Royle going for goals

AS much as Joe Royle doesn't like seeing his side throw caution to the wind he appreciates the best chance of blowing the opposition away is not to rely on any clean sheets, writes Derek Davis.

AS much as Joe Royle doesn't like seeing his side throw caution to the wind he appreciates the best chance of blowing the opposition away is not to rely on any clean sheets, writes Derek Davis.

Although Ipswich Town and Sheffield United fought out a goal-less draw in November last year, Town have not been involved a scoreless game since Stoke City visited last March.

Town's only league clean sheet this season was also against the Potters but they have shown a fierce cutting edge with 34 strikes – while the Blades have netted 29 and conceded 14.

Royle said: "We don't deliberately trade goals but we could possibly be a little but more cautious at times.


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"We showed against Burnley we can pull away from teams and we will be going for goals again."

The two games against Neil Warnock's side this year, 4-3 in the FA Cup in January, and 3-2 in the league, after Pablo Counago had been sent off, were entertaining goal-fests and the form of both teams at the moment suggests another bonanza.

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Royle said: "The games we had with them last year were not short of goals and they are going well again.

"They are a good side and a passing team which should suit us so we are expecting a good open game."

The Blades have been trying to ignore talk of Leeds United trying to take their successful and popular manager Neil Warnock and Royle doesn't believe they will let the speculation disrupt their preparation.

He said: "It won't affect their preparations. Whenever a manager goes it pleases some players and not others but I don't think he will be going anywhere.

"Sheffield have been going well and they have players coming back from injury."

Royle doesn't envisage making many changes to his side although he will have Richard Naylor and Chris Bart-Williams back from one-match bans and Martijn Reuser and John McGreal available again after long injury-lay-offs.

He said: "There has not been too much wrong. You can look and say we have lost one and drawn two of our last three games but equally we have lost just two in 13 matches.

"All those three games we could have won so we just need to pick up again and make sure the gap between us and the top doesn't get any bigger."

Although Counago is recovering well from a hamstring injury he is still a couple of weeks away from playing.

Darren Bent will partner Shefki Kuqi up front with Dean Bowditch ready to come off the bench and add more punch if needed.

Alun Armstrong is still struggling with the back injury he picked up in the reserves game against Portsmouth on Tuesday and may not be risked, even among the substitutes.

His hopes of a move to Derby were dashed last night when Rams boss George Burley snapped up Lee Bradbury on loan from Portsmouth after having him checked over at Portman Road in the goalless draw.

With so many midfielders to choose from now, Royle faces a conundrum.

Bart-Williams will probably return to play the anchor role, although he was taken off early in the two games he played before the suspension at Derby.

Jermaine Wright has been showing very good form of late and Tommy Miller is pressing to keep his place on the right of midfield.

Skipper Jim Magilton is likely to be at the sharp end of the diamond formation while Ian Westlake's place is under threat from a fit-again Martijn Reuser – but the Dutchman may be used coming off the bench.

Alan Mahon has been struggling with flu all week so Town have held off re-registering him on loan from Blackburn but will activate that next week in time for him to play against Chelsea Reserves at Portman Road on Wednesday.

Royle said: "It is a shame Alan has gone down with a virus just as he was fit again after his hamstring injury but as a squad we are a lot stronger than we were a few weeks ago."

Richard Naylor also returns from a one-match ban and it will be a straight fight between him and John McGreal for the centre-half spot alongside former Blade Georges Santos unless he succumbs further to the virus which has laid low so many players of late.

Chris Makin has been diagnosed with a trapped nerve in the groin area which has been causing him a lot of discomfort although he has been able to keep up a decent level of fitness by running, swimming and cycling.

Drissa Diallo is recovering well from a knee operation but he is still a month away from returning.

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