-loan West Ham midfielder Williams today after his return from Cyprus, before deciding on his starting side.

Royle said: “Gavin has not had many games recently which on one hand will mean he is fresh, but equally he is short of match practice.

“He did very well going on as a substitute for Wales and looked very tidy. It was a hard game for him to go into because it won't go down as one of Wales' best performances.”

Defensively Town have looked settled at centre-half with Jason De Vos and Richard Naylor, while Sito Castro has been a constant at right-back.

Jay McEveley and Fabian Wilnis have been tussling over the left-back slot and the Dutchman is back in the reckoning after being dropped from the squad against Plymouth.

Royle said: “We will have one or two disappointed players again. It started with Fabian Wilnis, who was very unfortunate not to be in the squad against Plymouth. There was nothing sinister in that, it was just a matter of getting the balance on the bench right. I just wanted more forwards on the bench as we were at home.

“Fabian will be in the 16 for Coventry.”

Although Royle has plenty of players to choose from, Town are still having their injury woes. Adam Proudlock jarred a knee joint during the reserves' 2-0 defeat against Spurs on Monday and is doubtful for the trip to Coventry, although Royle is confident he will be fit for Reading's visit on Tuesday.

Owen Garvan is still recovering from an ankle injury caused by a tackle from Coventry's Stephen Hughes which has turned out to be a small chipped bone, but the Irishman should be back in a couple of weeks, while Vemund Brekke-Skard will have an operation to mend a slight groin problem - but he can't play for Town until January anyway due to red tape.

The Blues have not lost to City this century and their last loss came 10 years ago at Highfield Road. The 2-2 draw last month took the run to nine without defeat for Town, with Dean Bowditch heavily involved in the 2-1 win last season, scoring the opener and forcing a mistake by a defender for an own goal.

The Sky Blues have been inconsistent this season and results at their new home at the Ricoh Arena have been mixed. They have won twice in seven, including a 1-0 win over Luton this month, but they also went down 2-1 to Stoke, while they drew with Cardiff 1-1 last time out, deploying a wing-back system.

Royle said: “Coventry had a good draw with Cardiff after losing at home to Stoke. They seem to be changing their system around a bit and the constitution of the team changes.

“They still have very good players - Gary McSheffrey, Stephen Hughes is a top midfielder in this division, Dele Adebola is always a threat and we know about Scowy (James Scowcroft) and the danger of players coming up against their old club. They had two Wales internationals (Robert Page and Richard Duffy) playing on Wednesday and they have other internationals too.

“We should have won the game here a little while back and this is a chance to put it right.”

derek.davis@archant.co.uk

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