Richards - we fear no one

BRING them on.Fearless Matt Richards believes Ipswich are good enough to bet anyone in the play-offs and go on to win promotion to the Premiership, writes Derek Davis.

BRING them on.

Fearless Matt Richards believes Ipswich are good enough to bet anyone in the play-offs and go on to win promotion to the Premiership, writes Derek Davis.

But first they have to overcome Nottingham Forest at Portman Road today.

Victory, along with defeats for West Ham and Crystal Palace at Stoke and Crewe respectively, and points dropped by Millwall and Sheffield United, would secure a top-six finish.

If not, they get another chance at Sheffield United on Friday and then again at home to Cardiff City nine days later.

After that Richards is confident Town's superior quality football will win through.

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He said: "I'm confident that we could beat anyone in the play-offs so I'm not bothered who we get.

"At times we have shown we are the best team in the league and while the table does not say that, I feel we play better football than anyone and no one scares us."

The Blues have won six of their last seven games and so are on a high but Forest are no mugs under Joe Kinnear, who has steered them away from immediate relegation danger with just two defeats in his 14 game reign.

Richards said: "We have done it when we needed to and we are now in a great position to finish third. They (other promotion-chasing clubs) have lost the momentum while we are on a bit of a roll, but first we have to beat Forest.

"We have to be confident playing at home on a great pitch in front of a crowd who have fantastic."

The former Academy defender, who has played rugby at county schools level, believes Ipswich have put in too much effort to blow it now.

Town were bottom in September after getting off to a terrible start, picking up just two points in six games.

But they recovered to storm up the league and could go third this afternoon if they win and Sunderland slip up. They could even do it if they win by a clear three goals more than the Black Cats, but that would seem fanciful given Forest's record of late.

Richards said: "We have worked towards this game all season and we now have a great chance of getting into the play-offs, which is where we deserve to be on our current form and what we have done over the season. We did not start off the best but we have improved dramatically and have worked hard to get to this point."

Chris Makin's long-term injury has meant the 19-year-old starting every game bar one since mid-September, and after suffering a slight dip in form for a short period before Christmas, Richards has come through strongly. He believes the adversity is something that has added to his character.

He added: "Working with all the staff and players here has helped a lot. This is my first full season and I got a bit tired and I had a little dip, but all in all I'm happy with my season and feel I have come through well.

"Experiencing the bad times as well as the good, and that of the team's form, has helped make me a better player."

His form of late has been so good that there are whispers that Engand Under-21 boss Davis Platt has been to see him and Ian Westlake after already picking Darren Bent, and an international cap would just make Richards' season.

He said: "It is something I aspire to and if it happened it would be great, but it is not something in think about when I'm training or playing.

"At the moment all I'm focusing on is promotion with Ipswich. I would love to go to Cardiff and play in the final and we are all really up for getting there, but we know there is a lot to be done before that."

n Wigan have asked the Football League not to schedule a play-off game at the JJB Stadium on the Saturday of the play-off weekend as Wigan Warriors are playing in the Rugby League Challenge Cup final in Cardiff that Saturday. Whoever finishes fifth and sixth in Division One will play at home first with games scheduled to be played on either the Friday, Saturday and Sunday May the 11, 12 and 13. The second legs would be played on either the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on who is involved and television requirements.

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