Royle: Away form is the key
RELAXED Ipswich go to Gillingham tomorrow looking to extend their unbeaten away record to five games.As the regular Division One season comes to a climax Blues boss Joe Royle is hoping their away form will see them through to a play-off place.
RELAXED Ipswich go to Gillingham tomorrow looking to extend their unbeaten away record to five games, writes Derek Davis.
As the regular Division One season comes to a climax Blues boss Joe Royle is hoping their away form will see them through to a play-off place.
With wins at Norwich and Sheffield United and draws at Wolves and Crystal Palace during March, Town clearly relish the less pressurised atmosphere on the road, although they are always well supported by travelling Town fans.
Royle said: "We have handled the pressure a little better away from home. We went to Norwich when we had to and won, we went to Sheffield Wednesday and won when they were on a good run.
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"We know now we have to go to the Priestfield and win and that is never an easy place to go.
"The Wolves game was a bit surreal for Gillingham when, even if it was there worst performance, which Andy Hessenthaler said it was, things just flew in for Wolves. Getting a draw at Sheffield United was more like their form and we know it won't be easy at Priestfield, although if we are looking for omens, I went there with Manchester City and won.
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"The pitch is not the best but they still try and get the ball back down and play. They pass the ball well and we will look to do the same no matter how bad the pitch is."
With Wolves not playing due to international commitments, Ipswich can move to within two points of the sixth-placed side, but Royle warns there is still a lot of football left to be played.
He said: "The whole season can change dramatically in seven games. If we win four out of five we will see where that takes us.
"Three points on Saturday will help but even if we don't win I'm not going to say with six games to go the season's over nor am I going to say if we win that we will finish top six, it really will go to the end.
"We have had enough chances to be top six right now so it is up to us. If we don't make it then it will be down to us, there are no excuses."
The Town manager has been impressed with the way his depleted squad has got on with the job in hand and added: "The enthusiasm has been great and they have been training well. We have had a lot of uncertainty in recent weeks but they have just got on with it."
Martijn Reuser is the only fresh injury doubt after taking a hefty whack on the foot against Reading last week. He played through the pain in the draw with Brighton, scoring a late equaliser with a screaming 25-yard shot, but an X-ray has shown no fracture.
Although the Dutchman missed the last couple of days' training he is expected to take his place in a depleted Town squad travelling to Gillingham.
With skipper Matt Holland on international duty and Darren Ambrose and Hermann Hreidarsson sold, Royle will once more look to his kids to flesh out his squad.
Tommy Miller will start in midfield as he ignores the tendinitis, which has crippled him this season, while Ian Westlake, who played so well in the reserves' 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest in midweek, is included.
Although Alun Armstrong is making good progress after fracturing a wrist, he will not be involved, but is pencilled in to play against Tottenham Hotspur Reserves on Monday.
That leaves the two Bents, Marcus and Darren and Pablo Counago to find the much-needed goals.
Gillingham will be without striker Mamady Sidibe, who is on African Nations' Cup duty with Mali, and keeper Jason Brown, who missed their last two games with a shoulder injury and has joined up with the Wales Under-21 squad who play tonight.
Striker Marlon King and midfielder Kevin James miss out after recent knee operations.
Ipswich Town squad: Marshall, Wilnis, Richards, Naylor, Gaardsoe, Makin, Magilton, Miller, M Bent, Counago, Reuser, Wright, D Bent, Bowditch, Abidallah, Pullen and Westlake.