Relief for Royle
BLUES boss Joe Royle admitted to being a relieved man as he led his Ipswich Town side to their seventh league win in eight games, writes Derek Davis.But despite dominating for much of the game – with only a Matt Richards goal separating the teams – Town were forced to endure a couple of close shaves, especially five minutes from time when Keith Andrews hit both posts with one shot.
BLUES boss Joe Royle admitted to being a relieved man as he led his Ipswich Town side to their seventh league win in eight games, writes Derek Davis.
But despite dominating for much of the game – with only a Matt Richards goal separating the teams – Town were forced to endure a couple of close shaves, especially five minutes from time when Keith Andrews hit both posts with one shot.
Royle said: "Stoke are a big side, even bigger than West Brom where it is the Land of the Giants. But Stoke are organised and strong and hard to break down. People may have thought it was going to be another roll-over but it is never that simple. That said, we had enough chances to win the game by six goals again, Pablo especially. And the keeper has made a great a save from Tommy Miller at the end of a move which would have been goal of the season. I was worried towards the end with the twin smack on the posts, but fortunately we had a bit of luck this time."
The win pushed Town into sixth place and in among the play-off places – five weeks after slumping to rock bottom of the division.
Royle said: "We would have settled for this run and being sixth now after all the doom and gloom of five weeks ago. The only worry now is we are getting short on players again."
The match-winner was 18-year-old left-back Richards' first senior goal.
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Royle was pleased for the young defender, who has sometimes struggled as a replacement for Chris Makin this season after missing part of pre-season and the beginning of this campaign with injury. The manager said: "Matt has done a lot better in the last couple of games. He suffered a hamstring in pre-season and is only now catching up. He took his goal well and defended very well too. We said before the game that the way Stoke play would allow both full-backs to get forward, and they did.
"The whole back four did superbly well. I would have made Richard Naylor man of the match, although I see Sky gave it to Pablo (Counago). I also thought Shefki (Kuqi) did magnificently, running his usual 15 miles and the crowd have found a cult hero in a short time."
When Jim Magilton failed to come out for the second half due to a swollen calf, Royle handed the captain's armband to on-loan Charlton midfielder Chris Bart-Williams.
Royle joked: "Probably because he was sat next to Jim at half time." But he added: "I like a central player to have it if they can and he is a talker and a leader so it seemed logical."
When Magilton has gone off before, Fabian Wilnis and Jermaine Wright have been handed the honour.
Magilton's predecessor as captain, Matt Holland, was in the stand to watch his former side as he enjoyed a rare Saturday off with new club Charlton, where he has been made full-time skipper, playing Blackburn tonight.
Meanwhile, Stoke boss Tony Pulis blamed Stoke City's sixth straight away defeat on a recurring theme, conceding silly goals.
Matt Richards took advantage of sloppy defending by Karl Henry to condemn the Potters to defeat.
While Pulis accepted his side, decimated by injury and suspension, were beaten by a better team, he rued a couple of missed chances.
He said: "Ipswich are a good side. They probed all day and created good chances but Cutler has had a good night in goal for us. When it was just one-nil you always have a chance and we had good opportunities all the way through from Carl Asaba early on to Keith Andrews, who hit both posts near the end. We worked hard and for the size of our squad. On another day if the luck had gone for us then we might have got something."
After being early pace-setters City have slipped into the bottom half of the table and have managed just one win away all season. Pulis said: "Our home form has been fine but we have been poor away from home and have conceded silly goals as we did against Ipswich. We have conceded poor goals and that was another. Karl came back to defend and didn't deal with the ball in the final third as he should, but he will learn from that experience."
Lack of cash from the Icelandic consortium which make up the Stoke board have not helped Pulis get the players in that he wants, and even restricted loan signings. He confessed: "I have discussed our situation with the board and they know my feelings – we need to strengthen. But I appreciate the job the board have to do in controlling the finances – we can't afford to cripple the club. It's frustrating for me and it's frustrating for our fans but those are the facts of life in today's game."